Thoughts of an English Teacher

Clad in his sweater vest, Mr. Maher clapped his hands before the two dozen middle schoolers in his room. He clapped three times. Then he clapped once. Then he clapped three times again. It was a ridiculous thing to do and an even more desperate attempt to capture their goldfish like attention spans, but for some reason it worked. It worked every freakin’ time. It was magical.

“Okay class, for this chapter we’re going to try something a little different. I’m going to split you guys up into groups of four-”

“Mr. Maher!” Julie’s hand shot up with vigor.

“Yes, Julie?”

“I’m not a guy.”

“It was colloquial.”


“It’s an expression, nevermind. I’m going to split you guys and girls up into groups of four as we study this next unit on Shakespeare. Each person’s going to read one of the sections for homework, and you’ll each discuss your notes in class the next day. That way you don’t have to read the whole chapter.”

The students seemed delighted by that fact. A quarter of the reading sounded far less tedious. Alex raised his hand. “Mr. Ma-HARE!”

Mr. Maher rolled his eyes. Yes, he knew his name looked a bit confusing to say on paper, but he made it very clear on the first day of class that it was pronounced ‘MAR.’ Alex had purposefully butchered his name that fateful morning in September, and admittedly, Mr. Maher had given a small chuckle at the joke. HUGE MISTAKE! Alex never stopped calling him that. Sure it was a little funny the first time, but halfway through the school year and a thousand beatings to a brutally murdered horse later, Mr. Maher called on every ounce of self-control in his being to keep himself from strangling Alex’s shit-eating grin off his face.  It was okay though. Mr. Maher was banging Alex’s mom.

Accustomed to receiving a perfect report card, Ms. Richardson must have been aghast to see the bold F in English for her precious son. Not long afterwards, Ms. Richardson invited Mr. Maher to dinner one evening to see what measures could be taken to help improve her little Alexander’s grades. He wanted to go to Harvard, you know. Amazingly, Alex saw huge improvements on his essays and tests. He won the award for Most Improved in English at the end of the year.

With a groan, Mr. Maher called upon the little shit. “Yes Alex?”

“Can we choose our own groups?”

“No. No, you cannot choose your own groups.”

“Why not?”

Because then you would just pair up with your friends and do nothing but fuck off all day. “Because you guys will need-”

Julie’s hand shot up.

“Because you guys and girls will need to learn how to work with different types of people.”

“What if I don’t like the people I have to work with, Mr. Ma-HARE?” Alex asked.

Tough shit, you little fuck. “Very often, usually, if not always, you will not like the people you have to work with.”

“Do you like the people you have to work with, Mr. Maher?” Katie asked.

The young English teacher in his mid twenties sighed as his shoulders fell about an inch or so. “Katie, you’re gonna be in group 3.”