Instead of chapter "Parson Joshua Thomas"
Recollections about teaching, February 5, 2013
I'll tear myself away from writing about Buddy, Shrimp, and Big Guy for the moment. Those are the nicknames I've given them, not their real names. It was the real names that were a problem while I was teachng. Every year, I carefully made a seating chart for each class so I could learn to differentiate between Tiffany and Debbie, Larry and Michael, and so on. I was thankful for anyone who arrived with a Biblical name. It was easier to remember students named Abel, Hezekiah, or Miriam. I know Shakespeare's position was that a rose would smell as sweet no matter what its name, but I saw things differently. If you named your child Utility Brown, expect him to grow up to be a landscaper or something like it. Jackson Grimm, on the other hand, might become an outlaw. We live up to our names, to some extent.
Or maybe our parents are reaching for just the opposite --- Gardenia White was the name of one of the darkest students I ever taught. I loved flower names, and I remember Pansy being one of the most colorful girls. Some girls were named for edible things: Muffin and Candy (their parents must have been hungry). One couple named their children Rivers, Mountains, and Plains (imagine being a girl with big breasts named Mountains). Another couple named their children for the states in which they were born: Al was born in Alabama, Mo (a girl) in Missouri, and Cal in California (if they had a fellow born in Utah, I imagined a short guy who would be called "Ute"). A family with the last name Carey actually named their son Harry, and I hope he didn't grow up to be suicidal. Double and triple first names were troublesome: I had twins who were identical except they had cowlicks across their forehead taking their hair in opposite directions; they were named Ronald Donald Thomas and Donald Ronald Thomas. One girl was named Cadenza ( perhaps musicians in that family), and another was named Cementia (Masons, no doubt, in that bunch). I had to see students named Ryan, Robin, Bobbi, and Toni, for they could just as easily be girls as boys.
Among the faculty was our resident jokester, Bob H. If you remember Laurel and Hardy, Bob H. resembled the tearful, skinny one, and he was merciless. One time we had a meeting with the parent of a student almost as bad as Buddy, and when the parent said her son wanted to grow up to be a fighter pilot, Bob said aloud, "Well, there goes national defense." I mention Bob because one day, after I had been out sick for a while, Bob mentioned a new student had been enrolled. I would be seeing her that afternoon in my fifth period class (so he said). Her mother had given her an unusual name, something she heard that sounded musical and magical: the child's name was Vagina, but teachers called her Gina. I was flabbergasted, until Bob said that wasn't the worst of it. The girl had a brother who was going to be enrolled next week. His name was Rectum.
A joke, of course. Bob was one of the most effective math teachers ever. He gave his lesson plan book to his little daughters for them to use as a coloring book (no, he never needed written lesson plans-- he was that good ). He died, after many years of teaching, on the golf course, much like Bing Crosby. Every time I need a smile, I think of some of the things he said or did. Click on the next chapter ----