Tell about that quirky teacher

I’m an American who spent several years overseas in American schools. I have a theory about teachers who end up in exotic locations. My theory includes imaginings of adventurous souls, rebellious ex-patriots, and flights from assorted goons, bounty hunters, and moral standards committees. This is how I explain my wild-eyed unkempt biology teacher, my gruff Russian drafting instructor, or any number of eccentric individuals who mumbled, grumbled, and shrieked at me over the years.

My algebra teacher was one of my favorites. She combined seduction with instruction. She was dark-haired and voluptuous. Her uniform was a tight skirt, heels, and a black bra which usually showed through her blouse. The blouse was always done up one button short of propriety. During quiet time, after instruction, when we worked problems at our desks, she would circulate. When you had a question she came to you, leaned over, and put one hand on your desk and one on your back. After stammering your perplexity with factoring she would begin to whisper sweet suggestions in your ear. “Use the FOIL method we discussed,” she would breathe. “Of course, the FOIL method,” you would say to yourself, “How did that go? First, Outer, Inner…inner…outer, inner, outer…”
Out of the corner of your eye you could see the two unfastened buttons and the black lace border of her bra. If you had the nerve to shift your eyeballs you were staring straight at square inches of satiny fabric stretched over a tantalizing mound of succulent silky flesh. “Just look at the binomial. Are you looking…?” “Yes, yes…I see the bimammial…bimommial…binomial.”
I left algebra class babbling incoherently every day. (This is a large part of why I never became an engineer.)
I used to wonder just how many simmering cauldrons of hormones she had brought to a boil before she had to take flight across the ocean.

But that’s a digression. I wanted to talk about my English teacher. His avowed purose was to save enough money to buy a small island off the coast of Washington or Vancouver or some such place and live there. He had plans to build his own boat by hand and set sail at leisure. That was a long time ago and I don’t know what became of him. What I wanted to talk about though was his grading technique. He had devised a form of currency and printed it up in various denominations. Then he would “pay” you for work done in his class. A menu of tasks was issued and they would be worth appropriate amounts of his “money.” You provided the finished product, an essay or oral report, e.g, and he would count out the money at his desk, and pay you for your work. The students were responsible for securing the bills, and at the end of a grading period each student approached his desk and purchased a grade. We were told at the beginning of the year that if the money was lost or stolen that we were shit out of luck. It was also understood that if you had a friend with extreme wealth you could borrow enough to purchase a better grade. This was supposed to be a real life, and often cynical lesson about payment and responsibility. I doubt that he could have enforced all of his rules, but still it made for a different and interesting learning experience with a compelling incentive.

Do you have any teachers who were especially memorable or had unique teaching methods?

My social studies teacher used to dress up in colonial or medieval costume on random days. She was strange, but we loved her dearly.

I agree with your observation Ex Machina. I spent a few years in DOD schools on American military bases abroad and recall them attracting quite an eclectic teaching staff. My experiences:

In general, the science teachers had a rather engaging teaching method and were among the best I encountered anywhere.

Two English teachers were having a very public affair. Not a day went by that one wouldn’t come to the other’s class and ask them to step out into the hall for a “discussion”.

The PE teacher who missed his drill instructor calling.

The history teacher who had no problem sharing his liberal, anti-american views with the class.

An algebra teacher that loved to shut down class for 2-3 days every semester so he could proudly show the slideshow of his trip to the USSR during the heart of the cold war. I saw his presentation 4 times in 2 years.

Health class. Absolutely the most graphic drug overdose and baby birthing videos I’ve ever seen, and I was 14 at the time.

My teacher from my senior-level English course in high school had a theory. All literature was about Someone Getting the Shaft. So he’d give a recitation of the basic story, followed by “So, this is about how <person> Gets The Shaft, as seen in <points from the story>.” He’d usually get three or four of the other teachers that played instruments and hold a jam session for a few classes a few times a semester. Students who played could join him. He played at one of the local coffeehouses and gave extra credit if we came to see him play. Dude rocked, in a folky kinda way. He encouraged experimentation in his Creative Writing class, to the point that one group wrote a script, then drafted the English librarian into playing the bad guy.

