A defiant little child is what I was known to be, and I kept that reputation very well.
I had—and have—what doctors call ADHD, and when I was little I would jump chair to chair in my classroom. Once I wrapped myself in tape like a mummy. And I would occasionally make animal sounds at the teacher and pretend like I didn’t know who did it. I was a clown. Soon it would be nap time and I would catch my ZZZs.
I remember waking up to the glare of the sun through the window. Time for lunch and recess on the concrete court! There was a shed back there where kids would hide and completely disappear! It was my lucky day; no one watched as I went back there.
As only a five year-old would do, I dropped my pants to the ground, lifted my shirt, stuck my finger into my belly button and let out a yellow river.
“Oh gross, Mom,” my daughter said pointing to a framed wedding photo on the bedside table. “It’s Ms. Painter and Mr. Kelvin.”
“Your teachers?” I asked.
Darlene nodded. “Ugh. TMI. We need to leave.”
I followed her down the stairs, past the nudes done by Ms. Painter—pear-shaped women with flowing mermaid hair and skin portrayed with thick fleshy strokes of pinks, peaches, oranges—and out into the hot May afternoon. We sneezed in the bright light and leaned against my minivan like stunned possum. It was TMI—too much information. Ms. Painter, a flighty flaky woman my daughter disliked, taught art and photography at the high school, and Mr. Kelvin taught chemistry. Now Darlene had seen their pitchfork cutlery, Ms. Painter’s garish nude creations, Mr. Kelvin’s shaving cup and blade razor, and the bidet. There was no erasing any of it from her mind.
In fourth grade, Scott Costello was the kid nobody wanted to cross. It wasn’t because he was exceptionally big. He was skinny like me and perhaps only an inch or two taller. His pale complexion made him look fragile and delicate, actually. He just had a temper. A nasty, unforgiving one. And if you pissed off Scott, he never let it slide. Stories of the fights he got into were legendary. Right when you were about to discredit the storyteller as an exaggerator, a lover of fiction and urban myth, there would enter Scott with a welt under one eye, a scabby cut across the bridge of his nose, or a Band-Aid on his jaw. He wore these wounds like badges of honor, walking around as if they didn’t hurt and never had. If you asked, he would have attested to this.
But we never asked. Rumors told us these injuries were from scuffles with sixth graders on the playground after school or at the park, and it was commonly held the other guy always looked worse.
So the story of Noah and the Flood doesn’t end with pairs of giraffes and zebras descending a wooden plank. It ends with Noah passed out drunk in a makeshift tent, exposing his nether-regions to passersby.
The first time alcohol appears in the Bible it’s with Noah, our post-Flood 400-year-old partier: “When he drank some… wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent” (Gen. 9:21). That’s Bible language for, “Noah drinks a Target wine cube, a forty of Pabst, and a Big Gulp of Jack and Coke and keels over nay-nay in his pop-up Coleman canopy.”
Kindergarten. The teacher in the front of the room squawks like a magpie—like a magpie getting excited and angry about things no one else cares about. I sit in the middle of class, my hands folded in my lap. The other children rustle around me, so many Chickadees fluffing feathers. The teacher holds up a white card with bent and broken fence posts on it. “This is an ‘A’,” she says. But I am already riding Chester across the deep creek. His hooves splash my bare feet with cold water that makes them tingle. Then the tingling is a bell in my ears, and it’s time to go home.
When the other students have all learned to read, I am sent to the library to trace letters with colored pencils on butcher-block paper. In blue, I draw big looping-lariat O’s, over and over. In green and red, X a jackleg fence, T a telephone pole. My favorite, though, is K. I save purple for its straight back and elegant wings that could fly away on the wind.
Way back when, not so long ago, I had this teacher—a great teacher who couldn’t plan out tests. Honestly, I don’t think he was thinking of students like me when it came to his so called “tests” and “quizzes.” Students like me suffer from chronic-study-procrastination.
We also want to impress our parents with a GPA higher than 3.2.
I went home and actually remembered to study for this test, the last test before second semester. I pulled an all-nighter (that lasted about two hours). I’m talkin’ going online to visit the teacher’s website and looking at old notes; I even borrowed the book the questions were from. It was an open-note test.
