AS THE UNIVERSE's most vocal exponent of a prep school education, even I must confess to having suffered an inconstant level of instruction. Perhaps the lower salaries and higher prestige accorded prep school teachers encouraged their personal eccentricities and evils. At any rate many of those I endured would make public school students quake in their home ec and shop classes.
Having been brought up in a happy, relaxed household, I attribute any neuroses, prevailing phobias, or qualities that make me less than perfect to my private school teachers. Indeed, it was their favor I curried more assiduously than that of my parents. It was their penmanship I copied, not my mother's. And I swear that no one in my family ever used the word "tardy"; yet that word, along with "tidy" and "query" somehow found prominent places in my vocabulary.
It wasn't until much later, while I was a scarred college student, that I realized I had attended a school for "special" teachers.
We, the girls of Tremont, who curtsied as if our lives depended on it (they did), had not one, but a whole faculty of Miss Jean Brodies, women whose waking hours must hae been filled with plans to manipulate and own all of us. Later, I transferred to a coed prep school where the presence of boys -- the ratio was 2 to 1 -- helped soften the blows of the more megalomanic teachers.
Though the names are changed, it's all true. I humbly submit for your disapproval:
--Mrs. Boswick, fifth grade homeroom teacher, commenced each week with, "Stand up if you have to lose weight." Helpful comments and constructive criticism were then directed to her preppy chubettes.
--Mr. Winthrop, upper school math teacher and no stranger to alcohol: "Four days a week your sole purpose is to get me through class; on the fifth day, [when class didn't meet], you have no purpose."
--Mr. Hernandez, French teacher and probable illegal alien: "Girls, I am concerned that about you write." We were, needless to say, concerned that about he grade. But M. Hernandez was not without his virtues. His ties were lined with naked women, and he never caught on to the fact that we "fixed" his clock.
--Mrs. O'Neill, geography teacher and upholder of important concepts such as tea dresses, debutante cotilions and white supremacy, had a Nazi friend (our gym teacher) who visited Argentina one Christmas vacation and brought back an emerald for her colleague. Mrs. O'Neill had it set in a ring, a "cocktail ring," adding yet another cultivated concept to our already crowded craniums.
--Mr. Carlson, English teacher, failed actor, failed husband, successful drinker: Once realizing he couldn't survive the next hour in the schoolroom, he drew a fish on the blackboard (also, failed artist), and entreated his students to address all questions to Mr. Fish. Thereupon he left the room.
--Mrs. Diabolique, a Vassar madonna with the demeanor of a freshly bathed Bonnie Parker, informed me that I would never amount to anything when I informed her I wouldn't be attending Vassar.
--Mrs. Ryan, possessor of Brahmin accent (Worcester, not Beacon Hill), and champion of a traditional girls' education, during fourth-grade study hall used to sneak up with a pair of pinking shears on unsuspecting students who were chewing locks of hair in concentration. She invented the shag haircut.
--Mr. Walters, science teacher at Tremont, sole male instructor, and ski chaperone, who had sexual crises long before the discovery of sexual crises. Mr. Walters purchased an expensive stereo system for his lab in an attempt to lure his girls to class on time. When that strategy backfired, he'd say, emphatically, "I am a man, you are women." He used to throw the entire ninth grade out of lab every Tuesday. Now he's a Main Line, Philadelphia florist.
--Mrs. Streeter, librarian and closet dominatrix, preferred disciplining unruly students to the Dewey Decimal system. Created massive anxiety whenever she smiled. (That augured trouble ahead). Famous Quote: "This table . . . OUT!" One day, the offending students actually lifted their table out of the library.
--Mr. Guy, driver's education instructor and toupee salesman: "Your driving milieu is, in terms of the whole picture, neighborhood-wise, per se, the next two right." (Verbatim)
Public education, eat your hearts out.