Bits and Pieces Through the Years, Part III

Throughout our lives, we meet all kinds of people and that fact alone makes life interesting, for sure. After all, the world would be a pretty boring place if all of us were identical in what we think, say, and do.

The colleagues I've encountered in the education field are no exception. Some teachers went “by the book” in their dealings with students and administrators, while others followed their own set of guidelines. One teacher in particular seemed to defy authority and rules more than most, and this guy enjoyed every second of it.

Personality traits such as his can often make some teachers very effective educators, and most of the time the students love them. All three of my own children were taught by one of those individuals whom the administration described as being “too cavalier” during his tenure. But, he was an excellent teacher, although he referred to himself as a “facilitator of learning” rather than a teacher.

Warned numerous times

Arriving at school one day, Mr. Cavalier sported no tie. This was the last straw for our school superintendent, who expected all personnel to adhere to the district dress code. Our boss sent him home and demanded that he return wearing a tie.

The teacher did as exactly as he was told, and returned to school wearing a respectable dress tie. However, never willing to completely bow to authority, he wore his tie over a plain white T-shirt. In addition, he completed his attire with jeans, sandals, and no socks.

And his complete opposite

Another of my colleagues was a first-class gentlemen, known by all as a great teacher and coach as well as a man who would never cuss or swear no matter how angry he may have been. These attributes were on display during a faculty meeting in which we were instructed to come down hard on students who were walking the halls late in the school day without proper passes.

It should be pointed out that during this time, there was a small group of students who found it fun to use M-80s to blow up some teachers' mailboxes at night in our district.

“I'm leery of reporting these students,” the teacher proclaimed during the meeting. Remember, this guy would never use improper language at any time; yet he feared student retaliation if he reported them. Never permitting himself to use the nasty word that rhymes with “crick,” the teacher exclaimed, “I'll be garsh-darned if I'm going to be the 'leprechaun' here.” Needless to say, the entire faculty got a kick out of his vocabulary usage.

Back to first grade

No recollection of teachers would be complete without mentioning my first-grade teacher. She was neither effective, well-liked, nor a lady. In fact, in today’s society she would be fired. Due process is a courtesy this woman did not deserve.

I will never forget the time she slapped me across my face, thinking I was some kind of wise guy. The smack left a visible welt. What was the infraction that caused the assault, you ask? I had accidentally made a purple sky and a foreground of brown grass while making my art drawing. It never occurred to the Wicked Witch of Western PA that I was, and still am, colorblind.

Teaching is all about the kids

Students come in an assortment, too, to say the least. Without trying to develop a good relationship with most of them, I would have left education soon after I started my career. At this time of my life, I would like to thank them all. One way or another, they made my career worthwhile, mostly enjoyable, and forever memorable.

The antics of one unforgettable student, John Kuklo, have remained in my recollections for many years. (I'm using John's name here in this story out of respect for his humor and wit.)

After hearing repeated requests to use the restroom, teachers can usually tell who is in real need of using the facilities and who is taking advantage of the situation in order to take a break from class or perhaps to seek out a friend in the hallway.

One time John asked repeatedly to use the restroom. I denied his request a few times and then he replied, “But, I really do have to use the lav. I'm going to have an accident if you don't let me go.”

“I'll get you a mop,” I retorted.

His reply remains with me forever -- “You better get a shovel.”

A state of oblivion

I was as frustrated as I could possibly be one day when the kids were just not getting the lesson. It may have been a Friday afternoon or the day before a vacation, but it was apparent that nothing was working that day and the kids just weren't into whatever it was that we were discussing. 

Finally, I blurted out, “What's wrong with you today? It seems as though your minds are in a state of oblivion.”
After pausing, I then followed up with, “Never mind, you probably don't know what I meant by that, anyway.”

A boy raised his hand and said, “I know, I know what you meant!”“What?” I asked, not expecting an accurate answer.

“It's a country in South America,” the little guy proudly answered.

“Kids say the darndest things”

Art Linkletter is given credit for promoting that line above, but older students sure have contributed to the topic, too. With students, however, an addition to the phrase might be “.... and at the most inopportune time.” For instance...

There was a case where a boy entered the classroom of an older teacher whose discipline was suspect the last few years he taught. As the boy walked into the room late, with a wad of tobacco under his lower lip, he asked a fellow student aloud, “Can you tell I have a chew in?”

At a different time in the same classroom, another boy entered late, too. In a dumbfounded tone, he blurted out the blaring question, “Why in the H is it so quiet in here?”

During both of those students' inquiries, the principal was sitting in the rear of the classroom as the teacher was being observed for effective teaching. I can almost guarantee the evaluation did not go well.

Not fit for the papers

A few other recollections that might not be suitable for the newspapers are included below:

During one life science lesson, the kids were glued to the video screen with intrigue as a smaller male tarantula was mating with the much larger female. He had to be very careful because many female species of spiders eat their partner after mating has taken place.

The narrator explained that the little guy had to use two of his eight legs to tap softly on the female’s fangs, to pacify her in hopes she wouldn’t devour him. On the quiz the next day, a grade seven student got the whole scenario mixed up just a tad.

When asked why a spider might tap on the other during mating, one girl replied in writing, “She wants to keep his ‘wangs’ away.”

In retrospect, I thought to myself, “Yep, that might work, too.”

The Dick Family

Our school had a dozen or more families living in our district, each with the last name, “Dick.” They were all respectable families but happened to have an odd last name to say the least.

Once in the faculty room a male English teacher was explaining to a math teacher, that he had a discipline issue with a student who’s last name happened to be Dick.

The female math teacher asked, “Do you know if the boy is related to K____ Dick?”

The English teacher replied, “No, this guy is from a ‘different bunch of dicks.’” As a few of us roared with laughter, the female math teacher’s face turned a shade of red that this color blind author has never seen before. And that expression has been burned in my retina ever since.

No offense meant with that last anecdote – It was just an amusing quip that has remained me for many years.

Author’s Note: 

My attempts at writing old stories will come to an end this December. It has been a pleasure reminiscing those good old days with my readers.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA