“Give yourselves an 86.” These were the words uttered by my 7th grade science teacher every morning, 2 minutes after giving us our daily science quiz. He was incapable of waiting for us to complete. Of course we all thought he was nuts. Every morning Ceaser Strugelia, we all called him Stroog, would stand outside of his class room door and read the headlines from the morning paper. In between proclaiming that the Metz had won or that Reagan had ended the arms embargo against Guatemala, he would choose a random girl walking by and plead with her to stay safe and not get pregnant. He was different. He was eccentric. He cared little about rules and even less about grades, “give yourselves and 86”, all he cared was that he had an opportunity to teach and we, his students, wanted to learn. I remembering his class vividly, and I had him 1st period. You have to understand something, I rarely was home before 11 PM even as a 12 year old kid. I was always on stage and rehearsals always went late. The only thing that would set Stroog off was sleeping in his class, which was hard to do. I mean how much sleep would you get with your science teacher standing on a table singing “An acid plus a base gives you salt and water, we call this neutralization”in his loudest vaudevillian voice. But fall asleep in did one morning after only 5 hours of sleep. I had already given myself an 86, and was just nodding off, luckily I opened my eyes just in time to see a piece of chalk hurling toward my face. With cat like dexterity I ducked as the chalk flew just over my head hitting the wall behind me shattering into a hundred pieces. I looked at Stroog, like what the hell man, he stared back at me and uttered one word…”brittleness”. He taught us the periodic table of elements in a way that would most likely get a teacher fired; there were elements that needed to give off and electron which he referred to as “the studs”. Elements that need an electron were the “prostitutes”. Elements that could become stable by either giving off an electron or taking one (metalloids) were dubbed “queeroids”. All stable elements were fondly know as the “monks and nuns”. Yes he was crazy, eccentric, and maybe even a bit crude, but he taught me science 24 years ago and I love him for it. By the way, my final report card grade… you guessed it, 86.
“I don’t care what you researched, I’m telling you animals do NOT have feelings”. I heard these words the very same year, in the very same school, from a very different teacher. My 7th grade English teacher stated to all of her students that animals were incapable of emotion. What, this makes no sense. I have 4 dogs and they all go nuts when I come home from school. “That’s just a survival instinct”. “They lick you because they like the taste of salt.” She had an answer for all of my examples. So it was time to do some research. I went to the library and did a ton of research, remember microfiche? Did it make you as motion sick as it made me? I didn’t care, she needed to be proven wrong. I found several examples but my cu de grace was an article about a dog that had died as he lay on his masters grave, refusing food, he simply starved to death. “If animals only have survival instincts, why would this dog refuse food and starve to death”? Fair question, good thought, you may have something there, even an I don’t know would have sufficed, but nope. What she said was “I don’t care what you researched, I’m telling you animals do not have feelings”.
Both of these teachers have long since retired, and believe it or not the english teacher and I became friends, but the experience I had as her student was the worst of my life. Teachers like to say they care about their students, but only when to show it does it truly resonate. Fact is, students can tell.
3 thoughts on “Show me, Don’t Tell Me”
AAAhhhh the good old days of teachers… Ha! Try these behaviors in our current classrooms and you’re done for!
After all this, I’m still somewhat confused… Do you feel like your two teachers cared or did not care? It sounds like your science teacher cared slightly more and your English teacher, perhaps subconsciously or not, taught you the value of research but then her ending comment contradicts…
As I grew as a student I realized they both cared. The English teacher became the director of our summer musical program. I got to know her out of class and we became friends. What I was attempting to show is that perceptions often become our realities. Due to his over all lack of professionalism, many might question the level of care my science teacher put into his lessons or grades. However he showed his students how much he cared through his passion and lessons and that lead to learning for many. The English teacher was far more professional, but felt that relationships were not important in the classroom. She was far more prepared and buttoned up. Many might say she took great care, but as her student I never felt it, so I discounted everything she said, even fought her. In many ways she affected my educational journey more than anyone else. I failed her class and was assigned to repeat it with her. I begged my counselor for a different teacher. Many of the classes I took only met once per day at a certain time, so my schedule was very rigid. The only class available with a different teacher was an honors class. I struck up a deal with the counselor in which I was required maintain an A the first month in the honors class and could never fall below a B. If I did he would let me stay. That honors class changed everything for me. School became so different. I was treated differently as a student. The following year I was able to weasel my way into honors math and science and the rest is history. (see what i did there)
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Haha! Yes, I see what you did Mr. Smartypants! The teaching profession is blessed to have you. Passionate teachers are far and few!