My religion teacher (Catholic school) during senior year was a BIG (at least 6’6", over 300 lbs) Irishman. He let us watch Braveheart, just because we wanted to. He came in hung over after Saint Patrick’s Day and let us do whatever we want “So long as you guys stay QUIET!” and kept his head on his desk for the whole class period. He was fired after that year.

One of my science teachers let us watch Looney Tunes cartoons, let us just sit and talk constantly, and bummed cigarettes off students.

One of my math teachers was a little guy (about 5’5"-5’6"). He also happened to be an ex-Marine officer who served in combat (2 tours!) in Vietnam. He kept himself in GREAT shape. And he was as nice and calm as could be, until someone pushed him too far in class. When he said, “Now, guys…” in a warning tone of voice, all the people with half a brain would shut up. And hide. If you let him start turning red, you were doomed. Because he could yell like a Marine. One kid (300+ pounds) made the mistake of continuing to be an ass after that. This teacher picked up the kid’s desk and physically threw him out of it. Then he picked the kid up and TOSSED him out in the hall, where he picked him up and held him against the wall while yelling at him in, again, his best Marine yelling voice. Then he dragged this kid, bodily, down to the office. He was a legend. Again, private school, so he could get away with it, and the kid was the walking definition of a discipline problem.

I had several strange professors during my time at college.

Looking back, the field of economics seemed to attract the largest number of instructors of questionable mental stability.

Freshman economics was a huge class of some 250 students. The vast majority of students got either a D or F in this class. Normally there were no A’s maybe 2 or 3 B’s and about 20 C’s. The professor’s motto was, “Excellence is scarce in the real world and I think it should be scarce in class.” One day a group of students brought in a presentation they did. It applied the class grades to the US population where grade = income. Naturally, this model resulted in economic catastrophe as the vast majority of the population was on welfare and living in total poverty. The conclusion was that excellence was less scarce in the real world than in class. Also, that mediocrity was far less scarce than in class. The professor did not grade any easier after that, but he did not use his motto again.

Another economics professor told us the first day of class we could throw our books away. He would be using a text he wrote to teach and test from. The professor had been trying to get this text published for years. It contained economic ideas and theories that were purely his own. This tome was widely regarded as one of the finest collections of half baked drivel, ramblings, and pure insanity ever produced on the field of economics. Needless to say, grades were not stellar in this class either.

Lastly, there was the new professor. It was his first class as a full professor. He was quite proud of his liberal arts background. However, he was very unstable. Some days he would be the best professor a student could ask for. Other days, he was a complete and total bastard. It was really a shame that the bastard days outnumbered the good days. If you talked to, or even looked at another student in class the professor would often say, “Stop that!! If this were a liberal arts college I would walk right up to you and slap your fat face for doing that.” That ended when one rather beefy guy told him, “You touch me and I’ll break your nose.” The professor also hated anyone to look in the small window in the classroom door. This resulted in a game. Other students would peek in the door during class and run. The professor would launch into a stream of profanity and take off down the hall after them at a dead run. One day a student had car trouble and showed up 15 minutes late for class. The professor kicked him out of class for the semester and said he was going to fail him. The university sided with the student and the professor was never seen in the class again. We ended up with another professor mid-semester who turned out to be quite sane.

Other notable educators - The accounting professor who never bathed and wore the extra wide 1970’s ties. The calculus professor who wore the same outfit every day. Angry, bitter, 80 year old English professor who would even make men cry.

Many of my teachers were memorable but one springs immediately to mind, specifically one event - A lesson about the difference(s) between solids liquids and gasses. The teaching aid - a plastic box full of little wooden balls. The memory - an empty plastic box, exhausted teacher, wooden balls everywhere.

Ex Machina if you haven’t read Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, which became the movie October Skies you may find it good fun.

