An Open Letter to a Lousy Teacher

For the purposes of this open letter, the subject will be referred to as Mrs. Corbin. -Ty

Dear Mrs. Corbin,

I had you for third grade. I didn’t enjoy much of your class, and looking back on it after all these years, I have to wonder if you enjoyed any of it. You certainly never acted like, 1) teaching children that age gave you any pleasure. 2) You had a grasp of how to do it in the first place.

Kids are impressionable. When you show disdain for them, they know it, even if they do not know know what the word “disdain” is. A third grader may not being able to vocalize the concept of respect just yet, but they know it when they see it, and when they do not see it. I didn’t see any respect from you. Not for me, or for any of my classmates.

It’s not respectful to laugh at third graders when they don’t know an answer or get something wrong. It’s not respectful to look at their classwork and shout, “What did you do?” loud enough for the entire class to hear. It’s not respectful to tell someone that age when they have done something wrong, “I don’t even want to see your eyeballs.” This last one you did to me, and it was hurtful. The smallest amount of solace comes from the fact that you treated most of us like that, and not just myself.

However, there is no solace in the fact that you asked multiple students to do the most vile thing I’ve ever been asked by a teacher. You’d sit in the front of the class, blow your damn nose, and ask us to throw it away for you. Do you know how demeaning, disgusting and abusive of authority that is? To have your students approach you from their desk, have you hand them your snot-soaked tissue, and instruct them to walk in front of everybody to the back of the class room to dispose of it for you? Especially when there was no option to even wash our hands afterward?

Among the many shitty things you did, that tissue business was, I can now say, the worst. It was the epitome of lazy, it was dismissive, humiliating, and obviously an ego-maniacal power trip on your part. What kind of old scumbag orders her students to do that? I’m pretty sure it was probably illegal to require us to do that, but of course, what recourse did we have? If anybody had said no, you’d have dressed them down in front of everyone, probably by mocking the way they spoke, as you did more than once to children.

Children being the operative word.

What was the matter, Corbin? Are you so weak willed and insecure that you had to stay all the way down at third grade where most kids don’t have the strength to object to your behavior? Is that what kept you from teaching any older kids?

Or was it the fact that you simply weren’t that smart? I think that’s part of it. This exhibited, among other things, by the fact that you started out giving us a homework assignment from the wrong grade on more than one occasion. The same exact wrong assignment; you had to admit your error more than once. If you didn’t even know what materials went with your class, you could at least make a note of it once you screwed up the first time.

Or the time we were writing stories in class, and I asked you how to spell, “Star-Spangled Banner.” You told me it was, “Stars Bangled Banner.” That’s the sort of phonetic mistake I might have expected from classmates, but from the teacher? Being who I was, I knew the name of our national anthem. I just didn’t know how it was spelled. Yet you knew better then me what it was, I suppose. How could someone end up being a teacher without knowing the proper name of her own nation’s anthem, after all?

Not that you lacked any awareness of the outside world. Like the time you started taking down all of the decorations and pictures in the classroom one morning in front of all of us, as opposed to before we got to school. “This is what the county government is doing to us,” you told us. “If you want your pictures back, tell your parents to talk to the county commissioners.” I don’t know what the issue was, and for all I know as an adult I may have been in agreement with the point you were allegedly making. But to make it in that fashion to children who obviously know no better? To use them as a living tool for your agenda? A staggering lack of professionalism. One of many of which you were guilty.

Certain people are dangerous enough to be forbidden to interact with children. I don’t think that is you. However, I do think that someone who treats them as you do in a position of authority ought to get another job. Someone who does the things you did has a personality totally unfit for teaching elementary school. I’ve been hurt worse by plenty of other people than I was by you, Mrs. Corbin, but the year I spent in your class was a wasted, unpleasant one.

That’s why I look back with a smile on the fact that my mother took me out of school two weeks early, to begin a vacation we had planned. She cleared it with all the necessary folks, and sent a note with me that final morning to give to you. It was the first you were hearing about it, and I now know my mother planned it that way. I still laugh when I think of your smug look changing in an instant to shock as you read the note.

“Today?” you yelled, responding to it being my final day in your class. Then something about you not knowing about it sooner, or something. I don’t much care. You’d been had and it was great. I only wish I had sung the Stars Bangled Banner on my way out that day.

I hear you’re retired now. Third graders are the better for it. The entire school system is better for it.

Blow your nose on that. And throw it away yourself, you sleaze.

–Ty Unglebower

This post is part of the Open Letter Continuum

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