We will call him Mr. Kim, which was not his real name. Some of my friends also had the “pleasure” of being in Mr. Kim’s class. This is my petty inner eighth grade account of said teacher… while he may not be as horrible as I remember, the events are true to the best of my 42 year old memory…
I don’t often speak ill of my former teachers. Sure, there were one or two I recall less – than – fondly, including one who inspired a poem titled “The Root of Evil.” But for the most part, I recognize that most teachers work very hard for nowhere near the amount of pay they deserve for dealing with the kids they have dealt with over the years.
Also, I was generally a goodie-two – shoes kind of kid who rarely got into trouble, was never paddled (though I received a warning or two) but when my sense of injustice was invoked, I could be quite the terror.
We moved to a rural town in Central Florida when I was in 7th grade. I had been in a gifted program through 6th grade, but was only in advanced courses in 7th prior to the move. I felt as though, for the most part, I was repeating a grade (or three…) in the new school district, which seemed to be a bit behind the suburban district I left behind. So my mother decided it was in my best interest to get back into gifted.
In 7th grade, I started the part time program late in the year. The projects I recall working on were a reading of Macbeth and a viewing of a horrible version of the same, drawing film strips, and watching a couple of geeky 8th graders build a paper clock, under the guise of helping them. (I may have cut a sheet of card stock or two…)
Mr. Kim was bald with a scraggly beard. He was about average height. He had beady eyes and resting bitch-face. But the weird thing that always drew my eye from a sea of other oddities was that one arm was normal, the other post – spinach Popeye. We’re talking one arm three times the size of the other. This had something to do with the fact that he had survived cancer.
He had a few catch-phrases. “That is unprofessional. ” “Boredom is a sign of a lack of creativity.” “I donate regularly to PBS.” “I have had this Pentel correction fluid pen for over two years, and it still works as wonderfully as it did the day I purchased it.”
Despite the fact that it was about as exciting as watching paint dry, and all of the other seventh graders had dropped out when I started 8th grade, I decided to remain in gifted. I think a lot of that had to do with getting out of class. In 8th grade the class moved from the library of Chicken Coop Middle School to the abandoned, haunted wing of the elementary school that was once the high school until they built the new one out in the cow pasture on the road where Jeepers Creepers was filmed. (True story…)
The room was in the same wing and attached to the old food service (now known as culinary arts) classroom. We had the entire wing to ourselves. While there were no doubt other students, I recall five. Andrew, a seventh grade boy, Lanie, a seventh grade girl who moved in partway through the year, (she wore Guess Jeans, Swatch watches and the tightest pony tail I’ve seen) and sixth grade girls named Jenny, Patti and Tracey. There were definitely more boys, but I can’t recall their names or faces… I just remember that Mr. Kim tended to favor the boys.
I tried. I really did. I built the popsicle bridge and learned about support and engineering through my grievous mistakes. I enjoyed a game called “Dilemma.” But the research paper pushed me over the edge…
I wrote a ten page paper on E.S.P. Poor Mr. Kim was disappointed that nobody chose the topic of HIV/AIDS. Lanie had not yet joined our group.
I was the only kid in a class of about 10-15 kids to turn the paper in on time. We were supposed to either complete the paper in neatly written cursive, in ink, or type it. My father proudly had me use his computer with one of the earliest versions of MS Word, called “Winword” back then. It was far more primitive. I couldn’t figure out footers for the end notes, so I either wrote them in by hand or typed them with the typewriter after printing out the paper on our Epson dot-matrix printer. No doubt I tore the edges of the paper just a little when removing the hole filled borders…
Again, I was the only kid to turn my paper in on the day it was due. It wasn’t the neatest thing, but I had a sense of pride and accomplishment that Mr. Popeye arm quickly deflated.
“Well, this had better have some good content, because it looks unprofessional!”
He had such a huffy tone.
The day after the “collegiate research papers” were due, he had us making heart mobiles out of glitter, glue, popsicle sticks and construction paper. I think it was at this point that Lanie joined the class. We made sure to waste as much glitter and glue as possible…
I thought she might be a bit of a snob at first. It took me a class or two to size her up and determine she was okay. Perhaps her arrival stirred the pot a bit, or raised the stakes.
Perhaps Lanie was the catalyst, perhaps it was being told that if I were creative I wouldn’t be bored… perhaps I was trying to impress Andrew, with whom I had something of a friendly competition going.
Dying the fish tank green was my idea, but Lanie provided the food coloring, and the distraction. While she asked Mr. Kim a question, I squirted the contents of the bottle into the tank.
Andrew, who knew, made remarks about how it looked like Kool-aid, but oblivious Mr. Kim thought it was just some type of algae that could color the tank a uniform, unnatural shade of green after the initial dumping.
We probably did other things, but the next misdeed I recall was sneaking out of the building to deflate Mr. Kim’s tires.
The bathroom was down the hall. For some reason, Mr. Kim would not let the boys and the girls leave the classroom at the same time to use the restroom. Maybe he thought we would engage in promiscuous activities?
As I’ve said before, we had the whole building to ourselves. Patti and Jenny were on lookout duty, Lanie and I tried (unsuccessfully) to deflate Mr. Kim’s tires. Patti and Jenny panicked when Mr. Kim came out of the room to check on why we were gone so long, and closed the door, locking us out.
To Be Continued…