I graduated from a really small, rural high school in Idaho. 14 people in my graduating class. It was the sort of school where they didn’t offer foreign language, math beyond Algebra 2, or science classes with labs. But, they did have sports.
The history teacher was primarily there to coach junior high football and high school basketball. Every single day for history class, he would tell us “bring something to do”. We never cracked the textbook at all. We should have been learning US History – Revolutionary War, Lincoln, World War II, Civil Rights Movement, Cold War… we didn’t cover a single thing all year. Best of all, when it came time for an end-of-semester exam that would be reviewed by the superintendent, he would pass out a test and then write the answers on the board. “If you’re an A student, go ahead and get everything right. If you’re a B, miss a couple. If you’re a C student, get about 5 wrong.” (This is the part that makes professional teachers rise up out of their chairs and offer to contact the state board of education to have his credentials revoked.) All that time, all that pay, when he was supposed to be doing his job, he took a break hour at the cost of our educations. Professionally, this is like a major fail on the job – like a doctor treating patients with sugar pills, a contractor pouring concrete but refusing to use rebar, or a cop spending the day watching Netflix in the patrol car. For 180 days he showed up and refused to do his job, then created fake evidence to make it look like he was acting like a licensed professional. He “taught” history classes to all students in grades 7-12, and he was pulling similar stunts in every single class. All other teachers in the school would get periodic “audits” – teachers from other school districts in the state would come review lessons plans and observe classroom behavior. For some reason, the coach was excused from these reviews. Complaints to the administration fell on deaf ears.
About 2.5 months later, I was hired as a mall Santa about 20 miles away. It is a harder job than you might imagine – frisky teenage girls, idiot boys, crying children, and pure greed. Most kids would come sit on my lap and tell me about the 15-39 items they wanted for Christmas. I’d pull out my deepest voice and stroke my beard, then look them in the eye and say “Well, I don’t know. I’ve been keeping my eye on you, and I have some concerns. Your room needs some attention, you could keep the complaining down when it’s time to eat your vegetables, and (if siblings were present) you have been fighting with your brothers and/or sisters entirely too much.” Kids look shocked , like they’ve been caught doing something naughty. “I’ll tell you what – you work on those things, and help Mom when she needs it, and we’ll see what we can do.” Parents would stand there nodding, saying “You tell’em, Santa!” Give the kid a mini candy cane and send them on their way. No promises made, maintain the magic, and try to get some good behavior out of the kids.
Well, one Saturday afternoon, this old history teacher comes and gets in line with his 6-year old boy. They eventually get to the front of the line and the kid takes a seat on my lap. “I want Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a Nintendo, and a fire truck, and a bike, and, and, and, …..” I looked at him and stroked the fake beard, then asked “You really have been a good boy this year, haven’t you?”
“Tell me something – do you have a pony?”
“Well, I think Santa needs to bring you a pony. You can ride him to school and feed him apples and carrots. All your friends will want pony rides at recess. Tell me, what are you going to name him?”
“Do you have a BB gun? Santa thinks you need a BB gun. How about a trampoline?”
The teacher/coach got wide-eyed and butted in – “Now, hold on a minute, Santa.”
“You stay out of this, Tom. This is between me and your little boy here.”
Tom didn’t recognize me with the beard, fake eyebrows, and padded jacket. I went back to the discussion with the little boy on my lap.
“Remote controlled car? Computer for your bedroom? Bow and arrows? Maybe a cart for your pony to pull?”
I promised the kid everything I could think of. Finished it up with “You will see all of that under your Christmas tree on Christmas, okay? Just make sure your dad doesn’t get up early and hide it all from you because he might get jealous of all your cool stuff. And figure out where you are going to build the stable, and where you’re going to park your dirt bike.”
The little boy had the biggest grin on his face. I handed him five candy canes, told him to keep up the best behavior of all the kids in the world, and sent him on his way. The dad/coach/teacher kept looking at me, trying to figure out where he knew me from or what he could have ever done to incur my wrath. I waved with a friendly “See you later, Tom!” and took the next kids in line.
I sometimes thought about stopping in at his summer job stocking shelves at K-Mart to explain why I’d done what I did – that it was payback for him screwing over the education of every student in the district, grades 7-12. But I’d prefer to think of him just stumped for the rest of his life, wondering what he’d done to earn Santa’s Revenge.
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