Bad High School Teacher

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write a story about an ordinary person speaking truth to power.... view prompt

79 comments

American Coming of Age High School

They prepare no lessons, carry no papers, and instruct no one. They spit unrelated facts, regurgitate irrelevant dates, and monotonously spew textbook drivel. They strangle curiosity, stifle a love of learning, and murder both classroom discussion and critical thinking. Most egregiously, bad high school teachers spend far too much time at the photocopier, endlessly printing off soul-crushing packets that teach nothing, inspire no one, and offer no hope. 

Francis Boswell taught World History badly. She knew she did and she didn’t care. The balance of her day consisted of taking attendance, handing out and collecting worksheets, and telling her classes to be quiet. After seventeen years, her paltry paycheck didn’t afford her the goodwill of caring for her students or transmitting culture to a rising generation. She saw herself as society’s babysitter, whose sole duty was to keep 10th graders off the streets. Immediately after school, she left. She sponsored no clubs and coached no teams. She simply scurried to her small apartment, locked the door, and called UberEats. 

“Miss?” asked a student in the front row.

“What.” Francis Boswell barked. She hadn’t finished her coffee yet, and now this? 

“I’m missing page 14.”

Francis Boswell rolled her eyes and gave an oppressed sigh as she slowly moved from behind her desk. She stood, fluidly grabbed one of the other packets, ripped out page 14, and dismissively handed it to the student.

“Was that so hard?” Francis Boswell asked sarcastically. “This is why your generation is so riddled with depression and social anxiety. You cannot solve problems on your own.”

The student flushed with embarrassment.

This emboldened Francis Boswell, ready to take her self-righteous point further. “I don’t know why I have to get up and get you what you need when clearly you are capable of doing so yourself.”

“You said not to get up—”

“Don’t back talk me. I’ll send you to IS now.” 

IS. Internal suspension. A room with no view. 

The student looked utterly crestfallen. 

Francis Boswell muttered about insolence and disrespect while shuffling through the clutter on her desk. Where were the IS referral forms? She wrote several referrals every day, since students were becoming more incorrigible and more unruly. Each year they behaved worse in class and scored lower on standardized tests. She was certain it was indulgent parenting, the bane of her existence. Oh how many parent-teacher conferences had she survived? 

 Finally, Francis Boswell found the correct forms. They were under the tardy passes and clinic intake sheets and other multicolored pads that administration shoved into her mailbox on occasion. Truthfully, if a student just held a colored piece of paper and walked authoritatively throughout the hallways, no teacher or administrator would be the wiser. The whole system was a ruse to give the appearance of order. But she knew, like every other high school teacher, that chaos and anarchy were always just inches away. It’s why she ran her class as well as she did. She had no truck with insolent teenagers who thought they knew everything. 

After 5th period, the lunch bell rang. Finally, she grunted. Francis Boswell made a beeline for the teachers’ lounge. She couldn’t wait to tell her small coven of disgruntled colleagues how she schooled another ungrateful student, one who couldn’t even handle worksheets properly. Oh, how she’d mimic the student’s whiny voice and sad cow eyes. And all that back talk! Rude. Her teacher-friends would all cluck in agreement that parents did not inculcate good manners and respect into their offspring these days. They’d comfort each other in their woes, spooning into their gobs steaming bites of Lean Cuisine, chunks of which were oddly cold.  

The principal dropped by 7th period, bringing with him a very tall young man with dirty blonde hair way past his shoulders. He wore an ironic t-shirt she didn’t understand and looked her full in the face. Francis Boswell immediately took offense. 

“Ms. Boswell, this is Joseph Cooper. His family just moved into the school district. Please make him feel welcome,” the principal added, knowing full well that the best Francis Boswell could do was far less than that. With the teacher shortage, what was a principal to do? He quickly departed.

“Call me Joe,” Joseph Cooper smiled, extending his hand. Francis Boswell pursed her lips at it. 

“Cooper, you sit here,” Francis Boswell motioned to a seat off to the side, underneath the leaky ceiling. “You will need this packet. Pages 11-15 are due by the end of class.” She didn’t give him a second look, returning to her desk to scroll through Etsy and Pinterest. 

“What’s the lesson on?” Joe asked.

“It’s on the front of the packet,” Francis said, not bothering to look up. 

“It just says Revolution,” Joe said, holding up the front page and pointing at the word she had scrawled in her spidery handwriting in black Sharpie. “That’s not a lesson. That’s a noun.” The other students turned, carefully contemplating the new student. 

At that point, Francis Boswell looked up. She put on her glasses to see who was speaking.

