It seems that at every level of education I have one bad teacher who stands out for me. But the worst of the worst was my sixth grade teacher, Sister Helen. Yellin’ Helen, as she was know amongst her students, did little to stimulate our young brains and brought monotony into her classroom. She keep order in the class by screaming at us and throwing erasers.
I remember that we studied geography in the sixth grade. Unfortunately, someone had screwed up (can you say “screwed up” about nuns) and forgotten to order the geography books. So for the first month of school, Sister Helen copied the book onto the chalkboard and we spent a good part of our day copying down the text from the book. There was no conversation or dialogue about what we were “learning.” We just copied the text that Sister had written on the board. Then we copied the questions at the end of the chapter and had to write out the answers for our homework. It was the most tedious, boring time in my entire school career.
My father, a gentle soul who was also a teacher, was outraged that this was the method Sister Helen employed in teaching geography. He went to the school to tell Sister Helen what he thought of this debacle. It was completely out of character for my father. He generally supported our teachers, being a teacher himself, but he recognized that Sister Helen’s tedious assignments and lack of books was a clear example of bad scholarship. He went to the school for a conference with Sister Helen. He demanded that we no longer write out the book. Someone had better get books for us and start acting like a teacher. A sixth grader could have done what Sister Helen was doing and passing for teaching.
We eventually got books, but her method of teaching was then just to read the book to us and have us write out the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter. A trained chimp could have done the same thing. This was not teaching; it was babysitting. I learned in the sixth grade that I could teach myself because that was the only way I was going to be able to learn anything. This nun was obviously not cut out to be a teacher. She wasn’t young; she was an “experienced” teacher. But thankfully she lasted only a year at our elementary school due to the many complaints of the parents in our class.
I’ve had other lazy or overly demanding teachers, but my sixth grade experience was by far the worst for a child who craved learning. Yellin’ Helen was by far the laziest, worst teacher I have ever experienced.