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I Did Not See That Coming At All
I must set the stage a bit here; I was every teacher's most frustrating student . . . I could have been a 'straight A' student, but the classroom was excruciatingly dull to me - year after year after year my mom would receive notes from every teacher 'Mickey has the aptitude, but does not put forth the effort'. That relentless charge still sits in my mind, in it's own well-worn spot, tauting me with the grief I put my mother through.
I did, in fact, get nothing but 'A's all through elementary school - but when I got to Jr High and found out we were supposed to take school work home with us, I knew I was not going to keep up with that, so I put all my text books in my locker and virtually dropped-out of school in 7th grade. I had a good working mind and I actually loved to learn, so I managed to pass from grade to grade by paying attention in class (when we were actually learning and not endlessly reviewing what we were supposed to have already learned) and getting 'A's or 'B's on tests while never doing classwork or homework. My report cards were filled with 'D's, but I managed to pass from grade to grade - until . . .
9th grade - that's me in the green circle
Mr. Hague ~
There were always those teachers who you heard about - well, I should say, there were always those teachers who the bad kids heard about . . . the ones who didn't let you get away with anything and who paddle really hard, and often. Mr. Hague was one of those teachers. Mr. Hague taught 9th grade English and he was the one every kid who got in trouble feared, his reputation as the hardest paddler was legendary in the halls of Lower Paxton Jr High.
Worse yet, if you didn't turn-in your homework, you got paddled. Everyday Mr. Hague would walk across the front of the class collecting the homework passed-in to the front of each row - as he flipped through the papers in his hand from each row he would call-out anyone's name who hadn't turned-in a homework. In 9th grade I got paddled at least once everyday (sometimes I would receive some other paddling for something else, but Mr, Hague paddled me everyday all year).
In the classroom I actually liked his teaching. He really wanted kids to get into learning . . . I will never forget his reading of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart". While all the other kids would giggle and mock him, I was astounded that this guy was so willing to abandon any sense of how he would be perceived and just go for it . . . he would pace back-and-forth in front of the class clenching the text in one hand and shaking a fist in the air with his other hand, his hair flailing around like Cab Calloway's, crying-out as he increased the violence of his marching back-and-forth "I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased . . . I felt that I must scream or die! -- and now -- again -- hark! louder! louder! louder! LOUDER!". Everyone thought he was certifiably goofy - I thought he was a remarkable teacher . . . except for the part where he beat me with a large, narrow board every day.
Anyway, when the school year entered it's final marking period Mr. Hague kept warning me that I wasn't going to pass his class, and that if I didn't pass his class I would fail 9th grade, and that if I failed 9th grade I wouldn't move-on with my class to the high school . . . and as the year got closer and closer to the end he kept warning me again and again. I, of course, did nothing about it and fully expected to fail 9th grade and stay behind at the jr high dropping down to the class below mine.
At the end of the day of the last day of school the halls and classrooms were busy with wild kids cleaning-out lockers, running through the halls, saying 'goodbye' to favorite teachers, etc . . and, we all got our report cards. I got all 'D's, which would have passed me, except, sure enough I got one 'A' from Mr. Hague . . . wait, what? WHAT?! Hague gave me an 'A'!? I made my way through the hysteria in the halls to Mr. Hague's classroom - I never saw him like that before . . . he was smiling and laughing and goofing off with all the kids - maybe the other kids were right, maybe he was certifiable.
When he saw me in the doorway he raised both arms in the air cheering "Mickey!" and asking "Did you get my surprise?". What was going on, none of this seemed at all like anything anyone would have expected from Mr. Hague. I walked toward him with my report card, pointing to his 'A', asking "what gives?" He got almost serious with me for a moment and told me that he was retiring, that this was his last day as a teacher and that he wanted to give himself a present - so he gave me a totally unearned 'A'! "How is giving me an 'A' a gift for you" I asked.
Hague told me "For the first time I didn't follow the official procedure - I'm a teacher, and I knew from the questions you asked in class, the comments you had on the literature, and just from your attentiveness that you were learning more than all the other kids who fulfilled all the requirements on paper". And then he added "But let me ask you - why didn't you just do your homework instead of getting paddled every day?" I told him "It seems to me kind of the same thing - I knew I knew the material, it seemed an unbearable tediousness to sit in my room filling out answers to questions that I knew I knew the answers to, when Star Trek was on in the other room". He laughed like a crazy-man and whacked me on the shoulder exclaiming "Well good for you!". I ran to catch my bus, thinking about Hague and his career, and his gift for himself to me, and I still think of that remarkable scene from time to time - I truly hope Mr. Hague enjoyed his retirement.