Saturday, June 18, 2011

ENGLISH: Mrs. Waite

The best English teacher at Strong Vincent in 1961 was undoubtedly Mr. Scypinski.  He taught a high-powered English course designed for the best and the brightest.  Although I was far from the best, and certainly not the brightest, I applied for the course anyway.  To no one's surprise, my application was rejected.  Apparently I was destined to go through life thinking that onomatopoeia was a set of books that served as a source of information about many subjects.
So it was that I wound up in Mrs. Waite’s English class.  That poor soul was probably on the edge of a nervous breakdown.  Out of our academic class of 24 students, 17 different students were sent to the office at one time or another.
When you walked into Mrs. Waite's room at the beginning of the period, she would inevitably be sitting at her desk reading a book using her index finger to move down each line of print.  If you went to the desk and said, "Mrs. Waite, I have a question," she would raise her right hand as if swearing an oath and make you wait until she had finished reading a particular paragraph or page.
"Yes?"  She would ask looking up at you.
"Gee, I forgot what I was going to ask," was often the reply, which, unfortunately, only succeeded in pushing her ever closer to the edge.
One member of that class was the unforgettable and lovably crazy Abdel Mokhriby (RIP).  Abdel was probably a Muslim from Morocco, although we could have cared less about that.  To us he was just crazy Abdul, who was so busy enjoying life that school seemed almost irrelevant to him.  Much of his out of school time was spent in a pool hall on State Street, where he could hustle some money.
One time Abdel was in a class taught by Mr.Gervais, referred to by students as Jumping Joe.  The class was assigned an essay to write.  Being too busy to write essays, Abdel somehow got a hold of an essay written by Franklin Miller (RIP) and copied it in his own sloppy handwriting.  Franklin's paper, of course, was well written and probably typed.
When Jumping Joe returned the corrected papers, Franklin got an A and Abdel got a C. The injustice was more than Abdel could bear.  He grabbed Franklin's paper and took it, along with his own, up to Gervais, pointing out that both papers were word for word the same.”You’re right,” said Gervais, who then proceeded to give both papers the same grade – – – an F for cheating.  It remained a great injustice in Abdel’s eyes.
Now back to Mrs. Waite's class, where Abdel sat in the seat behind me.  This was a split class, meaning we went to class for 20 min. and then had a half-hour lunch break before returning to the classroom.  Consequently, many students brought a bagged lunch to class.  Nothing upset Mrs. Waite more than a student eating in class prior to the lunch break.
One day I arrived in class about 10 min. late with a written excuse, which I placed on her desk.  Seeing me out of the corner of her eye as she furiously wrote on the chalk board, she told me to take a seat.  As I was sitting down, Abdel rattled his lunch bag and said, "Geis, you can't eat lunch now!"
Mrs. Waite wheeled around from the chalkboard, pointed an accusatory finger at me and said, "How many times do I have to tell you, you can eat your lunch in class."
"I wasn't eating my lunch," I protested.
"Yes, you were.  Don't lie!"
"I'm not lying," I said.
"I have had enough!  Go to the office, right now!"
I grabbed my books and lunch bag and started out of the room, glancing back and looking at Abdel, who was grinning ear to ear and giving me a wink.  I gave a return smile and nodded my head as if to say, "Good one!  You got me good!" 
So off I went to see Mr. Lubowiki, the assistant principal.  This was the third time Mrs. Waite had kicked me out of class, so Mr. Lubowiki decided it was time to put me in another English class.  The only class that fit my schedule was a non-academic English class taught by Mr. Hess, who was in his last year of teaching.  He loved Shakespeare, but he was teaching to a class that couldn't care less.  And Hess could care less that half the class was sleeping.  Since I had an interest in what he was doing and paid attention, it was like having a personal tutor.
So, instead of being in a top English class my senior year, I wound up being in one of the bottom classes.  That is ironic, considering where destiny would take me four years later.  But that's another post for another day.

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