“If we are talking about revolutions, we should at least know what type. Are we looking at simply rebellions, an act of resistance? Like Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion? Or maybe a prison riot, like Attica? Or maybe a rightwing militia group taking over an Oregon Wildlife Refuge.” 

“Where is Attica? When did that happen?” another student asked. 

“Which rightwing militia—like white supremacists?” asked someone else.

“EXCUSE ME,” Francis Boswell said, tamping down the momentary enthusiasm. “Pages 11-15 are STILL DUE at the end of class. Mr. Cooper, you can keep your thoughts to yourself.” 

“Revolts are different from rebellions,” Joe said matter-of-factly. “Revolts cause revolutions. All kinds. Nonviolent. Bourgeois. Political. Social.”

“What’s the difference between a political and social revolution?”

“When was the Digital Revolution?”

Joe stood up now, addressing the entire class. “What’s more important than the type of revolution is the method. There’s a big difference between boycotts and guerilla warfare!”

“Right!” said a female student, caught up in the excitement. “And how can one event be described as both terrorism and civil disobedience?”

“A democratic revolution or a coup d'état?” someone else chimed in.

“Depends on which side you're on. Perspective matters,” a boy in the back added. 

Francis Boswell stood up from her desk with a lost look on her face. “What matters a bit more than types and methods,” she said quietly, “are the causes.”

“What causes people to revolt?” a voice asked from the back.

“Well, throughout the eras,” Francis Boswell said, “usually the same old things. Political corruption. Natural disasters. Pandemics. Income inequality.”

“Like when people are afraid and want to take matters into their own hands,” Joe added.

“Exactly, Joe.” Francis Boswell agreed. “Governments clamp down and become more repressive. This only exacerbates the cry for revolution.”

“What calms a society down, so it doesn’t get to that point?”

Francis Boswell thought for a moment. “A seat at the table.” With that, she walked over to a motivational poster on the wall and straightened it a bit. 

“What pages are due at the end of class?”

“I think—” Francis Boswell gave a small smile, “I think I’d like you to just read the passages for tonight. We will discuss them in class tomorrow. Joe, would you like to lead the discussion on Kentucky’s Whiskey Rebellion?”

“Sure,” Joe replied.

“Thank you,” Francis Boswell said, patting his shoulder. “I look forward to it.”


April 04, 2021 23:46

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

79 comments

00:47 Apr 05, 2021

Wonderfully Hilarious.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
00:56 Apr 05, 2021

❤️

Reply

06:16 Apr 08, 2021

Lol, I really want to reply to this, but I have no idea how to. Like :) would be casual and 👍would be weird. Lol, I just love your writing so mich, I dont know what to sau and reply to your comments to, lol.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
08:07 Apr 08, 2021

🥸🍿

Reply

11:59 Apr 08, 2021

*cringe*

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ruth Porritt
07:07 May 23, 2021

YES! :)

Reply

14:59 May 23, 2021

XD

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Valerie June
02:14 Apr 05, 2021

You’re speaking the complete truth. Some teachers, unfortunately most teachers I had in the past, went by the book without any class discussions. We got a packet and had to complete it during class. You're right about how worksheets should be illegal. With them gone, teachers would be forced to teach. The first paragraph was just amazing. That’s exactly how I feel and you just put it into words. My mind was blown. I’m starting to get a hint that maybe you’re a teacher...probably a great one at that. 😉 Inserting good humor into a story is pr...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Niveeidha Palani
09:45 Apr 08, 2021

Now, how did you get third place? Congrats. 🤗

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:56 Apr 08, 2021

I literally have no idea. I was at #25 for a long time.

Reply

Niveeidha Palani
12:02 Apr 08, 2021

And I was around #40. Honestly still puzzled about how I came about 16th place.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Phoenix Langston
00:35 Apr 05, 2021

Wow, Francis Boswell really was a bad teacher in the beginning! Her "teaching" methods and perspective were so warped; it was especially clear in the confrontation with the student that needed page 14. But then "Mr. Cooper" came along and changed everything. He was actually teaching the history lessons to the students and grabbing their attention. I loved every minute of it! I bet he aced that Whiskey Rebellion discussion. Maybe he inspired Francis to become a better teacher herself. . .

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
00:58 Apr 05, 2021

Every class needs more Joe and much less Francis. Discussion is everything. Worksheets should be illegal.