Memorable teachers and why…

High School

Biology teacher - Mr Cartledge. (for the appropriate name, and he was memorable besides)
Geography - Mr caldwell - the spitting immage of one of the chucklevision brothers (the small one) - caused students to sing the chucklevision tune wherever he went.

Science - Mr dyson (the teacher in the wooden balls story - other post) was also my ‘form tutor’. Memorable for simply being a good teacher and likeable.

Physics teacher. Memorable for the stange paradox of being my least favourite teacher and my most favourite class. (I actually looked forward to her classes even though I strongly disliked her)

History teacher - the only person I knew with worse handwriting than me.

R.E. teacher - Being extremely camp and yet having a wife and kids.

P.E. teacher - consistently mispronouncing my name (even though i corrected her every single time)

Maths teacher - Very very mild-mannered person. Known for never getting angry.


Business class (that wasn’t the name, I can’t remember the name). Openly racist.

Programming class teacher - a giant of a man. with long hair. Looked a bit like Rick Wakeman

Program design (not sure of that name either) - the teacher looked like John Nash - the famous mathmatician.


set theory (name not remembered) - memorable for his funny accent. couldn’t work out if he was Scotish or American.

concurrent systems - very unusual man, very ‘soft’, slight, weak man, softly-spoken. He would often tell jokes without smiling. They were good jokes usually. I found him kind of intriguing in that way - he seemed like an anorak but he had a good sense of humour.

advanced programming - the teacher was a former royal marine commando. People often bugged him to talk about it and he’d easily give in. He showed us film of him going through training once (jumping out of helicopters, swimming along a hole in the ice, learning knife fighting etc…)
My arm is hurting and I have things to do so I’ve rushed all this and summarised a lot, but I have a lot of memories of my teachers and my places of education.

High School (Parochial)

  • Biology: The teacher looked like a Latino Peter Lorre. He also seemed to have made a deal with whoever planned the cafeteria menus as we would inevitably be served something mysteriously innappropriate for lunch the same day we performed our dissections. Dissect worms, spaghetti; dissect crayfish, enchiladas; dissect giant grasshoppers, hot wings; etc.

  • Religion: Our teacher was a Sicilian immigrant who had lived in Brooklyn for about forty years before moving to the Southwest. Big, loud, obnoxious (in an endearing way), and had very little control over his tendencies to swear and flip people the bird. We called his class “Heresy 1101”.

  • Algebra: The little old lady who had taught advanced math at our school for fifty years had an almost impenetrable Filipino accent. Very difficult to understand. Her favorite expression was: “You make fun of my voice, I make fun of you grade.”

  • English: The teacher I had sophomore year used to read us erotic short stories. They were always out of the same book, and had a turn-of-the-century rustic setting. The stories were never graphic, but generally involved nudity in some teasing kind of way. To the best of my knowledge, nobody ever compained.

  • PE: Oh, the lawsuits that would have been filed had only the parents known! We played a game called Jungleball, which was a sort of no-hold-barred water polo. The only rules involved scoring…other than that, anything was pretty much accepted. And done. Guys would get out of the pool bruised, bashed, scraped, scarred and bleeding, but somehow (don’t ask me how) nobody every drowned. Which was suprising considering the number of attempts that were made.

  • Politics & Economics: A great many of our teachers had nicknames, but this teacher had more than anyone else, due to his Marvin-the-Paranoid-Android mannerisms. We called him The Corpse, Guy Smiley, Mr. Sunshine, Monotone Man, and plenty of other names. Never, ever, ever to his face, though.

  • Freshman World History: The guy had something wrong with his eyes, so that when he was looking directly at you, his eyes seemed to be looking slightly to the left. To compensate, he would point slightly to the right. Which led to the following exchange:

Brother X: David, answer question number 3.
Student: Which David, Brother? (There were 5 of us in a class of 30)
**Brother X: ** The one I’m pointing to.
**Student: ** You’re pointing out the window, Brother.
Brother X: Don’t get smart with me…
Don’t even get me started on my eccentric college professors. I could write on book on them (and probably will).

