One of my “favorite teachers”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/000610.php in “High School”:http://www.parkschool.net/ was my freshman year history teacher. This teacher was one of those portrayed-in-TV-movies-style teachers, intense, engaging, committed to learning and to his kids and, in return, loved by them. We all were thrilled to be in this teacher’s history class, and even after we left he knew our names and our faces for the rest of the four years and would engage us in meaningful conversation in the halls.
This teacher was my 9th grade History teacher, and, at that, he was a great upgrade over Middle School History teacher/gym teacher Lucky Malonee, who was quite knowledgeable but a little overaggressive for my tastes. This teacher was smart, editorialized in fascinating, rather left-of-center ways, and, best of all, appreciated how brilliant I was. Or something. Anyway, I loved his class, even though it was probably just a repeat of 7th grade or 5th grade or something like that, just with more information, as History is wont to be in K-12 education.
After 9th grade, I took AP History with “Mr. Lakin”:http://juniorbird.com/archive/001483.php, so I no longer had a chance to take a class with this teacher; but I still ran into him in the school hallways and the libarary, and he always knew my name and talked to me. And it wasn’t just hello — we actually had meaningful conversations. This teacher understood that I was a funny-looking, unpopular, low-social-skills kind of guy, and that I had a powerful and deep anger towards people who were popular, had interpersonal abilities or, god forbid, were non-hideous. I could vent to this teacher, he would say understanding things, deflect my anger and my not-yet-socially-unacceptable desires to wreak horrible, handgun-facilitated revenge on my social oppressors, and leave me feeling ok about my lot in life and as if my talents did matter.
But this teacher was badly broken. A Vietnam vet, he had what I would later recognize as “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PTSD. So, this teacher wasn’t all sunshine and smiles, but he was a good teacher, and my classmates all knew and very much appreciated him, and chose his class as an elective. For three years I was sad that he didn’t teach AP, because I liked him and because he could teach without traumatizing me nearly as much as Mr. Lakin. This teacher was one of the more popular and most respected teachers on campus.
Which is why I have no idea how to react to the allegations that he molested one of his students. Allegedly, during the late 1970s this teacher had a consensual (or, given the power relationship between a teacher and a student, not entirely consensual) relationship with a 14-year-old female student. This is sad news, and I don’t really know how I feel about it.
No, I guess I do know how to feel about it: I have an intellectual, disconnected sense of sadness for the alleged victim, because I’m sure that, if anything did happen between her and this teacher, it was likely not good for her; and I have a deep, personal sense of sadness for this teacher. He was truly a good guy to me and to other students, when I was at school. I don’t recall him behaving inappropriately around women, and I think I would have noticed because there were a few teachers about whom I specifically remember thinking that their behavior was borderline inappropriate. But, then, I was at school 18-20 years after the alleged acts took place, so I could quite literally have been seeing a different person.
It’s just sad all around. Some woman may have been harmed, and, now, towards the end of his life, this teacher may be remembered for the one student he hurt, instead of the thousands he helped. I hope it can be some other way.
_[Note: I received requests to remove this teacher's name from this entry about two weeks after it was published, and believe them reasonable under the circumstances. This entry was intended as a personal statement, and I never imagined it would become such a high search result for this teacher's name; had I thought it would be, I would never have written it. Both this teacher and his alleged victim deserve their privacy and the opportunity to opportunity to resolve this situation in a manner that they see fit, without it being played out on my blog.]_