Friday, April 07, 2006

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?
Well, this post is turning out to be quite a bit longer than I expected. I still haven't finished out all the exciting and interesting teachers, much less gotten to the tales of humiliation and shame which, I expect, will be the truly popular portion of this segment. So I'll break for now, and soon return with The Jr. High Days, Part II, including the exciting tales of:
  • 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!
Plus many tales of me making an ass of myself. Should be fun!

5 Comments:

Anonymous jennlaw said...

Dude! You got spanked in junior high? That is really weird!

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That teacher who died, wasn't his name Mr. Jones or something plain like that? Weird how I forgot that...thanks.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. Don't forget the Texas History teacher who loved the cold steel feeling of a doorknob nestled in her bunghole.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would that band director with delusions of grandeur be eddie airheart???? If so I would very much like to hear more of those stories!

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

You require some degree of correction to this, your "Mineola Missive."

Michael Claire Cunningham taught Life Science, P.E., was a basketball coach, and also American History. He obtained his doctorate in education and became a curriculum director and superintendnt. He was also a mormon. [[remember kevin cunningham conducting 'tequila' at pep rallies, or did that happen when you were at MJH?]]

Laura Beth Ramsey was not in her 20s-30s. Try late 30s, though she did look younger. She later divorced, then remarried her husband.

Why do you say BJ West thought she was a cat?

I cannot believe you have failed to mention Juice. He'd be so pissed if he knew you left him out. Or Bina Lou Barrett Hawkins, or Danny Freeman, or Nadine & Sissy.

Also, the "bigfoot smoked a cigarette in the back seat of the car," is part of the myth and legend of Chris "Brigham" Young. He had actually smoked a cigarette before he laid down, and then one after Bigfoot was in the car. I do like the story better as you told it. Thanks to Mr. Young, I have always been on the lookout for sections of "hypnotic road," which he often availed us of stories about, but I do not think such a phenomenon really exists unless you are fucking stoned.

"Dilusions of grandeaur?" The fool thought he was a shoe-licking Leonard Bernstein.

3:36 PM  

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