Why Didn’t You Tell Us You Were Beautiful?
In seventh grade we had a long-term substitute teacher who was a hunchback. That’s the word we used. Being seventh graders, we liked our words from the 18th century, especially if this added that special punch of cruelty.
I’ve been a sub. It’s a tough job even with the best of spines. Even if you’ve won spine pageants, being a sub sucks. You’re the rent-a-cop of the classroom, the stepparent who joined the family too soon after mom vanished, and we hate your clothes, your voice, your authority, and your face, and for these reasons, we will defy you.
It also sucks having kyphosis, “a condition in which the spine in the upper back has an excessive curvature.” A condition that could happen to any of us, even seventh graders, but we didn’t know that.
Yes, Mrs. Daigle had kyphosis, but that wasn’t the problem.
She was also the oldest teacher we’d ever seen. I’m not going to say I found out later she was only fifty-five, and isn’t it amazing how the definition of “old” changes as you get old? This is true, but it’s not her story. Mrs. Daigle was in her eighties. She’d returned from retirement to do the school a favor in a pinch, and the pinch lasted longer than expected.
But her age wasn’t the problem either.
The problem was she was mean. Which meant we made fun of her constantly. What did we use for material? I’d be a liar if I said kyphosis and age didn’t come up now and then all the time.
Mrs. Daigle’s Meanness
She said things like “Quiet” during our study hall.
We didn’t like that.
We didn’t understand it. If she’d done any research into our past, she would have learned study halls were for talking and having fun.
One day, after Mrs. Daigle told us to be quiet a dozen times, one of us, a bold captain of the group, said, “But all the other teachers let us talk in study hall.” Suddenly, Mrs. Daigle slammed her fist down on her desk and thundered a statement we would repeat hundreds of times:
“Well you’re in MY study hall now!”