Reply

Phoenix Langston
01:03 Apr 05, 2021

I agree completely. It'd be great if all teachers, no matter the subject, were as passionate and likable as Joe. I'm sure you're one of them. 😉

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ruth Porritt
07:20 May 23, 2021

YES! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Elle Clark
14:16 Apr 09, 2021

Oh this speaks to my soul. The pull to be a Francis is insidious but who hasn’t considered it at the end of a long term? Love the shake up of Joe - wish we’d seen a bit more of Francis’ thought process/reactions to show her shift in thinking and the waking up of her teacher spirit! Love your writing, still, as always. Miss you!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:33 Apr 09, 2021

Lovely Laura!! -- I've been waiting for your stories to appear! Have you posted of late? You are right. The regenesis of Francis would have been useful, but she wasn't worth my keystrokes. I'm over lazy and arrogant teachers. That hypocritically said -- In May, I will be in total Francis mode (movies, group projects, all the tricks to avoid actual teaching...) This school year just needs to end. Teaching all hybrid classes has been a total colossal debacle. (And you can replace "debacle" with curse words.) Sorry to hear about your Queen's c...

Reply

Elle Clark
19:53 Apr 09, 2021

I haven’t posted - nor will I, I don’t think. Busy life, as always. I’ve got a week off next week so I might get chance to write something but 🤷‍♀️ Very much enjoying reading yours again though. Hybrid teaching is still something I’ve managed to avoid, thankfully. Are you still doing it? Considering giving up teaching following it? Hope you’re doing well hybrid teaching-aside!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ruth Porritt
07:24 May 23, 2021

LOL, I am a teacher as well and am familiar with all of the tricks. :) (We just had a major school learning event where the students and teachers worked so very hard to put together an experiential learning day, so I don't feel a bit bad about decreasing everyone's stress levels by doing fun stuff.) You rock, and have a great day, Ruth

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
07:54 May 23, 2021

YAH BABY wooooooooo I think the majority of teachers rock 🪨 Only a few malcontents make us look bad...and bad teachers can be spotted a mile away. That I-smell-cat-pee look on their faces. Perpetual 🧐 look (which is actually my fav emoji...)

Reply

Ruth Porritt
08:01 May 23, 2021

LOL, and catch you later, Ruth

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Neomi Shah
20:25 Apr 08, 2021

History is such an interesting subject but most teachers don't fully grasp the true meaning of it, making it an academic study of learning rather than knowledge. My own teachers in school paid too much attention on learning and explaining the syllabus, just focusing on the dates and events that happened and never really added their own thoughts and opinions to the subject. We never had any intelligent discussions or comparisons between two wars or rebellions. I personally believe that history can be made a beloved subject of students if a l...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
20:49 Apr 08, 2021

Agreed. History needs to be taught by passionate intelligent souls who understand that humans just repeat the same mistakes over and over. There is nothing new under the sun :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Aisa M
15:48 Apr 05, 2021

I love this! Haha! Go Joe!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
21:51 Apr 05, 2021

Every classroom needs lots of Joes. Love that kid. Fight the power!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Keya M.
17:44 Apr 09, 2021

Hey Deidra! Just wanted to congratulate you on 3rd place!! You're one of the most incredible writers I've ever known, and your stories are phenomenal. You're a real inspiration to me. Love, always, K

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:09 Apr 09, 2021

Hi Keya! That's a lot of awesomeness to start off the weekend. Thanks for the kudos. I have NO IDEA how I ended up in 3rd. Pretty fun while it lasts. Always fun to write and kill some monsters :)

Reply

Keya M.
19:48 Apr 09, 2021

:) u deserve it! <33333

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Kate Le Roux
08:20 Apr 09, 2021

He wore an ironic t-shirt she didn’t understand and looked her full in the face. Francis Boswell immediately took offense. Love those lines!!! Former high school History teacher here. But the kids I taught wore school uniforms so could not offend me with their T-shirts :)

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
11:10 Apr 09, 2021

I'm sure you were amazing. History and English teachers are sorely underappreciated. We definitely transmit culture and more importantly give hope... :) Not sure any Calculus teacher can do that!

Reply

Kate Le Roux
12:09 Apr 09, 2021

I am sure you are such a fun teacher. Let me guess - your go-to discipline tactic is to throw super-fast witty sarcastic comments that slay faster than the threat of detention ever could ...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
13:12 Apr 09, 2021

The definition of an English teacher is: one who throws super-fast witty sarcastic comments.

Reply

Kate Le Roux
13:37 Apr 09, 2021

These chatty comments are why you moved up the ranks :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ruth Porritt
07:09 May 23, 2021

YES! I am an English teacher. :)

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
07:39 May 23, 2021

English teachers are the most interesting people in the world 🌍 We are a great tribe 🤓

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Claire Lindsey
20:57 Apr 08, 2021

I read this a few days ago and forgot to post a comment (oops!) This story is so accessible in all the right ways. I love reading through the comments and seeing people talk about their own Ms. Boswells. I’m also obsessed with Joe—there’s nothing better than a deeply inquisitive student to spark some captivating classroom convos, and put that spark back into the teacher, too. My favorite thing is that this piece captures so well the most exhilarating part of teaching, where the kids are the ones charging ahead and the teacher just nudges ...