At school the next morning I felt great. I got to class, sat in my assigned seat, and waited for the bell. The teacher handed out the test packets. I looked inside my backpack and my notebook wasn’t inside. I didn’t have it with me, but whatever. I had studied and pulled a major cram session so I thought nothing of it.
Everything was good. Or so I thought.
My Bible teacher is cool. At least I think he is—I’m not the coolest kid in middle school, so my judgment might be suspect. But I’m not the nerdiest, either, and if I compare Mr. Scott with the rest of my teachers, he comes out near the top. He likes to stand in front of his desk and lean back against it, legs crossed and locked, and smooth his thin tie over and over, pulling it flat and taut against the stomach of his short-sleeved shirt. His shoes have pointed toes, and the thinnest laces I have ever seen.
Mr. Howard, one of my science teachers, wears the same brown bellbottoms every day. He likes to remind us that God created us, not random chance. He says he doesn’t try to be cool. He also says he can hear an AM radio station inside his head because of some bad dental work. He’s right about the cool thing, though—Mr. Scott’s way out in front.
Which is why it’s so awkward to be reading this sex-ed book with Mr. Scott. He’s standing at the front, cool as ever, tie as smooth as ever. I’m squirming in my seat, and I’m not the only one. The title is shiny gold letters on a white background, and the author—a famous preacher with bifocals and a comb-over—is smiling for no good reason. Mr. Scott is trying to get us to discuss one of the chapters about sex.
“You know,” says Mr. Scott, smoothing his mustache east and west with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, “God likes to give us good gifts to enjoy. Sex is an awesome gift. He tells us that once we put sex in its proper place we can enjoy it as much as we want.”
I think back to the previous afternoon, when I watched Mrs. Scott coaching the girls volleyball team. Mr. Scott has a point.
David Jacobsen lives in central Oregon where he teaches, edits, and writes. He is the author of Rookie Dad and his website is jacobsenwriting.com.
My geology teacher was a decent guy but every now and then would get pretty sassy. He’d stare at us when he wanted us to be quiet; he wanted us to notice when he was silently and patiently waiting. Sometimes if we didn’t quiet down fast enough he would say, “Wow, this is a chatty class,” and talk about how he wanted to get started. One time he even let us out early because we weren’t paying enough attention to him.
The worst was after our first exam, when he got all butt-hurt about our scores. He was like “I don’t understand why the scores are so low. There are lots of D’s and I don’t feel like the covered material was particularly challenging.” Then he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Well, that’s it then,” and started up his lecture. We just sat there as he complained about our scores and no one offered a rebuttal.
Beware of so-called “filler classes.”
I was finishing up my GURs fall quarter and I had space for another class. I decided to take a beginning acting class because it seemed easy enough; I’d get my A, boost my GPA a bit, and get ahead on credits. I should’ve known better. It was a theater class. The professor, the chair for the Theater and Music department, used to perform on Broadway or something and sang as well as acted. She was snobby and brash and often displeased with our class. I’ve never had a professor get so butt-hurt about assignments and class.
Her snide comments probably hurt the sensitive theater kids who really wanted to do acting with their lives. For instance, when we were picking our final scenes, a bunch of groups picked scenes out of Barefoot in the Park, and she said, “Oh, this is a popular one. We’ll be seeing lots of scenes from this. Hopefully they’re not all the same.”
If she was going to be a brat about it, she should’ve assigned us different scenes to begin with and stop griping about it.
My scene was from The Owl and the Pussycat. I was a prostitute.
At my school we have GURs—General University Requirements—that must be completed for graduation. Students must take courses in various subject areas like science and math. Since I was trying to get my math requirement out of the way, I registered for Math 112 because I didn’t need to take a placement test to get in. I figured it would be easy.
But noooooo. In this class the TAs deducted points for no good reason, just like Mr. Smith did in high school. On one exam you needed to name the variables in a problem about planting some tree and I wrote “H = height of tree.” To normal teachers who don’t sip Hater-ade before correcting tests, this makes sense. These TA graders, however, stole a whole damn point because they wanted me to put “H = height of tree in inches.” Can you believe that minuscule shit?