Teacher of the Year (the novel)
But instead of opening their minds, they close them the moment I speak. Some of my wisest remarks, ignored, not even a frown! All I get is an empty stare, which only fills with life, when, sitting on the edge of my desk, I spread my legs and celebrate my manhood by revealing an impression of my glory hidden within padded confines. It’s a relief to note that at least then it’s possible to communicate with these 17-year-old half-wits! Like the true professional that I am, I seize all opportunities before they vanish and use them to prepare students for a new and important view of life. While thrilling them with my magnificent maleness, I cram their addle brains with literary tidbits on such fascinating teenage topics as incest, necrophilia, and sadomasochism. As they stare at me in awe, I tell them the story about the homophobic Athenians who destroyed Socrates with guilt and shame for pederasty; I then follow it with some documented remarks about Orwell’s lustful fixation on bestiality, which culminates eloquently in Animal Farm—“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” But I am my most brilliant when I quote from my thesis, Sex in Shakespeare, and talk at length about Hamlet’s exquisite insight into life (“To be or not to be”) by underscoring an often overlooked fact: Hamlet’s profound love and need for Ophelia. “Within all of Shakespeare’s plays (as within life itself) you must cherchez la femme! Hidden somewhere in the corners of each story, there is always a love interest. In poor Hamlet’s case, his downfall was the sweet Ophelia. His profound passion for her was so out of control that he did the only thing he could do: He threw the wench out! The absolute highpoint theatrically in this great play was when he commanded her to ‘Get thee to a nunnery.’ Last year when the senior class did the play, and Igor Ivanovich—who has gone on to do some really exciting art films, which you can catch at most local adult bookstores—well, when Igor delivered those lines, there wasn’t one person in the audience who had doubts about the cause of Hamlet’s torture. Just remember always, in literature as in life, cherchez la femme. Buried somewhere in the depths of the story, hidden within the clever syntax is always a woman or, for the female writer, a man. Love is what makes the world go round and round and. . . .” During that period, when every eye was alert to my manhood, as I danced back and forth over hundreds of years of literature, I became the center of their universe, their mover of great ideas. During that period, while filling the room with my intellectual ejaculations, the hymenal-rending cries of virgins, opening their minds to life, were heard ringing gloriously in the air. Even the boys could be heard, sharing expletives, as my male splendor painfully reduced them to the adolescent specks that they were. Yet despite the pain my male splendor caused them, they still listened thoughtfully to my every word. By opening the girls’ eyes to the realities of life, I was making the boys’ mission easier. In fact, their breathing grew heavy, their pants swelled, as I crystallized with vivid examples the purpose of life: “Gettin’ it on!” During that period, while opening their minds to life, I became uncomfortably aware of a girl staring at me, as though she were convinced I was totally mad. The girl, who looked uncomfortable in a modern classroom, resembled an anachronism, a Victorian virgin, shocked easily by any reference to sex.
You would think after taking all those wonderful sex education courses, in which copulating was discussed with such integrity, that by now she would be ready for a real education. But judging from my observations of her (and this group in general), it was apparent that she was totally unprepared. Obviously her other teachers weren’t doing their job. Oh, how I miss last year’s seniors. Now that was a group with real insight into human behavior. That essay by Tom Wong on the subliminal sexual focus in John Stuart Mills’ On Liberty was brilliant. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, particularly that part in which he sums up his thesis. (“John Stuart Mills’ preoccupation with freedom is a thin disguise for his profound need for sexual expression. Throughout On Liberty, there are subliminal references to this point, which reach an exciting crescendo in his statement, ‘Liberty consists in doing what one desires.’”) When I shared his essay with the faculty, there wasn’t one teacher who wasn’t speechless by this new insight. Well, I guess I’ll just have to work on this class, introduce them to Ovid, maybe some of those romantic poems by Catullus, or that wonderful book by Choderlos de Laclos. It would be so nice if their other teachers were as conscientious as I. It would free me a little and give me more time to provide them with the finesse they’ll need to face that exciting new world out there. I must mention this at the next faculty meeting. Now