My Teacher is Unhinged: An Algebra 2 Class Like No Other

By Caesar Orzell

 

Have you ever had a weird teacher in high school? One that made you cringe, or made you regret ever being in that class? Well, I had a teacher like that…Or so I thought.
This is the story of my weirdest teacher, Mr. H, and how my feelings toward him (much like Stockholm Syndrome without the tragedy) changed from fear and dread into love and appreciation.

The Realization, Part I: The Loss of Hope

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Picture it. It’s eleventh grade orientation. I was just given my list of teachers for the year. I couldn’t have been more excited!
That was, until my eyes spotted a certain name on the sheet.
Mr.…fucking…H.
OH NOOOOOOOO.

Commencing facepalm.
Just from seeing his name, I knew exactly who he was. Mr. H was the one that blasted music in the hallways during passing time, when I was on my way to Spanish. The one that, right when the bell rang signaling the end of third hour, I made a dash out of the classroom and down those halls, praying that he wouldn’t start blasting music at that moment.

Sometimes he played outdated “meme songs”, like “Sandstorm” by Darude or “Never Gonna Give You Up” by the entire 80s. Songs that aren’t considered real songs anymore, but ones saved for commercials and Memes. Sometimes he played Jimmy Fallon skits, like Lip Sync Battle. You know, to “connect” with us. Most of the time, however, he played eighties rock songs. He was also a fan of the group Air Supply, I found out. Who the hell (other than my editor on a whiskey fueled karaoke bender) is a fan of Air Supply?!

No one normal, that’s who.

I’m surrounded by freaks.

 

First Contact

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I’ll never forget my first day in that class when I went in, my head firmly attached to the earbuds plugged in to my iPod Nano. Shit, it was the only way I could cover my ears without looking like a complete idiot! Even with whatever the hell I was listening to at the time (Sum 41 or an anime opening, your pick) blasting in my ears, it was overpowered by Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”.

I paused. Turned toward the music. Slowly, my hands drifted upward. I popped the earbuds out. My eye might have twitched as my ears digested the song. ‘This can’t be,’ I thought. ‘No, it’s impossible…’

What? A song that I actually LIKED?!

It was so odd. I actually kind of felt comfortable in Mr. H’s classroom!

But I kept telling myself that I didn’t.

Though I couldn’t deny that he was like no other math teacher I ever had.

 

The Realization, Part II: The Algebra Teacher Strikes Back

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Throughout those first few months of my junior year, I began to pick up on his various quirks. And believe me, there were plenty of weird ones.

Weirder than Mrs. B, who had habit of singing at random times during class and liked DMX.

Weirder than Mr. G, who had a strange tone of speaking and explained assignments with a sort of ‘figure it out yourself’ kind of shrug.

He even topped my other previously weird teachers who taught other subjects, like the history teacher Mr. G who loved showing his son’s favorite YouTube videos and ended every sentence with “Yeah”, and Mr. P, whose children were technically celebrities and actually let the full, uncensored version of 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me” play in class.

Yeah. Weirder than Mr. P, who also did an experiment of loudness by bringing two huge speakers into class and blasting a nineties mix CD that had the Spice Girls and blink-182 on it at full volume.

Could I get an award? Could I receive an award saying, “Congratulations Megan (that’s me), you’re about to have the Strangest Two Years of Algebra 2™ in your whole life” written in Comic Sans?

Oh, yeah. That’s another thing.

For those who are not in the know, two-year Algebra 2 is basically class for people who are slow, like me. We take everything at a much slower pace, making sure every dumb kid understands everything before we take a test.

So, to put it simply:

Would you rather have ten assignments due a week, or just three or four?

If you chose the former, you’re insane. If you chose the latter, you’re in the same boat as I am.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go back to Mr. H and his weird quirks.

There’s a reason why I made a Bingo sheet out of them!

 

Weird Quirk #1: HE’D SOMETIMES YELL

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“DO YOU GET THIS, DYLAN?!” – an out of context quote from Mr. H

I swear to God, if I don’t exit school by the end of the year fully deaf, I’ll slap myself in the face and think, What the hell is wrong with me?!

You see, Mr. H had a really bad habit of yelling at random times. Mr. H shrieking out of the blue is basically an equivalent to a jump scare in a horror movie.

If that doesn’t sound bad to you, try being me…a girl who has sensitive hearing and big-time social anxiety.

It. Was. Hell.

Unfortunately, he only used to tell me when he’d yell at the beginning of my first year. And it’s not like you’ll know when he’d yell, either.

Despite that complaint, however…

 

Weird Quirk #2: Motivational Monday Videos

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“We can split this one up into segments for the next few weeks”- a quote that pertains to this section, from Mr. H

The second week of class, he did something unexpected.

Okay, saying that about him is a bit redundant.

He did something different.

(Nope, still not good enough.)

Okay. Whatever. He’d put on a motivational video on YouTube. And for what purpose? Well, he said “It’s better than math.”

And they weren’t just your stereotypical clips of movies with inspirational music and dialogue in the background, either.

They were sports videos, speeches, sports-related speeches with kids with disabilities overcoming stuff. They were actually kind of heartwarming.

And the best thing is, that WOULD take up about nine minutes of class. SERIOUSLY; Nine minutes of non-math stuff?

