Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teachers - The Good

So speaking of teachers and school, particularly high school…I wasn’t a fan (of high school, not teachers in of my besties is a teach!). Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely LOVED and LOVE learning! College was my favorite time of life (if only I’d stayed and I’d give anything to change that moment in time). I hated high school, on the other hand. I was beyond weird, listened to British music in a world of rednecks, was fat, wore glasses, had braces…need I say more (and most of those traits (other than the glasses and the braces) hasn’t changed BTW). I came from a very “Breakfast Club” type school (I was definitely Ally Sheedy’s character, minus the slut part) and I hated the class warfare and fought it with every ounce of my being (believe it or not, a surprising number of those people still live in their little cliques as though nothing has changed – fru-fru’s I called them, the popular, mean, cheerleader types). I sat in class pretty much carving on my wrists with my fingernails, secretly wishing I was home alone listening to Duran Duran or the Cure (yes Kyle Broflovski, Disintegration is the best album ever!).

Teachers never noticed me even though I usually sat close to the front, I got good grades, but it was under threat of death from my parents, not from trying. Had I tried, I could have done much better but I never put in an effort…another regret. But there was one teacher in particular who did notice me (and not because they hated me, see post below). This one gets named because she deserves to be named…Jane Krennerich and she taught Advanced English.

Now, the school I grew up in was small, very small, in the middle of redneckland. When you moved up a grade, you didn’t always get a new teacher, so from 10th through 12th, Mrs. Krennerich was our English teacher (just as Hippie was our Art). Where Mr. Hippie disliked only me, most people disliked Mrs. Krennerich, in fact, most called her Mrs. Krennebitch (I’m sure she’s not oblivious to the nickname and its not like she’s ever gonna read this anyway)…and when I say most people, I guess I should say, most everybody except me. I worshipped the woman (and still do today although she probably doesn't remember me at all).

She saw something in me no one else did (although I don’t know for the life of me what it was). She knew I got what she was teaching. She knew I understood Shakespeare when everyone else was blank-faced. She knew I was excited about the Brontes and Austen and Hardy, knew I’d start drooling over Poe or Stoker or Shelley, and even, upon occasion, could manage a brief flutter of interest out of me with Keats and Byron.

I did, however, terrify her a bit with my writing (subject matter only, seeing as how I tended to write horror, especially loving to write about killing my Step-father in rather ingenious ways…I still have some of those little gems). I can remember one time it scared her so much she called me in after class for a meeting because she thought I was being abused because of said subject matter (mental abuse didn’t count as abuse in those days). But subject matter aside, and once I had convinced her I wasn’t being beaten nightly, she wanted me to seriously consider writing as a career. I can remember us discussing literature and me telling her how much I loved it, but we both knew I wasn’t cut out for teaching (social issues weren’t as big a deal for me back then as they are now, but there were signs that I wasn’t right, but she wouldn’t have said it out loud – although she probably would have told any other student in the class that they were off - hence the Krenne-hate).

A funny aside, being in “advanced classes” (advanced for redneckville), especially English, meant that we studied literature, not actual English. We were the first class to graduate under Bill Clinton’s new standards for education (who was our state’s governor at the time), so we had to take a test to graduate, and, here’s the funny bit, all the “advanced class” students failed the grammar section of the test! EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US! Why? Because we hadn’t been taught it! They tried to give us a rush course of it, and we were able to retake the test, which we managed to all pass, but as you can probably tell from my blog, the lessons didn’t stick because my grammar and punctuation still suck today!

For our senior paper, knowing how much I liked Austen, she wouldn’t let me do my paper on Pride and Prejudice (at the time I’d only ever read P&P and Sense and Sensibility…God what I wouldn’t give to have been able to do it on Persuasion…my favorite!), she thought that Wuthering Heights would be a better choice for me. I was mad at the time because although I wrote dark stuff, I typically read happy ending kind of stuff (and still do, as well as watch happy-ending movies). I fought her on it, but she kept insisting, and made me give her samples of my progress constantly. At the time I didn’t think about it, but looking back, I don’t think she did that with anyone else. I got an A++++ for content, but of course a D- for grammar on the final piece. I also still have that…”Love and Betrayal in Wuthering Heights”. To this day I still can't stand Wuthering Heights..Heathcliff deserved to get his Cathy.

But, anyhoo, after Mr. Hippie’s post, I did want to dedicate a post to a teacher to show that not all my teacher/student experiences were bad (OK, only one was actually good, but still). Mrs. Krennerich left our school the year we graduated and moved to another school (where, funnily enough, they also called her Krennebitch). But, because of her, I still love literature, worship Jane Austen, and love writing, even if I can’t punctuate it properly!

So thanks Mrs. Krennerich, for seeing that itty-bitty tiny little spark of life in me very few people ever see and steering it in a direction where it still resides today. You were the one and only teacher that affected me and I've never forgotten you because of it! I only wish I could have made as big an impression on her as she did me...she was one of the few people in my life I wanted to impress!

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