I was in the 5th grade when I had Mr. Farr as my teacher. Mr. Farr came across as a kindly gentle man, almost a Mr. Rogers type. Not a mean bone in his body. He was my favorite teacher in the 5th grade. Then there was Mr. Atlas, my sixth grade teacher, who was a thin young man, decidedly Greek, with a full dark horseshoe mustache and a passion for life. Both men were interesting because they were full of wonder, and wanted us to be the same way. Many people were that way back then, and I think overall, it’s something we have less of today. Perhaps it still exists, and perhaps I’m not seeing it, because I’m not a parent?l
Well these two men were my favorite teachers at the Springfield Armory Street School. It was American and ironic that our grammar school was named after the first gun factory in America. America has always had its first love. I’ll write soon about another teacher at that school who treated me like shit because I was biracial. And even at that age, I knew what her problem was. I’ll detail how I inadvertently fixed her after she labeled me “slow”. A very poetic justice fix, at that. I just don’t have the emotional energy to talk about that bitch and her psychosis at the moment. I will never understand teachers who are emotionally abusive to kids. Thankfully, on balance, there were way more good teachers than bad. But I believe there are many teachers out there who were bullied in school and who have been trying to even that score on other students their whole lives.
I digress from the story to share a few thoughts. Mr. Atlas admitted to me he thought my mother was “hot” and that tickled me. I was pleased he thought my mother was attractive. “That’s your mother!? She looks like a movie star!” He said to me one day when my mother brought me my PBJ lunch I forgot to bring with me to school. His exclamation came after seeing my mother in her fur coat, with her mocha skin and cocoa 1980 Chrysler New Yorker. I was like “Yes, the fuck she is!” I digress from the story to share a few thoughts on racism and discrimination that our family, a racially mixed family, endured from 1980 – 1988, my pre-teen to early teen years. It was long ago, but at the same time…not that very long ago. Some things are actually worse today, some things better.
I wanted to address Justin Bieber’s recent medical condition which reminded me of a lesson Mr. Farr taught me when I was 10 years old. If you can picture a 10 year old kid being mind-blown, that was me when Mr. Farr told me of this philosophy. I was shocked that a teacher would drop such heavy knowledge on us, believing that we were intelligent enough to understand it at 9 or 10. I was even more shocked that I understood what he was trying to say. His lesson stays with me to this day.
“A philosopher once said, ‘Never wish for someone else’s life.’ He explained that if everyone could take their lives and put them in a paper bag, and then swap bags with someone else, everyone would quickly realize that they would rather have their own life back. His point was that we should be content with what we have, because we don’t know what secrets or struggles others are dealing with.” That lesson has stayed with me my whole life. Such is the power of teachers for good or ill. I will write soon about how that mean female teacher actually helped me. I’ve written about it before, but I think it’s worth revisiting.