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
23:45 Apr 08, 2021

Thanks, Claire. I agree. Teachers do best as "guides on the sides". But the "sage on the stage" needs to pop up and give genuinely enthusiastic mini-lectures once in awhile :) Hooray for the Joes. We English teachers love those kids espeically :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Thank you! This is amazing! Never delete them, you are an artist. Have you thought about publishing? Because you have a knack I don't think I have.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:03 Apr 08, 2021

We both have our own styles and both are just great. :) Which story of yours should I read first?

Reply

The first, since they're all kinda related. Also, it's my favorite.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
12:18 Apr 08, 2021

Wonderful and hilarious. I loved it !!!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:27 Apr 08, 2021

YAY :)

Reply

Show 0 replies

Hello Natasha. I followed not for upvotes but so you could tell me about my stories.

Reply

21:34 Apr 08, 2021

Okay I will try to get back to you on that one.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies
14:47 Apr 07, 2021

I loved this story. Your opening paragraph was gem, and rightly captured the theme. I would like to read more of your stories. Would appreciate if you too reciprocatre and read my story. Would greatly love a good writer as you given honest reviews.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:50 Apr 07, 2021

You got it. Which story of yours should I start with?

Reply

15:10 Apr 07, 2021

Thanks for the very speedy reply. I have wriṭten only two as I joined barely a week ago. if you read A Date To Remember... I shall await your views.

Reply

Show 0 replies
15:10 Apr 07, 2021

Thanks for the very speedy reply. I have wriṭten only two as I joined barely a week ago. if you read A Date To Remember... I shall await your views.

Reply

Show 0 replies
15:10 Apr 07, 2021

Thanks for the very speedy reply. I have wriṭten only two as I joined barely a week ago. if you read A Date To Remember... I shall await your views.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 5 replies
Show 1 reply
Cookie Carla🍪
14:35 Apr 07, 2021

Firstly, Ms. Boswell is a literal G!!! I loved how snappy she was, she kinda reminds me of some of my teachers... (not gonna say any names *coughcoughms.snyder*) I do have a question though, what's IS?? And Joe!! OMG he is so me in the classroom!!! I loved his character! Great job on this story!! It was so relatable in a way that I see everyday so yea!!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:49 Apr 07, 2021

IS = internal suspension Land of the lost. Hooray for Carlas and Joes and their intellectual curiosity. It makes a classroom much better when everyone brings their ideas to share.

Reply

Cookie Carla🍪
14:51 Apr 07, 2021

YASS😂😂

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
. .
18:26 Apr 06, 2021

Hey Deidra!! I don't talk with you a lot, which isn't fun... because you're awesome *bows* How's it going?

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
18:28 Apr 06, 2021

Hello, Lit *. What's going on? Which of your stories should I read first to get to know you?

Reply

. .
18:29 Apr 06, 2021

Hey! Well, I dunno... Most of them aren't that good, but I guess Someone Like You, The Enemy, and The Executioner. Also you can call me Luke :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Amanda Fox
14:10 Apr 06, 2021

I am so wildly fortunate to have had good teachers on almost my entire educational path. The ending made me happy - that Francis has renewed interest in her class and students. Yay!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:33 Apr 06, 2021

It’s a privilege to teach high school. Most of my colleagues are truly amazing. A few should find other employment, pounding rocks or something 😑

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Gerald Daniels
19:50 Apr 13, 2021

I'm loathe to admit most of my teachers were a bit like that, but I can't blame them for my rebellious nature. Loved the story.

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
23:31 Apr 13, 2021

Sorry for the burnt out teachers. Anti-role models I guess serve their purpose...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Ann Tillinghast
03:33 Apr 10, 2021

I really enjoyed your story 😊 Sadly, some teachers are like that, but others try their best without the help of the government. Can you read mine and like it if you want?

Reply

Show 0 replies
Ryan Lm Colli
16:31 Apr 08, 2021

THX for folliwing me

Reply

Show 0 replies
14:26 Apr 07, 2021

Love this story. I'm glad Francis became a better teacher, or, hopefully, she did. (I'm a stickler for happy endings😅) I would never be able to do what Joe did. It takes guts to stand up to authority. Yay Joe! Oh, and congrats on third place!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:43 Apr 07, 2021

Third place? This story is based on a youtube video I saw a few years back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3h5jcI-MFI GREAT KID. Definitely spoke truth to power!

Reply

Deidra Lovegren
14:48 Apr 07, 2021

How'd I get to 3rd place? Crazy...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply