Mineola Missives: The Jr. High Days, Part I
Jr. High, (or Middle School, depending on where you went), is a time of big changes. For most people, it's the first time you experience the multiple teacher format that will continue through high school and college. It's the period where the girls come back from summer vacation having hit puberty, and suddenly, shoving them at recess isn't the only thing on your mind. New friendships are formed, old friendships are tested and sometimes fail, and the adult you will one day be starts coming a little more into focus. Jr. High for me was...well, in a word, miserable. Sure, there were moments of fun, and some experiences I wouldn't trade for anything. For the most part though, Jr. High was, for me, the genuine outcast scenario. I was the slightly introverted, inept, nerdy kid who never quite fit in. Mind you, I probably brought a lot of this on myself, as some of these tales will bear out. So sit back and enjoy a few brief stories of the miserable gauntlet of teasing and humiliation that was Jr. High.
*DISCLAIMER - Some of these stories might sound like I'm fishing for sympathy, and that's simply not the case. As miserable as it was, it helped form who I am today, and I'm pretty okay with that guy. I tell them simply to give more information on my formative years, which is what this whole Mineola series is all about.
Teachers and classes
- The first notable teacher I remember from sixth grade was Mrs. Ramsey. Mrs. Ramsey was our 20/30-something World History teacher. Mrs. Ramsey was hot, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. It's amazing any of the males in her class learned anything, distracted as we were with drooling over her. Something about her class - the time of day, the people around me, something I've never quite put my finger on - always kind of made me lose it a little during that period. At least once a week, probably more, I would be sitting peacefully in Mrs. Ramsey's class, when I would suddenly be overcome by a fit of the giggles. Now mind you, this was in the middle of class, so I had to choke back my laughter and try not to give any signs of my internal state of hilarity. This usually resulted in me rocking back and forth and turning beet red. Lane sat next to me in this class, and every time one of these bizarre little fits would overcome me, he would turn and look at me completely stone-faced, which would naturally set me off even more. I don't remember ever getting in any particular trouble over this, but it wouldn't surprise me to be reminded I did. Oh, for one particular project we were required to make some sort of presentation with a partner. Lane and I paired up to make a model of the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were delivered (yeah, I don't know either). I mention this only because every time it comes up in our conversations, Lane always points out that that project was sidetracked when we tore out of my house to chase down the ice cream truck.
- Mr. Daniels was our math teacher. Math has never been my strongest or favorite subject, but Mr. Daniels did his best to make it interesting, albeit often at his students' expense. For instance, he somehow found out at some point about a meaningless crush I had on a girl in my class. Instead of leaving it alone, he turned it into a math problem. I can still see him in my mind, holding up a drawing (he REALLY liked to draw little illustrations of his students to use in his word problems) he had done of the girl in question driving a car up a hill, with me in hot pursuit. Mr. Daniels had a real problem with people sitting on their feet in class; so much so that he turned it into a "spankable" offense. He was a little crazy.
- Mr. Young was the computer science teacher. Mr. Young was, and this is putting it mildly, an aging hippy. He wore a LOT of tie-dye, had a long silver/grey beard, long lanky silver/grey hair, and some very interesting theories about the world and the future of technology. My particular favorite was the time he told us about the future of microcircuitry. He claimed that in the near future, scientists would be able to program a microscopic chip such that when you throw it into a puddle of water, the programming would take over and voila, you could have your very own motorcycle made entirely of diamond. Which, for some reason, he believed would never wear out due to friction. Mr. Young also claimed that once, in his younger days, he was out on a camping trip in the middle of some wooded area. One night while sitting in the cab of his truck, doing God knows what (though the rest of the story gives you a hint), he claimed that Bigfoot climbed into the back of his truck, smoked a cigarette, and then walked off. Some of us later told this story to Coach Day, knowing he would appreciate it. He laughed while we told the story, and at the end his only comment was, "Yeah, and then he married her. Ah ah ah ah ah."
- Coach Michael Claire Cunningham taught...well, I don't actually remember what he taught (Life Science, maybe?). Probably because my memories of his classes all revolve around the weird stuff he tried to get us involved in. He was always giving us handouts about various activities and events around the world, or just random interesting tidbits he found in a book or the paper. We once made "peanut butter" in his class, which tasted exactly like what it was: peanuts he crushed up in a bowl with salt (?!). I also remember eating sardines in his class; for what purpose, I have no idea. After we had completed 8th grade, a few of us went by to bid our farewell to him. He was cleaning out his classroom at the time, and started giving us all textbooks, flyers, and various other informational crap he had stored up over the past year. I wound up with a set of VERY basic scientific "encyclopedias", which I think is still in my parents' house. His classroom also always had a TV/VCR in it, which we often availed ourselves of with his blessing. One day after lunch, a couple of us wandered over to his room for some reason. Now this was the time that New Kids on the Block mania was at its height, and the video for Step by Step had just been released, to the delight of teenaged girls everywhere. We walked into the room to find a group of girls huddled around the TV, giggling and squealing at NKotB's wacky antics. One of the guys I was with (or maybe it was me) made some random disparaging remark about the group. The next thing we knew, we were being bum-rushed by the girls, and thrown bodily out the door. It was like Wild Kingdom, only with teenagers and crappy music.
- When I started 6th grade (1987), the city had just completed work on a brand new Middle School/Elementary School facility. My class was the first to complete all three years of Middle School in this new facility. In our 7th grade year, a teacher of some class I didn't take passed away during the school year. There followed the requisite mourning period, in which students who had probably invented new insults to apply solely to that teacher acted as though their best friend had just died. A short string of subs followed until a permanant replacement was hired. I think the replacement held the job for about 4 months or so before he, too, passed away. Thereafter, subs were shuffled in and out for the rest of the school year. Rumors and whispers of the "cursed classroom" shot around for a while, until we all got bored and moved on to something else. But still...weird, no?
- A coach called Skittles!
- Coach Johnson, the motorcycle driving coach!
- Mrs. Lamb, who thought it was fun to scream!
- The Texas History teacher who thought she was a cat!
- The band director with delusions of grandeur!