about that girl. What on earth am I going to do about her? “Miss Borczyska,” I said, when the class was over. “May I talk to you?” “Of course, Mr. Hammy,” she said, emphasizing the “E” in my name emphatically. “Miss Borczyska!” I said indignantly. “The ‘E’ is silent.” “Mr. Hamme,” she said without the “E.” “My name is Borlinda Borgia.” “But your permanent records gives your name as. . . .” “It’s Borlinda Borgia!” she said, correcting me. “We changed it after the Italian branch of the family.” “You aren’t related to Lucrezia?” I asked, impressed. “No, Mr. Hamme. But on the Catholic side of the family, to a 19th Century pope.” It fits. No real Borgia would ever appear in public looking like her. She was so plain without even any lipstick or rouge for coloring, just a simple high-neck dress (which, I had to admit, despite its looseness revealed a stunning pair of breasts). And the way she carried herself, the way she walked. There was no swing, no girlish tease to it. She moved like a nun out of habit. God, has this one been neglected! “You wanted to talk?” she asked directly to the point. “I most certainly do. It concerns your attitude during my lecture. Did I say something to startle you?” “You certainly did.” “Would you like to be more specific?” “I wouldn’t know where to begin.” “Anywhere will do.” “Very well, if you insist,” she said. “To begin with, Socrates was anything but guilt-ridden about his homosexuality. And Animal Farm isn’t about bestiality. It’s a satirical attack on pigheaded rulers in an imaginary totalitarian state. As far as Hamlet. . . .” “Borlinda, you’re new at Horace Mann High, aren’t you?” “Yes,” she said, visibly unhappy. “This will be my first semester here. For the past three years, I attended the Virgin Mary Bible Academy.” “You poor dear. How relieved you must be to escape that school.” “The fact is, Mr. Hamme. I miss my teachers there very much, and if my father hadn’t died, if there were only enough insurance money, I would still be there for my last year.” “Well, Borlinda, I can’t speak for your other teachers. But you can be certain in my class, I will expose you to new ways of thinking and new insights, which will change your life forever.” “That’s what I fear.” “You mustn’t fear, Borlinda. You must enjoy. After all, life is like the cannabis indica. When properly cultivated, it will bring you pleasure beyond your wildest dreams.” “They always used to say at the Virgin Mary. . . .” “Promise me something, Borlinda.” “What’s that, Mr. Hamme?” “Please don’t mention that school again.” “Very well. But I was only going to say. . . .” “Save it for our next talk. Now go to your class before you’re late.” My God, is that one going to be a challenge. Virgin Mary Bible Academy! When is the government going to wise up and free us of such private institutions? I must remember to write my senator and demand student loans be denied to all private schools, especially the Virgin Marys. What America needs is more Horace Manns, schools committed to creative teaching. Then maybe I might have more students like Mohammed Rajid. Oh what a wonderful world this would be then! His paper for me on “Pregnancy Reduction Through Innovative Masturbation” was brilliant. That one idea, if ever implemented, could drastically reduce unwanted pregnancies among the poor and disabled, and save taxpayers millions of dollars in child support. But problem-solving students like Mohammed are rare. They require years of team teaching to produce. Without the support of the entire education establishment, students like him could easily be displaced by the Borgias. If that ever happens, I’ll never be able to teach again in the public schools. After all, there’s a limit to what one teacher—even a gifted one like me—can achieve in a classroom of Borgias. It’s so frustrating to have so much to give and no one to give it to. If only I had the right audience. Locked within me, screaming for release, are hundreds of years of wisdom, which I can only dispense in bits and pieces. How long will I be able to hold back before I explode, splattering everywhere like the food crumbs left behind by the students? Oh, how horrible it is to stop teaching at the ringing of the last bell, especially after spending the day working myself up to a feverish pitch of brilliance. Though the students don’t always listen, though I sometimes have to use innovative teaching techniques to grab their attention, I still find it difficult to harness my energy and quit at three. Oh, the suffering I must endure for being so brilliant. Maybe I can ease some of it by getting involved in some after-school activity. But it can’t be any activity. It must be the right activity, one that will prepare the students intellectually for the day they will enroll in my lit class. Maybe I should run the school paper? That could be an excellent way to reach the students and their lazy teachers in mass. Yes, maybe running the school paper is the answer. Let’s see if I can convince Pepe.