No More Pencils, No More Books…

June 28, 2002

At any given time there is at least one sitcom, soap opera, or dramatic series on that’s set in a school and focuses on the lives of single, attractive, and dedicated teachers whose whole life revoles around providing their students the best education possible. Admittedly, some of these shows have been good, and willing to take on complex issues. More importantly, though, you’re also probably saying to yourself, "It’s in the middle of summer. Why’s he talking about school?" Well, when I was in school my teachers often referred to me as a "late bloomer", which was a gentle way of saying, "If Chris works hard and applies himself, he’ll eventually be able to open a milk carton without assistance." But it’s not my fault that the dire warning, "Open other side" is hidden within the folded cardboard at the top of the container!

But I digress. Whenever I watch these shows, though, the question that’s always knocking at the back of my mind is, Where are the sort of teachers I had when I was in school? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking the teaching profession. Most teachers work hard and get paid significantly less than they deserve – a statement which is over-repeated but bears repeating again because no one’s done anything about it since Lenny Bruce first pointed out that he could make as much for a single week of telling jokes as most teachers did for an entire year of teaching. But teaching is also an easy target because it’s a profession that, for some strange reason, attracts people least suited for it.

Take, for instance, one of my old math teachers, Mrs. Witherbottom. (All names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. For instance, when I say, "Coach Cobb", I really mean Coach Morris Jenkins, who taught – and I use that word loosely – physical education at Beaverbrook Middle School.) In addition to knocking down students in her daily rush to be the first person to leave after school was over, Mrs. Whitherbottom threw away assignments, graded students based on whether they brought her gifts, and once traumatized an entire class by bending so far over to pick up a piece of chalk her wig fell off.

Then there was my math teacher Mr. Blankton, who spoke in such a slow and deliberate manner he could put an entire class to sleep in minutes. As soon as he’d say, "Studentssss…today we’re going to have a quizzzzz" we’d all be going "zzzzzz" right along with him. And there’s the two I’ll never forget: my math teacher Mrs. Stalin, who believed screaming and grabbing a child’s shirt was the only effective way to teach, and Coach Cobb. I’ll get back to Coach Cobb in a minute, but first I’d like to tell you that Mrs. Stalin was the only teacher I’ve ever known who was ever fired. She was fired right after the summer break started, and would have been fired sooner, but her fellow teachers postponed telling anyone their colleague was a psychopath who couldn’t be trusted to take care of a houseplant, let alone a room full of eleven-year olds, said their first priority was protecting one of their own.

Coach Cobb, who simply added to the psychological scarring I and my classmates received from Mrs. Stalin because we had both of them in the same year, at least had the redeeming of not taking his frustrations out on us. No, he took his frustrations out on neighborhood dogs who would wander onto the playground every couple of months…by keeping a loaded BB gun next to the volleyball net.

Through it all, though, there’s one good thing I can say about all these teachers: they never taught me anything.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A little boy was in a relative’s wedding. As he was coming down the aisle, he would take two steps, stop, and turn to the crowd. While facing the crowd, he would put his hands up like claws and roar. So it went, step, step, ROAR, step, step, ROAR, all the way down the aisle. As you can imagine, the crowd was near tears from laughing so hard by the time he reached the pulpit. When asked what he was doing, the child sniffed and said, "I was being the Ring Bear."
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One particular four-year old prayed, "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."
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A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can’t make me a better boy, don’t worry about it. I’m having a real good time like I am."
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A Sunday school teacher asked her little children as they were on the way to church service, "And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?"

One bright little girl replied, "Because people are sleeping."
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A little boy opened the big old family Bible with fascination, looking at the old pages as he turned them. Then something fell out of the Bible and he picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed in between the pages.

"Mama, look what I found," the boy called out.

"What have you got there, dear?" his mother asked.

With astonishment he answered, "It’s Adam’s suit!!"
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The preacher was wired for sound with a lapel mike, and as he preached, he moved briskly about the platform, jerking the mike cord as he went. Then he moved to one side, getting wound up in the cord and nearly tripping before jerking it again. After several circles and jerks, a little girl in the third pew leaned toward her mother and whispered, "If he gets loose, will he hurt us?"
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Six-year old Angie, and her four-year old brother, Joel, were sitting together in church. Joel giggled, sang and talked out loud. Finally, his big sister had enough. "You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church."

"Why? Who’s going to stop ! me?" Joel asked.

Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, "See those two men standing by the door? They’re hushers."
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My grandson was visiting one day when he asked,

"Grandma, do you know how you and God are alike?"

I mentally polished my halo while I asked, "No, how are we alike?"

"You’re both old," he replied.
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A ten year old, under the tutelage of her grandmother, was becoming quite knowledgeable about the Bible. Then, one day, she floored her grandmother by asking, "Which Virgin was the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or the King James Virgin?"
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While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our Minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his five-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that a proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister’s son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said:

"Glory be unto the Faaaather….and unto the Sonnn ……and into the hole he gooooes."

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