The Teddy Bear Dance
Really, I’ve only encountered two teachers who out-and-out, openly disliked me. One, of course, was a math teacher; this only makes sense as I was a terrible math student, both in terms of any natural ability or desire for mathematical thinking. The other, however, was my eighth grade English teacher, Mr. Andrews.
This evening, at the coffee shop, I saw someone that looked just like him, only in a younger version than my eighth grade memory issues, and I began thinking about the man.
He was ancient looking in that Hollywood way, even then, with a face full of carefully placed wrinkles, all aligned in symmetry. His wavy hair was gray, to match his skin and often his clothing and outlook, shirt tucked tightly into his pants, which sat entirely above his waist. It's funny though; beneath it all, there was a bit of a boyish look to him, particularly when he smiled, pushing his wrinkles high to his eyes. I wonder if he is still alive.
Eighth grade brought with it an attitude; I pierced my ear, listened to loud, poorly composed pop music and hip hop (think Onyx, Warren G, and the occasional pop punk band) and truly began to appreciate a girl's form -- and in particular, made the important discovery that classmates' chests were expanding outwardly. I had an open disrespect for Mr. Andrews, one that in retrospect, I regret to a small degree. At least his contempt for me was more subtle.
He was so antiquated in appearance and mannerisms, it seemed that he was always moments away from retiring and when he discussed turn-of-the-century American literature, I envisioned him first enjoying the titles as new releases. He was a graduate of Harvard and I would often try to imagine him in college. While I could flatten the wrinkles in my mind, I could never find another color for his wavy hair other than gray and it was awkward to think of him at Harvard mixers, mingling with the ladies of Radcliff or Wellesley, old before his time.
I used to think of his career choice as a waste of his Harvard diploma. Ironically, with half the degree of his, I've come to consider a career in teaching English, or at least, it remains in the back of my mind.
As a sort of reward for good behavior, he often promised to do the "Teddy Bear Dance." It was a mythical entity that, despite our aloofness to both Mr. Andrews and life at the time, we all desperately hoped to see. We never did. We were a terrible class. In fact, we once had a field trip cancelled that all of the other eighth grade teams (essentially, three sections) attended because we were such rude anuses. I remember our history teacher telling us that "We didn't deserve to go on a field trip around the rotary," referring to the traffic circle that sat in front of the school. (Incidentally, we called him "Mr. LeQueer," instead of Mr. LeClair and he looked just like that British television dude, Mr. Bean.)
I still wonder what exactly that Teddy Bear Dance looks like. Regardless, I hope that Mr. Andrews is still performing it, for the right audience, anyway.