He knew us well.

 

Weird Quirk #3: Throwing Markers at Kids

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“I practice over the weekend, just throwing markers at the wall”- Mr. H, hopefully not being serious.

You know how when a teacher calls you up to the board, they hand you a marker?

Yeah. Mr. H just throws them at you. And not only that, but if some kid didn’t catch it, he’d put a tally mark on the board. The class that has the least number of tallies would get a pizza party. (Luckily, our class ended up getting one of these at the beginning of senior year, breadsticks included!)

Speaking of throwing markers, not only does he throw them at kids, but he always makes it a habit of trying to score (trash) baskets by this method: Tossing them into the air, having it hit the bulky TV that has been there since the building was built (1998), and into the trash can. His tries are to be rewarded, because when we get him started, he’ll go on a rampage for about ten minutes, until every single marker is scattered all over the floor and in the nooks and crannies of his desk.

 

Weird Quirk #4: Not Your Average Review Games

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“I’m five hours into the Feud, I can’t stop now”- an actual quote from Mr. H

When the idea of throwing markers at kids gets stale, Mr. H also likes to play review games. Most of them are normal enough- going up to the board and doing boys vs. girls or rows vs. rows- but there are two odd ones I’d like to mention in particular.

The first one is similar to what I said before, doing the boys vs. girls thing, but there’s a twist.

He uses actual buzzers, the ones that make noise and glow and everything. Well, most of the time, anyway. Sometimes they just flat out stop working.

But, seriously. He literally hooks this machine up to the wall and uses this wire that goes across about eight freaking desks in order for the contraption to work. And before we start every round, he’ll do a “Buzzer Test”, where each person has to press the button to make sure it works… That takes about five whole minutes.

Not weird enough for you? Try being the subject of the game 1 vs. 100. Based off of the obscure and cancelled-too-early game show of the same name, you pit a single person against a sea of people, and ask them some questions, to try to knock the one hundred people out. Except, obviously, it’s not a hundred people in the algebra version. That’d be the worst.

The crazy part comes from the pitfall of losing to the kids: You get water dumped on you.

With your clothes on.

Basically, the punishment is like getting Nickelodeon slime dumped on you, but less sticky and green and more walking-around-school-soggy and wet.

So you better get an easy problem that the other kids don’t understand, because even if you make the smallest mistake, Mr. H will invite a few kids up to punish you. This can range from the kid that likes to pour it on you drop by aggravating drop, or the kid that just wants to get it over with, dumping the water on you with a loud “SPLOOSH!”

 

Weird Quirk #5: Random Prizes

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“Whoever answers this question right gets this moldy potato”

I’M NOT KIDDING MR. H ACTUALLY SAID THIS.

The last quirk I’d like to talk about is actually the most prevalent: His strange habit of giving away random stuff that he stores in a cart, most of which are pins and cards that have his favorite catchphrase on them, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” Other things he gave away include a Class of 2015 poster (You’d know you’d be getting one of those when he asks you, “Are you familiar with the class of 2015?”), a box of saltine crackers, other college posters, and various items the kids leave behind, most of which I can’t remember.

The person that he gave the most stuff to was my friend Jenise, and it was entirely his fault. I forgot why he did it, but Mr. H was doing his crazy shout-speech thing and he began to dump water on his head (It doesn’t make any sense context or no context), and it happened to spill all over Jenise’s notebook.

Her ALGEBRA notebook with all her work in it.

Needless to say- ever since then, whenever Jenise answered one of his questions or even looked at him, he’d go up, put something on her desk and say, “I’m so sorry, Jenise,” in a hushed voice. Every single time, without fail, until the end of the first semester, when she left.

 

The Realization, Part III: Return of the Pep Talk

On the first day of the second semester, I realized something that I should’ve noticed way earlier.

I walked into his class on that day, expecting to see some sort of assignment written on the board, but instead I saw something different. “Pep Talk”, or something like that, was written up on there.

Once all the kids came in, Mr. H turned down Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al” and announced to us, “Guys, we’re not doing any math today. Instead, I wanna talk to you about something important.”

And so the story unraveled. Blah blah blah, this is the last semester of your school life, blah blah blah, graduation is around the corner…

It hit me. HARD.

Mr. H, through his crazy actions, just wants us to learn, and to have fun while doing it. And he always wants us to succeed.

Because he knows how math can be boring yet frustrating for us, and, despite that, he wants us to be able to walk on that DTE stage by June and get that diploma, so we can have a happy and successful life.

And I absolutely commend him for that. I never, ever, in a hundred thousand years, would have thought that a crazy, eighties music-blaring, marker-throwing teacher like him would say those words to us, but there I was, in the back of the room by the window (the traditional anime main character’s spot, I realized), listening to him speaking with such enthusiasm, as he always does, despite that probably being the third time he had said that speech all day.

And you know what? That effectiveness worked on me.

There’s a reason that, even in the dark, dreary depths of December, I walked into his classroom with a smile and a pep in my step.

Now let’s hope I don’t bomb that last exam, because DAMN.

Finding greatest common factors and plotting points on graphs are hard.

 

 

You can find Caesar busting some sweet quadratic equations or algorithms or something on Twitter.

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