We all have memories, both as students and as parents, of teachers we idolized, and others whom we absolutely despised. Inevitably we felt sad when the school year ended and we said farewell to a beloved teacher; we sighed with relief when we finally walked out of the classroom of a teacher we totally loathed.
As a mother, I found that I rarely had strong feelings about my daughter’s teachers. If she liked them, I was pleased for her. But when she disliked a teacher, I found that, unlike her, I could often see the logic behind what appeared to her to be unreasonable demands or “mean” behavior.
There were exceptions, however.
During her final year of middle school, in the midst of enduring her parents’ divorce and all the attendant anguish, my daughter Amanda encountered her teacher Waterloo in the form of a home economics teacher.
Let it be said right here that the gene for domesticity, if not having done a complete flyby, is not exactly strongly represented in the DNA of my cherished daughter. For instance, while trying to learn to how to operate a sewing machine, she ended up chasing the threaded bobbin straight across the classroom floor; to this day she cannot sew on a button, and iron-on hem tape is her friend. She rose to the challenge of preparing instant pudding, but that just about concluded her culinary skills until she reached college. In short, my beloved offspring was never going to be a domestic goddess. To place the cherry on the cake of household incompetence, the school guidance counselor arranged for her to attend an in-school support group for children enduring trauma, so she often missed home ec class to attend counseling sessions.
One afternoon Amanda stormed home and, with a face the picture of wrathful self-righteousness, told me that Waterloo Teacher had pulled her aside and advised her, “I don’t know what it is you’re going through, but if you keep missing classes for counseling, you’re not going to pass.”
That did it. Whatever other genetic material I myself might be missing, the Mother Bear Protecting Her Cub Gene is not among them! Before the clock had fully ticked over to the start of the next school day, I was on the phone to the class guidance counselor, reporting Mrs. Waterloo’s unfeeling pronouncement. “My daughter needs those group counseling sessions,” I raged. “And frankly, there is absolutely no class that I care less about her passing than home economics!” The guidance counselor assured me that she completely agreed with my viewpoint. Amanda could continue her group counseling sessions, and, yes, Home Economics was the least important of all the classes she was taking that semester, which was why the counseling sessions had been scheduled at that time. Waterloo Teacher’s attitude would, she assured me, be dealt with.
It seemed it was. No more was said on the subject of counseling interfering with classes. And despite everything, Amanda passed home economics.
Throughout the semester of turmoil, though, I offered the solace, “This won’t last forever. Class will be over and then you’ll never have to see Mrs. Waterloo again.” And the school year having concluded, I consoled her and myself with the reassurance, “Well, you’re sure to have other crappy teachers, but at least you’re finished with middle school. We’ll never have to put up with Mrs. Waterloo again!”
Amanda charged off into the unknown territory of high school and engaged upon the State-required “track” of a program centered around studies in psychology. Still domestically challenged, she also expressed to me the fact that “little kids freak me out”, but accepted that one of her required classes during her sophomore year would be Child Development.
Which, as we learned, was taught by none other than Mrs. Waterloo.
Who had transferred to the high school faculty.
I am happy to report that both Amanda and I survived.