wordless wednesday with words (the teachers matter edition)

Mr. Something Something, whose name I can’t remember but who I can still see so clearly standing in front of a grade nine English class in his flannel shirt and cords and the day he handed me back a paper I’d written and said that my work stood out, that I should continue writing. Or something to that effect. It’s possible I’ve overblown it in my mind over the centuries but the point is that’s what it felt like and I can’t begin to think how often this tiny sliver of a tenuously remembered moment has come to mind since then and still does, giving me a boost just when I need it because even though my parents also liked my writing and auntie wotsit too and a few people since it’s his comment that stays with me.  I remember only that he was gentle and soft-spoken, passionate about words, and I have the vague sense that he wasn’t a conformist and therefore not loved by the mainstream and possibly taken advantage of by some of the students. I recall hearing, years later, that he eventually left teaching to drive a cab.

Mr. Bradley who introduced us to Dylan (Bob, not Thomas) by bringing in a couple of albums and a turntable and telling us to just listen. That was the whole class. At the time we were all….  huh????  But we listened. I can still time travel to that moment….

The art teacher who had Parkinson’s (I realize now) and walked the aisles of the class, head shaking, commenting, applauding, encouraging, suggesting.

Ms. Mackie, who was three hundred years old and looked like Santa’s wife, who seemed to live and breathe HomeEc and who shouted instructions like middle it, middle it!!! which had something to do with a gathering stitch and in whose class I made two aprons worthy of any runway. One, light purple with dark purple rick rack, the other paisley. My mother wore them until the end of time.

Mr. Vangeloff, the typing  teacher, who was short and stout and wore tweed suits and always a tie and white shirt and what little hair he had was wiry and long and combed over his bald pate, which, when he was annoyed (which was every day) would rise in a wiry matt to a 30 degree angle like a draw bridge and stay like that as he wandered about the room telling us to stop flapping our ruby red lips in the breeze.

His wife was an art teacher. I wasn’t in her class but she was loved for her grooviness, her long black hair and geometric print dresses and the way she turned a blind eye if she stumbled upon anyone smoking in the loo.

Unlike the French teacher, Ms. Whatever, who would stalk the loos in order to engage in her hobby of handing out detentions for smoking, lunch eating, or Euchre playing. Like wild animals we soon learned how to survive by recognizing the sound of her approaching footsteps, the click of her heel, and flush away any detention worthy evidence. Smoke? What smoke???

Mr. Merrick the gloriously mad science teacher. I hated science but adored him and so quite by accident I learned some science.

Ms. Thingy the gym teacher. Blech blech blech to gym. Made not better by her enthusiasm and muscley legs and assumption that everyone liked climbing rope ladders and what were we supposed to do with the parallel bars because are you kidding me?? She wore culottes and sneakers and drove a flashy green sports car. I saw her once in the real world and heard someone refer to her as Barbara and COULD NOT BELIEVE IT.

Because teachers, whether we adore them or not, seem, especially to our small selves, a little god-like, not only for the power they wield, though there’s that (though that’s less and less), but their influence on us, which I wonder how often we even realize the power of… then, and now.

Hats off to their memory.

And to those who continue to influence the future.

We are grateful.




13 thoughts on “wordless wednesday with words (the teachers matter edition)

  1. Yay, for cool teachers! This is a great post–a lovely tribute to teachers, those adults who can potentially show us so much and not just at the blackboard (which is probably a computer screen now).
    You’ve also reminded me of a gathering stitch. Does anyone make those kind of aprons anymore?

    1. Ah, blackboards…
      I don’t think HomeEc is even offered anymore. Now isn’t that mad. Don’t we all want to now how to cook? And mend things!

  2. Funny that you remember the encouraging words of your English teacher. He must’ve said it at a time and in such a way that it would impact you deeply. The power of ‘teachers’. They can build you up, and take you down with one simple comment. Here’s to those that are in it to truly teach. And he was right by the way, to tell you to keep writing.

    1. It really did. Took me by surprise. And I’d already begun writing but didn’t know it, not really. Or I wasn’t taking it seriously. What I remember most about him is that he had this unique vibe. Probably the best teacher I ever had… and of course I didn’t know that at the time either.

  3. This is so wonderful in so many ways. And I had forgotten about the teachers’ strike in Ontario until I read the comments but what a tribute to them this is. You should print it as a pamphlet and hand it to them at the picket lines. And before ending my comment I feel compelled to say that Mr. Vangeloff and his groovy wife sound like such an unlikely couple. I am dying to know more about them!

        1. To write more about the Vangeloffs… they were so influential, both of them in their own mad ways. Very unusual teachers, at least at my school, at that time. Thx, E.

  4. Oh gosh. Yes. I came to the end and felt like applauding — out loud.
    I had some of those teachers — different name/ different locations but yes. I had others too.
    I too had two different teachers, in particular, who had encouraging words for me and my work when everyone else thought I was “odd” and definitely different.

    Thank you for this absolutely delightful walk down memory lane.

  5. From Cheryl:

    1. The Grade Three teacher in the village of Komoka who brought the piston from his own car to class for a show and tell; he also introduced us to the Bob White [bird] who said we’d know it by it’s call because sounds like it’s saying its name.
    2. The math teacher in Grade 10 who pointed his boney finger at me (everyone was afraid of him) one day in class and said, “You. After classes today. Here.” I could solve any algebraic problem, but could not explain how I got it. I swear he almost smiled with his thin, almost lipless mouth, when I was able to step up to the blackboard one day in class and write the formula.
    3. My Grade 11 English teacher who said my first name with a hard ‘Ch’ (like cheese) and took our class to a dress rehearsal of a Shakespearean play at the theatre in London, Ont. I fell so in love with Shakespeare that the first book I purchased for myself was the complete collection of his works … I still have that book somewhere at home.

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