I did not bring a polished apple or any other gift to my sixth grade teacher.
Mr. Willard (name has been changed to protect the guilty) ruined recess, gave me nightmares, and hurt my stomach.
Mr. Willard liked softball. At recess, our class of thirty-two stood in a semi-circle while he selected two captains (always athletic and/or popular). The captains each chose eight friends. The un-chosen ones—which included me and my friends—were forced to watch and cheer.During rainy or snowy days Mr. Willard read science fiction horror stories, like the one about New York City being covered by a huge dome. Eventually, when the cats, dogs, and rats were gone, the people began eating each other. Excellent nightmare fodder.
Unlike normal teachers, Mr. Willard positioned our desks facing away from his own. A student providing an incorrect answer (or an unlucky neighbor) got beaned in the back of their head by a sharp-edged tissue box or a chalky eraser.
The single positive action that Mr. Willard undertook on my behalf was sending a poem I wrote to John Glenn, celebrating the astronaut’s orbit around earth. It began:
Oh John Glenn, you are so very clever
To fly up high to bomb Russia with a lever.
Not the most politically correct poem; no future as a Russian ambassador for me. I did receive a form letter thanking me for my correspondence.
One day, Mr. Willard stood lecturing us with one foot propped against the front of my desk. A student in the back row did something that angered him, so Mr. Willard kicked his foot out; shoving my desk into my stomach, knocking me backward, and tipping my desk over. The back of my head smacked the floor so hard I almost passed out.
“Straighten your desk and pick up your books,” he yelled at me.
I did, while holding my stomach and sobbing. Mr. Willard forgot about the boy in the back and directed his anger at me.
“Stop being a crybaby and start acting your age.”
My head continued aching all day. This happened during a time when teachers could ‘discipline’ as they saw fit as long as no serious injuries occurred.
A new sixth grade teacher was hired the following year. Mr. Willard crossed the line when he rammed a boy’s head into the blackboard and gave him a concussion.
A teacher’s physical violence is monitored now, but mental violence is harder to prove. On a positive note, Mr. Willard provided an abundance of war stories for his students to reminisce over at reunions.
Lesson learned: Sometimes the old ways are not better than the new.
Related Posts: Unreal Reality/Runaway Apple
Now it’s your turn: Did you have a bad apple for a teacher?
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