In high school, I had a couple teachers who were my favorites. That did not necessarily mean that I learned the most from them, but that I liked their personalities and got along with them the best.
One of these was Mr. Clark. Mr. Clark, um, well…he was fuzzy, kinda like a panda bear. He was very dark-complected. I never found out why. I wonder if he was Greek? He had dark hair and mustache. Mr. Clark taught English. He had a kindly smile, which he often gave me after he had read some of my wacky writing. Imagine stuff similar to what I write on this very blog, except unpolished, undeveloped, and written by a suicidal, horny teenager.
I think the first time I had Mr. Clark for a class was my junior year. It was this horrible experimental class called “Issues”. It was a 2 hour class, a combination of History and English. I would say the class overall was a failure, because I still don’t know what those two subjects were supposed to have in common. I was a student who really loved English and found History super boring. I did learn entirely too much about concentration camps in Germany during World War II in that class.
ISSUES GROUP 12/92
I didn’t want to take Issues and was sure I would hate it. Me and everyone else has come to find the two-hour class very boring. The only thing that keeps me sane is my group. A, E, Y, and the extremely sexy chauvinist H.B. (And of course me.) If one person has candy, we share it with the rest of the group. When T.F. talks, me and E repeat every time she says “like” (which is, like, a 1,000 times in one conversation). We are the only group in class that doesn’t have an assigned table. The wrestlers put all the tables back after practice, but they never put them in the same place twice. When we sit in the back of the room we can’t hear anything, so we just make up our own conversation. When we sit in the front of the room, we watch the fish in the aquarium and fall asleep.
I can remember one day sitting in Issues class. I think we may have been watching a video. I was sitting on one of the tables, wearing a dog tag. Mr. Clark sat down next to me on the table and asked me about it. I told him that it had been my dad’s, and that he drove an ambulance in Germany in WWII. I explained how he was much older than my mom when they got married, how he died, etc. Mr. Clark seemed impressed by it all. It was much more interesting to tell my family history to someone than anything we were supposed to learn that day in class. And how often does a teacher come up and take the time to ask you about your jewelry? That, like, never happens. That is probably why I remember it to this day.
Sometime that year, some seniors started up a school newspaper. It wasn’t your usual school newspaper. Sure, it had stories about school events. But, they also welcomed creative writing such as stories and poems as well. Me, whose only after-school activity consisted of French Club meetings once a month, got suckered into the newspaper. Which is really weird, because I wasn’t one to go off and join activities, especially ones that my friends were not involved in. I wrote a few stories. I went to meetings. I started going to the assembly of the paper which happened on a non-monthly basis at the local town newspaper office. Mr. Clark was the adviser.
I had no car and no friends to provide a ride. It would have been probably a half hour walk to get to the town newspaper office by foot. It also would have been mighty cold in the winter. So Mr. Clark would let me hitch a ride with him in his minivan. It smelled like tobacco in there because he smoked a pipe. It was messy, with bits of his pipe tobacco spilled on the floor. But it was a ride. And he was a nice guy. And at some crazy point I guess you could say he sort of became my unofficial writing mentor.
When it was time for the seniors to graduate, they picked new people from the existing staff to be editors for the next year. They picked me, and a soon-to-be junior. I am convinced they only picked me because I was the most involved soon-to-be senior. I am not your typical leader type. I am uber-organized though. So for the whole next year, I would have to hear my name on the morning announcements, nagging people to turn in their stories for the newspaper’s arbitrary deadlines.
When I needed to pick out classes for my senior year, I was kind of lost as to what classes to take. Mr. Clark was teaching a new class called Writer’s Workshop, where some of the class was set aside to work on WHATEVER WRITING YOU WANTED! That was unheard of at my high school at the time. Mr. Clark told me if I took that class, he would allow me to work on newspaper stuff during class time. He also convinced me to take Advanced Placement English, although I had no intention of taking the AP exam.
Now, as much as I had grown to love Mr. Clark, and I believe I may have had him wrapped around my little finger to some extent, he wasn’t the most energetic teacher. In the more standard classes I had with him, his droning voice would sometimes lull me to sleep. This happened often in AP English. I had Mythology first thing in the morning my junior year. I had not even woken up yet!
Writer’s Workshop was a whole nother story. It was right after lunch. It somehow ended up as a class full of freshmen and seniors. That class taught me that if you have a whole class of usually hardworking students lumped together, they will ALL become class clowns!
Both my best friends were in that class. I would take turns hanging out with them. My best friend and I would eat Raspberry Blow-Pops until our tongues and teeth turned blue. My asbestos friend and I would flirt with the cute guys. Amazingly, I did get some minor amount of work done in that class. I worked on the newspaper stuff, wrote poems, and finished a short story that contains such achingly personal passages that I have trouble reading it to this day, but I still hope to publish it. Mr. Clark’s classroom was one of the first in the school to not only have its own computer (At that time, computer were all corralled into “computer labs”, for the safety of all.) AND PRINTER. So, if I typed up something personal and wanted to print it, that was the place.
What I enjoy most about going back and reading from that time are not the poems (and definitely not the newspaper), but the freewrites we did for the first 10-15 minutes of every class. And, well, that is sort of the impetuous for this entire blog. Other blogs are only about one topic: food or homeschooling or pop culture, etc. My blog is about all the things I need to flush out of my head. Where I used to write them in a way to amuse myself or Mr. Clark, now I write them to amuse you, dear reader (and myself).
Every now and then in my life, I come across a nice furry guy with a mustache that I can joke with. They often have a similar look of sweet exasperation when I bust out my weird personality. And they always make me think of Mr. Clark.
I miss him a lot. And I never, ever thought I would say that about any teacher.