Like anyone, I've had outstanding, good and terrible teachers. Here are my ratings and comments:
Diane Cusic, 1st grade
She of the bouffant hairdo and Jackie Kennedy whisper-voice, Mrs. Cusic was my first true love, and I would have married her if I'd been 3 feet taller. She never asked and I never explained why I couldn't speak in her presence, or why I couldn't eat in front of her. A+
Joan Weinstein, 2nd grade
Margaret Hamilton circa 1939 lookalike, soundalike, talkalike, walkalike. Made careful list over several weeks of all the things I'd done wrong in anticipation of the first parent-teacher conference of the school year.
Me, second grade
Among other transgressions, I wandered into the bathroom during a lesson, took off all my clothes sang into the mirror for 20 minutes. A conference was called, and Weinstein's list was produced.
My father looked at it and asked, "Where is the list of things he does right?" which evoked a look similar to Ralph Kramden's when asked "Who is the author of 'Swanee River?'" on "The $99,000 answer."
Mrs. Weinstein also tortured Ross Lipton, who'd been purposely, absent-mindedly dribbling spit into one of his workbooks during a lesson. She loomed over Lipton, 7 years old, and demanded he spit and spit and spit.
"I don't hafta!" Lipton cried, meaning his mouth was now dry. Mrs. Weinstein did not relent.
Damn, I still remember her witchy face. (shiver)
F-, with 5 lines under it.
Marcia Neighbors, 3rd grade
The first to encourage my writing, which resulted in "Blinkertoo The Mouse". Invited me over to her house to swim in her pool, too, and she was one of the few adults I completely trusted not to take me in the woods and kill me. Tall, regal, one of the most liked teachers in the school and one who never gave me the slightest amount of grief for anything---and she easily could have. A+
Richard Devir, 4th grade
Played a mesmerizing "Alice's Restaurant" on a nylon-string guitar. Bought pizza for students. Didn't stop Darryl Tinsley from hitting me in the mouth or do anything about it after the blow. Shoved tables into impossible, unruly students. Refused to discuss class or any of its students when contacted years later for "Confessions of an ex-seeker." C-
Lois Burke, 6th grade
One of the worst, she called me "just a bouncing ball of blubber," and "two-ton". I was 4'11, 121 pounds and by that time, almost completely silent in school, making note of how few words I could actually get away with during the course of the day. I counted 9 once, my all-time low. The 9 were:
"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."
Burke sent me to the Principal's office for possessing a copy of Abby Hoffman's "Steal This Book", which described how to gyp the phone company, shoplift, grow marijuana and make molotov cocktails, among other things.
My father---again---came to the school for a conference.
He was asked, "Do you know your son is reading this?"
Before "reading this?" was out of the Principal's mouth, Dad replied, "He can read any goddamn thing he wants to."
(When going through my father's wallet, retrieved from a pair of his pants on the floor of his apartment after they'd taken his body away, I found his crumpled Bill of Rights. In the last year of his life, he would whip it out and recite from it when someone tried to tell him what he could and could not say. The man did fly 38 missions over Normandy, Belgium, Germany and France, after all.)
Mrs. Burke: D
Richard Heinhold, 8th grade
Gave me an "A" for writing a riff on Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" (after verifying that I'd written the essay myself) told from the point of view of one of the policemen. May have had writer aspirations of his own, as indicated by patches on elbows of tweed coat and moustache and beard.
Sent me to Principal's office when I punched Geoff Ryder in the chest for screaming "Jew!" after seeing me pick up a penny I'd dropped. When confronted by my father later that night after he'd been notified I'd been suspended, I told him what had happened.
"Next time hit him in the mouth," my father said.
Mr. Heinhold's nickname was "Mr. Heinie-hole".
Robert Laub, 11th grade
All-time best teacher award. Gave me A-pluses for first-person, stream-of-consciousness prose, lyrics and poetry. Came to one of my public performances; I was shocked to see him drink a beer. A+