by Mike T
Something I wrote.
Thank You Mr. Dwyer
I find it kind of funny that when you’re a kid you really don’t notice the moments in life where you actually learn a life value. Well maybe you notice them, but they don’t really sink in until you’re older and have matured more. I think for the most part, the value is learned and then quickly stashed away because of other mundane events that seem a lot more exciting to a kid than a boring old life lesson or moral. That is why now at at the ripe old age of 38, I remember back to junior high and high school and think of a few certain teachers that not only taught me their subjects, but also a few values as well.
The unique thing about my high school was that most of the parents of myself and my classmates also attended the same school and therefore had some of the same teachers that we had. That was generally a good thing because there was more of a personal connection between the students and the teachers because they were always in contact with our parents. That also meant we couldn’t get away with much when it came to goofing around. I knew that when I entered the class of one of these teachers that it was time to pay attention and not fuck around. It was as if the respect for these teachers was already there because it had been handed down from the previous generation.
In seventh grade I entered junior high and my mother was very excited because that meant that when eighth grade rolled around I would have Mr. Chickering for civics class. He was a very popular teacher and was well liked by all of the students. However, at the end of seventh grade, he was promoted to assistant principal which meant that he would have to give up his teaching position. There was a lot of disappointment when this announcement was made as it meant that I would not have the opportunity to experience the sharing of his knowledge. So in walked Mr. Dwyer to take his place as the new eighth grade civics teacher. Now Mr. Dwyer was no stranger to myself and my classmates. He had previously done some substitution work a few times in the past, and as is mostly the case with substitute teachers, he was tormented by the students, myself included at times. So on the first day of eighth grade when we saw Mr. Dwyer waiting for us in the classroom, so many eyes lit up. Now my parents had always taught me to behave while in school and pay attention, but when you are the victim of bullying, any time the attention is focused on someone else, you take advantage of that. So when the tormenting of Mr Dwyer began, I sadly joined in because hey, they’ll all start to like me and not pick on me if I do what they do right?
As the days and weeks passed, the daily tormenting of Mr. Dwyer continued. Some students went a little too far at times and were sent to the principals office or received detention, but for the most part we were basically being nuisances and disrupting class just enough so that no real teaching occurred. After some time as all of this activity continued, for me the daily routine of hassling Mr. Dwyer started to quite frankly get a little boring and tiresome. Other students noticed this as well, and we soon stopped joining in. The rest of the students, mostly the class losers, continued the torment and managed to disrupt the class effectively on their own. As this continued I started to notice something about Mr. Dwyer. This man just simply would not break. No matter how much they threw at him, he came into class every day and kept right on teaching his lesson plan. The more I observed this, the more I started to pay attention to what he was actually teaching and before I knew it, I found myself hanging on his every word. Civics class was fun!
Another cool thing was that he also noticed this, and as more students started paying attention, the more he engaged us in conversations. He knew he was doing his job the right way and it was paying off for him big time. He simply would not give up on us. The class losers who continued the torment ended up failing the class as well as life in general and were left behind. To this day I can’t help but wonder if we really did get to him. What did he do to vent the anger and frustration he must have felt when we did what we did to him in class? Or was he just that damned good at teaching that it really didn’t bother him at all? Sadly he would not stay on very long as the eighth grade civics teacher, and as I moved on into high school I soon forgot all about him, probably thinking about some other mundane event that seemed a lot more exciting to a kid than a boring old life lesson or moral. However, Mr. Dwyer earned my respect as that year went on, and when I look back on it now, the life lesson he taught me was to not immediately judge a person and jump on the bandwagon of others in hopes of acceptance and approval, but to actually experience what the person is offering for yourself and come to your own conclusions about them. I am glad I did just that and was able to learn so much from that great teacher. Sadly, I have no knowledge as to where Mr Dwyer is today, or what he is doing, but if I could talk to him now I would simply say, “Thank you Mr. Dwyer.”
Oh, and as for Mr Chickering? Well, his promotion to assistant principal turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen in my journey through high school as he would become one of my greatest allies during my struggles with bullying, but that’s a story for another day.