I began my career at Greenfield McClain teaching a Reading class to junior high students. I had a 7th grader in class named Tommy that was also on the junior high football team I coached at the time. Tommy came from a poor family, was a bit of a badass, and a helluva football player as well. Just as fearless and tough as they come but with a heart of gold. One day Tommy, to my surprise, walked into my class during lunch with tears in his eyes. Here’s the conversation that transpired:
Me: “What’s wrong man? You OK?”
Tommy: “Not really. A fifth grader was picking on my brother, who is in 3rd grade. I told him to leave my brother alone. Anyway, he said I was too big to be picking on me and he was going to get someone bigger to beat me up. He got a sophomore.”
Me: “Ah man, I’m sorry. Are you afraid?”
Tommy: “No, he didn’t go big enough. The guy’s down in the bathroom on the floor. You need to go check on him.”
Sure enough, there in the bathroom was a sophomore with knots all over his head. Indeed, the fifth grader hadn’t gone big enough.
Later on that year, a parent came in to complain about something or other. I might have been playing music in class or taking the kids on the roof of the school for some project, who knows. I’ve always been what you might call an unorthodox teacher with some unusual teaching methods. Anyway, this was the first time anybody had come in to complain to me personally and it upset me a little. The woman told me she was going straight to the Board of Education. I went to see my principal, a guy with 25-years experience in education. I told him the story and he just smiled, pulled a folder out of a drawer, and laid it in front of me. In it were 6-8 forms filled out with complaints from various parents over the past few months. Horrified, I asked him why he hadn’t mentioned any of them to me and he just smiled and replied, “I know you’re doing a good job and some people don’t understand your methods. I didn’t want to cramp your style.”
Finally, this gem from one of my years at Rainsboro. It was a couple of weeks before Christmas and alas, my room had no Christmas Tree. For reasons known only to me at the time, I sent three 8th grade boys into the woods behind the school on a Christmas Tree search. Oh, I might mention they were armed only with a hammer. What can I say, it seemed like a good and funny idea at the time. They’d been gone about 45-minutes when one of my students yelled, “Mr. Shoe! They’re back!” We all looked, and sure enough, there they were, dragging what appeared to be a beautiful 6-foot Douglas Fir behind them. As they drew nearer you could see where the bottom of the trunk was splintered from where they chopped the tree down with the claw end of the hammer. Long story short we fashioned a tree stand out of some books, decorated the tree with some really ugly ornaments, and we were in business.
Oh, and one more thing. It was only after we returned from Christmas Break when I learned where they’d found the tree . . . in someone’s backyard.
How I kept my job back then is still a mystery to me.