Teachers: Miss Appling, Mr. Bicknell, Mrs. Price, Pastor Tanis
Seventh grade is when they started getting us used to the idea of having different teachers for different subjects like we’d have in high school. We stayed in one room and they moved around, which I’m sure was just loads of fun for them.
Miss Appling (you might remember her from First Grade) taught us history and English, and I have a solid memory from each subject. In English, she was teaching us prepositions and was doing so by standing on the desk or in the trashcan. She was already an imposing person, and having her height increased so much the more by the teacher’s desk made for many a wide-eye.
My memory of her world history class is actually from History of Civilization my freshmen year of college (1990-91). Our teacher for that class was … hmm. There’s no nice way to put it. He talked over our heads and was hard to follow, let us say. I remember that on several tests my memories of Miss Appling’s class are what got me a passing grade. To this day I still remember her telling us about Hammurabi and how “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” That made a lasting impression.
Our class went on a field trip to a planetarium and Miss Appling was along as a chaperone. I don’t remember what he was doing or saying, but Matt M. was doing something and Miss Appling reprimanded him and he made some reply and she said, “Where’s your chain?” and her tone suggested she was mocking him quite severely. It was very perplexing at the time, and frankly, after all these years, I still can’t figure out what she meant.
Mrs. Price was new to the area and her son Phil was new to our class this year. She taught speech class, which would turn out to be the only speech class I took until midway through my college career. Mrs. Price’s method of in-class punishment was to make the offender to pushups. As it happened, I was talking in class one day (shocking, I know) and she told me to do 10. I was … chubby in seventh grade, and this was more than I was able to do. Phil told me later that I looked like I was “doing The Worm,” a reference that those of you familiar with breakdancing are more likely to get.
One day we were split up for speech class and I was in a group headed by another teacher. The speech I was working on was about getting rid of a cold, and it included a reference to a theoretical support group whose initials spelled “ACHOO.” The teacher’s comment after I went through it was that I should say that word “more like an actual sneeze.” I knew he was wrong but I didn’t say so since he was only helping temporarily. It set me on a course of “knowing” when I was getting bad suggestions. By this, of course, I mean that thought I was more knowledgeable about some things than those who were trying to instruct me. Not a good place to be, especially as a twelve-year-old.
One assignment we had for speech class was to do a pantomime of something. Most people did things like “baking a cake” or some other similarly mundane task. I did not prepare anything. This is my earliest memory of this sort of behavior, another habit I would carry with me until … well, now, I guess. When asked by classmates, I told them I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I never did actually prepare anything, either. I toyed with an idea or two, but never practiced – which, of course, we were supposed to do. When it came time for me to perform in class for my grade, I gave my title as “Snoopy versus the Red Baron” and proceeded to do a scene based on a dogfight (no pun intended). I remember Mrs. Price laughing a few times and I remember I made a few inadvertent noises (gunfire, most likely), which cost me, grade-wise. I still got a good grade, though, and it taught me two things: 1) I could slack and still do all right, and 2) I liked doing improv, even though I didn’t know that word yet. That first lesson is one that’s stuck with me a long time, to my very great detriment.
One more year of elementary school left, and I’m noticing most of my memories don’t have other people involved. I had friends, I know – in fact, I remember that summers were sad for me, because all my friends lived 30 minutes away and I never saw them. I fell in with a new group of friends in seventh grade that … weren’t so good for me. We were a collective bad influence on each other. I didn’t really figure that out for another two years, though.
Up next: eighth grade, in which it is discovered that at this point in my life, I was not to be trusted with any sort of leadership position.