I’ve had so many great teachers that I could probably make my own Lifetime dramady, but seeing that this is teacher appreciation day, I thought I’d tell one story in particular.
When I was a senior in high school, I was editor of the school newspaper. I was very proud of this post, very proud of my column. I had a staff jersey that, for the name and number, said Short 1. And then on the front, it had the newspaper’s name: Palmetto and Pine.
Now my high school wasn’t in the absolute best part of town, and during one day that spring, the principal announced over the intercom that we should not go outside that afternoon. Gang activity was emergent. The situation was dangerous.
Mind you, this was way before lockdowns. This was mostly before school shootings. Oh my Lord, my newspaper column used to joke about the Spanish teacher using a bazooka. It was a different time.
Well. I was a newspaper reporter. And what was happening outside with the gangs was news. So I grabbed the staff camera. I tied my Keds, and I straightened my half-and-half, and I went outside to take a picture of… gangs? Musical numbers with switchblades?
This was not my brightest moment. And I will pause here to say that twenty years later, another very good teacher stopped this story as I told it to her, so she could specifically tell me this wasn’t my brightest moment. Honestly, I thought she was going to write me up right there in the restaurant.
Out I went with the camera. Out I walked past the first-floor classrooms, and the parking lot, and the bike compound. There was nothing doing. I think I saw a police car blocking an avenue. After a while, I got sweaty. I took a picture of an empty side street, and wandered back inside.
Now. It so happens that as I’d ambled past the classrooms, in pursuit of my scoop, I passed my French teacher’s window. I think he was holding study hall or something, because one of my friends said he just sort of stopped, and stood by the window, and told the class what was going on. Apparently he watched for a little while—maybe narrating the thing in French, for all I know. He was droll like that. But after my friend told me what happened, it wasn’t long before I figured out what he’d been doing. And the significance of his keeping watch has sort of grown on me as I’ve realized how foolish I’d been. I don’t know what he would have done if I’d gotten ganged. He wasn’t much of a Bruce Willis. But I think he was prepared to do something.
So that’s my story. I may have told it before. I might tell it again. I like it. Thanks, Doc.
(Originally posted May 8, 2018)