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Cranky teachers, crappy coaches teach nothing but bladder control

Painfully difficult exams and papers larger in scale than Katherine Harris's newfound fame - this is what the next several weeks hold in store for us. As we think about these upcoming days, we sometimes forget about more the more emotionally trying days of old. I speak, of course, of elementary and middle school.

Back then, every day was a battle to keep your dignity, put up with tyrannical teachers, find something edible in the cafeteria, not get picked last in kick ball and not be named the smelly kid - because the smelly kid always got picked last in kick ball.

Yet the true anguish came from the teachers. Nearly every teacher was either clinically insane or very angry at life. Just think about the teachers you had. I bet you had at least three that refused to let you use the bathroom at any point during class. I can't understand how these teachers sleep each night knowing they nearly made a 10-year-old's bladder explode. And this coming from men and women that had very little bladder control of their own.

Yet I'm sure you had crazier teachers than that. I had one that announced to the class, "Children, it's that time of year when you need to shower every day. Charles needs to sit outside because he stinks." Unfortunately, I'm not making this up.

Even if the teacher wasn't mean, each one had some sort of obsession. Sometimes I had teachers who were obsessed with butterflies, bumblebees, cats, Van Gogh, Patrick Swayze and Michael Jordan. I had another teacher who was terrified of the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz." And we all had - or still have - the teacher that reads sex into everything. "Class, you have to look at the metaphorical meaning to clearly see that this book is about nothing but sleazy, dirty, hardcore, animal sex. Don't you see that when the Grinch steals 'Christmas,' he's really stealing the town's virginity?"

Most of us also had that certain teacher we were smarter than, and he or she didn't like it too much. Whenever you would ask an intelligent question, he or she would answer, "We're not getting into that in this class. To answer that we would need concepts that I don't want to get into right now." But what the teacher really wanted to say was, "How the hell am I supposed to know the answer? Listen, I barely got into college, I drank my way through it, I thought I was majoring in psychology, but when I woke up, it said 'education' on my diploma. So unless the answer is in the damn teacher's guide, I don't want to get into it!"

But of course teachers couldn't say things like that because they didn't want to get fired. In fact the best days in middle school were those when the principal would come to evaluate your teacher during class. The teacher would try to act like she was doing the best job in the world, and this was the students' chance to mess with her. For example, you could start taking your clothes off, and when your teacher asked what the hell you were doing, you could say, "But Mr. Garrett, yesterday you encouraged us to take our clothes off." (That is assuming your teacher's name was Mr. Garrett because otherwise it would be quite awkward.) Or you could just raise your hand, "Mrs. Fielding, my mom doesn't want you to give us crack anymore."

But let's not forget about the gym teachers. Those strong, stoic, motivational men and women who faithfully and selflessly taught us everything they had to offer about pain and anguish. From their lofty lawn chairs on the sidelines they put in hour after hour of hard work to change us from young boys and girls with no concept of self-control to grown men and women with no concept of dignity, pride or self-respect.

Gym teachers were usually both insane and highly unintelligent. This was never a good combination around children. The male gym teachers were generally horny old men who called each other "coach" as if it was a prefix with as much respect associated with it as "doctor." However, if "doctor" is a reference to a person's completion of medical school, I think "coach" is a reference to a person's completion of an entire keg of beer by themselves one night when they were in their mid-20s.

On the other hand, the female gym teachers thought they were coaches for the East German Olympic team. They would make you run laps and give you a B in the class simply because you forgot your gym shorts. All this coming from women who probably once came home with the wrong child after a trip to Disney World and then played it off by raising the new kid as their own.

These coaches' die-hard commitment to making children run until one of each kid's lungs exploded seemed hypocritical considering the fact that most of these coaches needed to take a 10-minute rest to catch their breath after checking attendance. I certainly can't recall a coach that was even close to being in shape unless it meant being in the shape of a Jell-O mold. The only reason gym teachers inspired us to work hard was because none of us wanted to end up like them.

Okay, this is the part of the column in which I apologize to any Ed-School students or future coaches I've offended. I know that not every teacher is evil and not every gym teacher is fat, but stereotypes are so much fun, aren't they? So if you're planning on being a wonderful teacher or even a mediocre coach, then more power to you. Just remember one thing: Let the poor kids go to the bathroom!


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