Physics - My physics teacher was the spitting image of Hugo Weaving, and had a broad Northern Irish accent to go with it. I still expect Agent Smith or Elrond to come out with “And this is a capacitor” (said in NI drawl)!

Maths - my Sixth Form maths teacher was scary. He was known to have thrown people out of ground floor windows for misbehaving, and locking people out of the classroom if they were late…

Odd that you mentioned this movie since I have owned the video for several years and decided to rewatch it last week. It’s a great true story. I’ll have to look for the book.

My mind seems to have gone a blank for any teachers past elementary… but I had my share of quirky ones then.

Grade 3: First year teacher. She gave us music books and we sang Hotel California many many times that year as she played the guitar. One classmate was a real brat (in fact most were, but this one especially) and when he disrupted the class once too often she told him to go stand outside. I think she meant in the hall but in about 5 minutes we see him walking past the window, heading somewhere (Home? I think he took the bus…) and she takes off running out of the classroom after him. Skirts flying, probably hell of a time running in heels. She got out of teaching after that year and last I heard was working at a car dealership.

Grade 5: Our first teacher was nuts. For French he would stand at the front of the class, qrite on the board in French and not say anything. For math he would tell us which chapter we would be doing this week and we would do it. If we ever asked for explanation on anything he would direct us to the math geek who finished everything in 2 days and helped the rest of us for the last of the week. He finally had a nervous breakdown in November and we got a sub for a month who then went to Bermuda and we got another teacher for the rest of the year.

Various substitute teachers: I don’t remember any of their names but these were memorable.

The first could’ve been a clown. During gym class we were doing gymnastics, and he walked around on his hands for us. He could also play the song ‘Popcorn’ on his mouth.

The second was an aspiring actor. He brought in pictures of the work he had recently finished. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the movie but it was one in theatres, and then to movie. It had a couple of big names and he was the picture double for one. He told us the working title was The Bookworm but it got changed. If anyone may know it, it’s the one where a couple of guys are flying through the mountains and they crash their plane… they’re best friends but one is cheating with his wife. They can’t be found for some reason and the ‘bookish’ guy is the one who knows how to survive in the wilderness because he’s read all these books.

The third was an author. I have a couple of his books, and one is even signed. His name is Frank O’Keefe. When he’s not writing he’s a substitute teacher. He was our sub once and he also shows up to do presentations sometimes at the school. You may not be able to find them but he wrote such works as Guppy Love or The Day The Fishtank Exploded, School Stinks!, Weekend at the Ritz and There’s a Cow in my Swimming Pool. So they’re kids stories, I still like them.

It sounds like *The Edge * with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. At one point Hopkins explains how to make fire from ice by shaping clear ice into a lens and focusing the sun’s rays.

Not so much individual teachers but categories:

Grade school PE teachers. Total nut cases. Should never have been allowed around children.

College Psych teachers. “Quirky” is putting it mild. Very, very odd people. I suspect some selected the area in order to diagnose themselves.

That’s IT! Yes, my substitute teacher was the picture double, for Hopkins I think. If you’ve seen it he’s the one who really ‘kills’ the bear. I never did watch the movie.

In the 7th grade, I had a science teacher named Mr. Hanky. (We thought the name was funny enough in 1982, but I doubt he’d be able to exist at all in a post-South Park elementary school.) He used to spontaneously jump up on his desk, and more than once swang like a monkey from the (much sturdier than I’d ever have imagined) suspended fluorescent lights.

In the 5th grade, we had a music teacher who, as far as I knew, never attempted to teach music. (I came in in the middle of the year, so she might have tried earlier.) What she did, instead of teaching us to play “Frere Jaques” on the recorder, was talk about her cats for an hour. Not an exaggeration. We’d shuffle in, sit down, and she would tell us everything her cats did since the last time we saw her. Things became much clearer the day she gave me her car keys and sent me down to the parking lot to fetch the bottle of rye whisky out of her back seat. She’d run out, you see.

