Untotaled: Stepping 32 (January 14th, 1967) Mr. Bayonne … September 20, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

Two or three days of snow, then a brief warming period, followed by a frigid arctic blast, leaving the countryside glistening with ice, rendering everything precarious.

This was the winter of 1967.

It left all of us in grouchy moods, even though we insisted we were hearty “Ohioans,” accustomed to such frosty conditions. We basically just muddled through it, quietly complaining about “the winter of our discontent.”

Arriving back in my classroom after the Christmas holidays, I discovered that our female math teacher was gone. The initial explanation was that she was battling a severe bout of the flu.

But it took little time for the sour grapevine of the gossip mill to unearth the details. She had actually left town due to a pregnancy out-of-wedlock, making her the subject of great local scandal. My coach joked that considering she was a math teacher, she certainly didn’t do a very good job “counting her days.”

The whole locker room laughed, and I joined in–even though I didn’t get it.

Replacing her was a tall, lanky, clumsy olive-skinned fellow with thin brown greasy hair and a beak for a nose which would have been more suitable for the Family Ostrich. He was a tentative sort. Honestly, it appeared this was his first excursion as an educator.

Yes, he was an oddity. An Ichabod who resembled a crane. And in our community of conformity, he became a necessary target and needful diversion for our present boredom.

Especially when we found out that he was inept at discipline. We tormented him with our ridicule and teasing.

He wore the same brown suit every day with a white shirt and a brown tie with a gold design which could just as easily have been a speck of dried-on scrambled egg.

He had a hilarious tendency to point at the blackboard using his middle finger (which by the way, appeared to have three knuckles) and we always burst into laughter. He would whirl around and screech in a scratchy voice, “Silence!” We laughed harder.

One day a cheerleader inched her way to his desk, supposedly to ask him a question. He was so delighted for the kind attention that he failed to notice that she was taking blackboard erasers from their perch behind his back and softly laying them against his coat with her hand, creating an amazing chalk-dust design. After she returned to her seat and he turned around, we all once again erupted in great guffaws. He had no idea. Matter of fact, the same marks of chalk were on his suit four days later.

He persisted. So did we.

Matter of fact, it became more nasty when one student thought it would be funny to place an anonymous note in the suggestion box in the principal’s office, complaining about Mr. Bayonne’s teaching style.

Long story short, when we returned after our Easter vacation of resurrecting our Lord and chomping on Easter bunny candy, he was gone. We had successfully driven a stranger away–simply because we deemed him strange.

I often think about Mr. Bayonne. He may not have been suited to instruct the rabble of high school hoodlums, but he certainly deserved better treatment. But in our tiny world of thinking, this math teacher just didn’t add up.

  • Because he was different, he was wrong.
  • Because he was clumsy, he was mocked.
  • Because he wasn’t Nordic, Germanic or Scandinavian, he stirred our prejudice.

I have spent much of my life trying to make sure that I never “Bayonned” anyone again, and in so doing I have discovered a magnificent reality:

It takes different people to make me different. And if I don’t become different, I’m stuck … going no further than where I am.

 

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