The Year I Broke My Teacher

Geeky 7th Grade Me vs. “Smoldery” 8th Grade Me

My Real Memoir

I was cocky, there’s no denying it. I’d started 7th grade as a self-doubting pre-teen, and finished it with an inflated sense of self-importance. It didn’t help that, once my hormones finally drew up a pact to work together, two cute girls (two!) said I’d acquired a perfect smolder.

I was in need of a serious reality check. It didn’t come immediately. My 8th Grade core room teacher praised my writing. My music teacher said I was “gifted” (more on that later). Even my P.E. teacher liked me.

My take-down came from our new Advanced Drama teacher, Miss Bonner, even though she was the extreme opposite of our previous drama teacher Mr. Baxter. He’d been a seasoned professional, as tall as a redwood, and a take-no-prisoners commander.

Miss Bonner, on the other hand, had no knowledge of theatre. Although she had once directed a kindergarten play, she told us, and found it “delightful.” She’d simply been the only one willing to “teach” drama. She was smaller than any of her students, and ruled with all the rigidity of a magnolia blossom in a gale. Her voice was airy, borderline inaudible, her gestures delicate and indistinct.

It wasn’t that we didn’t like her; we actually thought she was kind of adorable. It was just that we didn’t obey her. Ever. Or pay any attention to her. Or stop talking, except to say an occasional, “Yes, Miss Boner!” (always good for a lascivious laugh). Around week three, Miss B started “getting tough” on us by smacking her desk with a yardstick.

I was the one who broke that yardstick, and with it what was left of her resolve.

I’d repeatedly ignored her request to get off my desk and sit in my chair like a proper gentleman. So she called me forward. I trudged to the front in mock trepidation. Miss B ordered me to hold out my hands for a “necessary chastising.” I did so and she smacked my wrists with her two-ounce balsawood yardstick. Whereupon it broke in half.

As did Miss Bonner, I’m afraid. She muttered something no one but God and Tennessee Williams could have understood, and then rushed out of the room in tears. I returned to my desk and sat down in my chair. For the first time ever the class was silent.

The next day, our Principal met with us and announced, “Well, I hope you’re happy. Miss Bonner has had a nervous breakdown.” He didn’t mince words. We’d “broken her,” he said, and he didn’t know if she’d be back. (She did, we heard, come back after Christmas, then returned to teaching kindergarten. And lived happily ever after, I pray.)

No one was willing to teach us after that. Hence, we were assigned a class supervisor and left to our just desserts. So my buddy Warren and I gleefully took charge of the class, and oddly enough…

They were horribly disrespectful.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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33 Responses to The Year I Broke My Teacher

  1. Pingback: How to Do Bad Theatre | Mitch Teemley

  2. C.A. Post says:

    She should have watched Sydney Poitier as Mr. Thackeray, or “Sir,” as he preferred to be called in “To Sir With Love.” I suspect she may have had some “broken pieces” in her life before she was dumped on you teens by a school system that cared more about clearing out each year’s class than educating them, to make room for next year’s bigger class!
    “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” Epicetus

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Victoria says:

    Thanks for the smile — quite a reputation – breaking your teacher. Your description of Miss Bonner was delightful…flowery, fragile and delicate. Not the best disposition, I say, for a drama teacher who needs to deal with the smoldering ones. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Rascals, be they smoldery or not. I started out *teaching* 8th grade religious ed when the class was divided between me & the male version of Ms. Bonner who was on the verge; nearly took us both down. I switched asap to teaching littler people. I lived through subbing for 7th grade when that teacher fled the planet. Went back asap to littler people! God bless all teachers!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Yes, I’m laughing… But that poor teacher. I really hope she lived happily ever after too.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. rwfrohlich says:

    You were a very bad boy. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My sixth grade teacher was broken in a similar way by the boys in the class. It was very distressing to witness–not to mention that I learned next to nothing that year.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Nancy Ruegg says:

    It takes a very special person to teach middle-schoolers. God bless them, every one. Give me fourth-graders–before puberty kicks in!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Maybe if poor Mrs. Bonner had used one of those big wooden paddles with holes in them (for extra sting) that was common back in the day, you would have been more apt to sit your naughty smoldery self back in your seat. That is if you could sit at all!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Oh we did something similar in our same year. Our lady teacher said, “I am sick and tired of getting you to behave,” or words to that effect, and one fellow replied, “Well, Miss – Why don’t you take a sickie and go to bed?” She left the room in tears and never returned. Our Principal gave us the same speech about giving her a nervous breakdown and then we were left to our own mayhem for weeks after that.

    I’m going to a reunion with 35 of those former pupils this weekend. Three nights in a motel, no doubt recreating such mayhem. I must remind them of this episode. We should all hang our heads in a minute’s shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. murisopsis says:

    Mercy!! We had an art teacher Lorelei VerLea my Junior year of HS. It was her first year teaching and she looked like she should have been in the class instead of teaching. There were a group of kids who took the class for and “easy A” who gave her so much trouble! She must have complained to the right people because after about 3 weeks one by one the trouble makes were called out of the class. They all switched to other electives – mostly Drafting, Shop, and Typing!! I loved that class after she was able to teach!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Good grief! I say bring back corporal punishment. Poor Mrs Bonner! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This hits close to home, because my sixth grade class — at a Christian school, no less — broke our teacher. She was already half broken when we got her, as her previous bunch of sixth graders (many of whom were older siblings of my classmates and me) had done a number on her the year before, but we finished her off. I was a pretty shameless little brat and felt no guilt over my obnoxious behavior… until I heard that the woman had had a nervous breakdown shortly after the school year ended. I was at a sleepover with some friends and they told me about it, and we all felt horrible; apparently none of us had ever considered that our actions might have consequences. We talked about it for a while and decided we needed to apologize to her. We spent the remainder of the night composing a very long letter detailing our transgressions, expressing our contrition, and asking for her forgiveness. The following day we pooled our meager resources and walked down to the bookstore and bought her the nicest Bible we could afford, had it engraved with her name, and packed it up with the letter and sent it off. Shortly afterwards we received a very gracious thank you note from her. I never heard what became of her after that, but hope she recovered and had a good life.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Ann Coleman says:

    I think many of us have a similar memory. Even though I wasn’t cocky in middle school (I was very shy), I still viewed teachers as “other” and didn’t really understand that they had feelings. I was nice to the ones I like, but not so nice to the ones I didn’t. Until one night, we were all riding home from a basketball game on the “student bus” and our chaperone, the music teacher I personally despised, made a big show of turning around and looking at a couple of kids who were making out on the back of the bus. Her intention was to embarrass them enough to stop, which of course didn’t work. But then some of the other kids started making loud remarks about how she was watching the amorous couple in order to “get some tips” because she was so fat and ugly no man had ever kissed her. And as we pulled into the parking lot and we all piled off the bus, I saw tears in her eyes and knew their remarks and hit home….. I felt so sorry for her, and was never disrespectful to her after that again. I finally saw she was just a person, with real feelings, like the rest of us.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. robstroud says:

    As a guy also gifted (cursed) with an acerbic wit as a teen… I find this story quite tragic…

    Liked by 1 person

  16. revruss1220 says:

    What a wicked, wicked kid!
    It never ceases to amaze me how – both as kids and as adults – we underappreciate the unique stresses and challenges involved in the teaching profession. Putting Ms. Bonner in there with you young hooligans was a bad call on the part of the principal, so you are not TOTALLY to blame for her breakdown.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: JFK, C.S. Lewis, a PE Coach and Me | Mitch Teemley

  18. Pingback: The Year I Invented Myself | Mitch Teemley

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