Teach the children well


The year was… oh, wow… was it 1984 or 1985? It was over twenty years ago is the point that matters. I was in high school at the time, and sitting in a history class. The teacher had asked us what we would do if we had a million dollars. What I would consider the usual answers came up from people in our class…

Buy a car…

Buy a house…


But the teacher wasn’t impressed. He thought we lacked vision. He had gone to a big-time college. And he suggested investing it back in the school… making a donation and possibly even having a building named after him.

And that’s when I made a mistake by being a smartass. Bear in mind, all of us in this class had just begun the hunt for colleges and making our future plans. (I’m going from memory, but it is burned into my mind so this is really, really close…)

“Imagine it, fill-in-the-blank-with-his-name Hall at Major University,” the teacher said.

“There goes Major University,” I replied in a loud whisper, eliciting a huge laugh from the class.

I got sent to the office.

Funny thing happened after that. Even though I apologized profusely and fully understood my comment was disrespectful, the teacher started picking on me. And I mean picking on me. To the point that I was convinced it was personal and that he was deliberately trying to fail me. My parents joined me in a meeting with my guidance counselor, but he thought I was imagining things.

Until my mid-term exams.

My history exam was divided into two parts that semester, a multiple choice test and an essay. These were administered in separate sessions. I scored a 90 on the test portion and thought I was doing alright… and then I got the essay back.

It was graded a 39.

A 39 on an essay.

A numerical grade on a high school mid-term essay.

I mean really… numerically grading an essay aside... how do you arrive at a 39 when grading an essay?

Well... I’ll tell you how…

When averaging two grades together, 90 and 39 add up to 129 and a total score of 64.5. The score on the essay was exactly the score needed to make my average a failing grade.

At this point I won’t bother you with the rest of the story that involved giving the essay to other teachers, having it evaluated, and basically proving my point that the teacher was a jerk. I rose above it, went to college, got married and went on with my life. It’s just another example of why I don’t look back at high school with fond memories that often.

The reason I mention this whole story here though is this… an article about the teacher in Pennsylvania that was supposedly trying to teach a student a valuable lesson when he wore a Denver jersey to school one day.

Is the story funny? Yeah… I suppose it’s worthy of a chuckle. But check out these two quotes, one of which scare me:

  • “If he felt uncomfortable, then that’s a lesson; that’s what (the class) is designed to do. It was silly fun. I can’t believe he was upset.” This is the scary one. That’s the teacher, John Kelly, being quoted in The Denver Post (cited in the article). Now, after seeing those words… does anyone believe an apology from him is going to carry much significance?
  • “We’ll take whatever action we need to in order for the student to feel comfortable.” That’s Donna Nugent, the district superintendent. So in direct conflict with what Kelly said, the school offices seem to think that the student might need some help and considerations.

Am I saying this is a major issue? No… I’m not. Joshua Vannoy should recover from this and move on with his life. If he doesn’t get into the college he wants to go to… if he doesn’t get the job of his dreams… if he can’t get into a loving relationship… whatever… that’s his fault, not Kelly’s. Enough people are aware of what happened and are working on it that Vannoy shouldn’t have any troubles sorting out his education and his future. So let’s see him and his family take some responsibility here.

Still… what the heck was Kelly thinking? It’s tough enough being a teenager without getting other kids to join in on the… ahem… fun.

This is a very discouraging story, and I do feel sorry for Vannoy. Because while it should be something he can overcome, he is going to have to do work to get past it that he shouldn’t be faced with.


Originally the article I linked to was found on the Sports Illustrated web site. For the From the Backpack posting, that page no longer existed. As such, I looked and found this one from ESPN. Even has the same quotes.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com