President Obama’s remarks last July about how teachers and not celebrities like Snooki should be idolized in this country got me thinking about who I thought were the best teachers from high school on up. Overall, the number of who I found were the best instructors throughout my life is far less than the number of survivors rescued at the end of oceanliner disaster movie, The Poseidon Adventure.
I was thankful, for example, that my freshmen Algebra teacher Mr. McClusky, who also doubled as the school’s winning basketball coach and who I was told by a fellow classmate that the guy supposedly hated freshmen, that he came off as a drill sergeant when he taught class. I wouldn’t be surprised if any students heard his voice clear across the hall as he yelled at the students for making stupid mistakes when they did algebra problems. He always called me “Joseph” when he called on me –a name that is only used by my mother. Whenever the students did lousy on the tests, Mr. McClusky would make them redo the problems again and then write ten times, “I will not make silly mistakes.”
I could have used someone like him for Algebra II that I took sophomore year and Geometry junior year where I learned next to nothing. Taking those two upper level courses, I still to this day wonder who was more of a joke. Was it my fellow classmates, most of whom did nothing but pass notes, talked during class, steal other’s homework and cheated on tests? Or was it the instructors who didn’t know crap about how to control a class when they got out of line?
I didn’t care too much for Mr. Poundstone, my junior year Ethics instructor who attended Oxford because he wasn’t one to give any sort of multiple choice tests nor did he believe in giving extra credit assignments. His tests were always essay and short answer questions where he wanted to actually know if you knew the material. The same went for Father Martin, the Social Issues instructor I had senior year who taught the class like it was a college course, which in a way, it was.
Once I started attending college, I got the impression college professors didn’t give a damn whether or not you attended their class. If you didn’t study and show up, you failed. It was not their job to keep after you like your parents.
Dr. Bridges, my media law instructor who I also later took his Reporting II class, however, got on to me for not taking his journalism courses seriously. He also had no qualms about embarrassing a student when they stepped out of line. Dr. Bridges during the first week of the Spring semester asked me why I was not in his Reporting II class at the time and was instead working on a story for the college newspaper I got drafted into doing. He didn’t accept the excuse and told me in front of some other students who were in the lab working on their stuff that I had better get my priorities straight.
Given the great number of red marks I got on my news stories in his Reporting II course, which suggested I did not know how to write worth a damn, I started wondering if the teacher who taught me Reporting I where I got a better grade than the C I got from Dr. Bridges at the end of his course knew what she was doing.
Are these the kind of instructors President Obama would like to see “idolized” on the front covers of magazines as opposed to celebrities? Were these the kinds of instructors who made a difference in my life? I am not sure. As I said, I didn’t care much for their strict teaching methods. At least, however, I walked away learning the material and realized there is no such thing as an easy A.