Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gone By

In high school, I had an English teacher who was either loved or hated by students. I fit in the former camp. He had a policy where he would scan any papers for spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors before reading for content. Each of the first three errors counted five points off. The fourth such error gave the writer an automatic 60% (our grading scale was such that 69% was the highest F grade), and he would draw a red line at that point and stop reading.

He had a wicked sense of humor that he sometimes self-censored, given that we were in a Jesuit high school in the 1980s. A couple of years after graduation, I met him for coffee and had a great chat. I found out then that he had spent some time years ago designing and making costumes for adult entertainers. He was really an interesting guy. He passed away around 2000 or so. The obituary said something about donating to the American Lung Association, so I think I can guess what led to his death.

At the time, teachers could smoke in their department offices. In my junior and senior year, I would sometimes hang out in the English office with some other geeks. They had a couple of computers that we could use to type papers or whatever, so I brought in disks with Infocom text adventures and would play during study hall or lunch with my friend John. Sometimes, we'd see this teacher reading papers or the paper. He'd point to his desk at the refreshments and say, "Coffee and cigarettes... breakfast of champions."

Ah, bygone days...

2 comments: said...

Reminds me of my high school English teacher. She wasn't quite so harsh but had one rule that always drove me crazy. We weren't allowed to use words that she wasn't familiar with in our writing. Imagine writing a term paper about schizophrenia in this situation! On the plus side, she did turn me in to a quality improvisational writer (never did get me on board the whole note cards and outlines train).

She too died (from cancer)a few years after I graduated. I am, however, convinced the ghost of Ms. Moore lives on in the minds of many former students whenever one ponders the proper placement of commas.

GDad said...


Welcome! I'm glad you stopped by. I suspect that there are countless teachers that have similar quirks that students don't appreciate when young but become very valuable when older.