She didn’t last much longer after that.

I’ve talked about him before, but my most memorable, and best, teacher ever was Mr. Peters.

Mr. Peters is a young fellow (he was a graduate student at the time, and he looked about the same age as some of his students), and a gigantic screaming queen. I mean, more than me. I took two courses with him in cegep - Survey since 1800 and ‘Forbidden Liaisons,’ which was about gothic lit, both of which he turned into Queers In Literature. It was absolutely marvelous. We did Another Country, The Secret Sharer, and A Streetcar Named Desire in the first one; in the second we did “Carmilla” and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others.

He had us deconstruct a Madonna video (“Express Yourself”) and “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid. He would draw Wonder Woman on our assignments if we did a good job.

But he ran a tight ship; this worked nicely with his tendency to pronounce punctuation marks (“If you’re going to sit in the back and screw around, you are going to fail, comma, again!”) He pushed me hard with my assignments, such as my term paper “Queen Blanche: Tennessee Williams’ Drag Self-Portrait in A Streetcar Named Desire,” and forced me to read much more of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick than was strictly necessary (one chapter of Epistemology of the Closet was about as much as I could take before my mind cracked, though).

He had a story in which a girl was pulling really low marks, so she went to see him to talk about it. Midway through, she leaned over, started fiddling with her top, and said “Isn’t there any way we could work this out?” He just said, “You haven’t been paying any attention at all, have you?!”

The only thing he did that I didn’t like is, when we were reading A Streetcar Named Desire out loud, he would not let me be Blanche. He wanted to be Blanche. He made me be Stanley! :mad: Well, I got my own back - I was the world’s first femme Stanley. (“annoyed sigh Thtella!”)

In between times, he helped me with the Queer student group I was running. He was a real role model for me, and I’m not going to forget him anytime soon.

Happily, I still run into him fairly often at different Queer-themed events.

There was my 7th grade social studies teacher who was teaching us about communism and said that Khruschev was ugly while Stalin was handsome. Uh, yeah, okay. She was diabetic and taught the class about diabetes, which was a good thing, but then she said she’d been in a diabetic coma and been brain damaged. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to say to a room full of 7th graders. One other thing I remember about her is that on the day before Christmas break she recited the entire story “The Littlest Angel” from memory, which is not bad for someone who may have been brain damaged, though she was lucky the ACLU didn’t get on her case for that.

Then there was the 8th grade health teacher who was probably borderline senile, as little he said made sense or had to do with health. He educated us about keeping healthy by showing films such as Rusty and the Falcon, a film about a boy and his hawk.

In high school one of the English teachers celebrated Halloween by dressing up as a “Savage” in honor of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and chasing a student down the hall with a spear. Later he held a pajama party for his classroom, prompting one of the other teachers to say he was crazy. Actually he was a pretty good teacher, although I didn’t realize this at the time I took his class.

We were Mr. Rickey’s first honors sophomore English class & I’m not sure I’ve had a class like it since. He was kinda-sorta an ex-hippie & fairly laid back when it came to class discussions and essays. If you could justify your point, you got the grade.

Plus he sold off a nice chunk of his vinyl album collection to our class - Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, stuff like that.

I had an American history teacher who told a class full of 15-16 year olds that if a boy paid for a date then the girl “owed” him something. The same teacher called the Mexican kids “taco” and the Asian kids “kimchee” Of course he made up nasty names for all of the white kids too, it just took a little more work. Roseanne (Barr) was his favorite name for over weight women.

I had a geography teacher who use to stand by the water fountain between classes and only let you get a drink if you could answer a question. His favorites were “How do you spell Checkoslovakia” and “What is the capital of Yugoslavia?”.

I had a teacher who use to give the cheerleaders massages during class the day after a competition.

I had another teacher who let us watch episodes of Cheers during class. He loved Cheers.

Funny thing is that while in High School I didn’t think any of this was really weird.