His name was Mr. Dick. His first name was Harry. Actually, the spelling of his last name was Dueck; I believe it's French in origin. He emphatically told his students that the correct pronunciation of his name was Dick. Mr. Dick. Yes, he could have chosen to pronounce his name Mr.Doo-eck if he wanted. Harry chose to be called a dick his whole life. That choice tells you a lot about the man himself. Mr. Harry Dick. Being typical teenagers, the entire school called him Hairy Dickhead.
Mr. Dick taught U.S. History my junior year of high school. I knew all about his reputation as the worst teacher ever from my brother and sister who both had been subjected to him in prior years. The stories they recited seemed too far-fetched to be true. If a teacher was truly that bad, he would have been fired, right? My siblings taunted me also, as only siblings can, about the dreaded possibility I might someday suffer a year with Hairy Dickhead myself.
U.S. History turned out to be my last class of the day my junior year. On the first day of school, a pale man entered the room, wrote his name on the chalkboard and announced, "I am Mr. Dick." Mr. Dick was pale skinned, with brown hair grown into some sort of mullet-ish style. He had a walrus mustache, carried a paunch around his middle, and always dressed in nice slacks, a collared shirt, and left a worn jacket thrown over his desk chair. To this day, Mr. Dick is the single worst teacher I was ever forced to endure.
Every single class consisted of Mr. Dick sitting on a stool in front of the class at a podium and reading a chapter out of our text book in his monotone voice. The same chapter would then be assigned to us to read at home each night. It is important to note, Mr. Dick was reading the same chapter six times each day to the six history classes he taught. He had been reading those same chapters for years and years. Mr. Dick fell asleep almost daily while reading to us.
I walked into class each day, stayed for roll call, and snuck out the first moment he dropped off to sleep. Usually that meant I wasn't in class for more than 10 minutes. By the second semester I had found a way to circumvent roll call. I missed 35 days of U.S. History in second semester, but was only marked absent 3 times.
I had an "A" in Mr. Dick's class the entire year. My disdain for Mr. Dick could not have been higher. In true, narcissistic, teenage manner, I was constantly patting myself on the back for outsmarting Mr. Dick, and the system in general. How many people can pull off an "A" in a class they almost never attend?
There was a storm one winter day. I decided to attend class, because the weather was too poor to enjoy ditching. Lightening in Southern California is not a common occurrence, but it happens on occasion. Lightening hit the school tennis courts and was followed with building-rattling thunder. Mr. Dick woke from a deep sleep, pulled out his Bible (public school – no Bibles allowed!) and yelled in his loudest voice, "God is coming!" We were all nodding off too, and he flat-out scared the shit out of us. Mr. Dick went on to read out of the Bible and preach (yelling!) to us his very extreme religious beliefs for the next 20 minutes. That alone was a firable offense.
One day my high school counselor caught me exiting campus when I should have been arriving in Mr. Dick's class. He escorted me to his office, informed me he had watched me leave for three consecutive days and it was time to have a chat. My heart started racing in my chest as I envisioned my strict parents (my mom was a teacher!!) finding out about my truancy. My counselor's name was Mr. West and he was young (in his 20's), very good looking, and fortunately for me, kind. Very good looking being the key component in my mind at the time.
Mr. West informed me that he knew Mr. Dick was a dick, and a terrible teacher too. He didn't think he should be allowed to teach. He also told me I needed to attend class anyway. Mr. West had done some research on me and quoted back to me my high test scores on standardized tests. He told me I was too smart for my own good, I was using my intelligence for the wrong things, and he wanted to know how I circumvented the school's attendance system.
After a lot of hesitation I spilled my guts. After all, it was hard not to brag about how I not only pulled one over on Mr. Dick all year, but also carried an "A" in a class I didn't go to, and manipulated the "full proof" school attendance system. I thought Mr. West was right about how smart I was. I was quite taken with my ability to get away with pretty much anything I put my mind to. Sixteen is the age when you're convinced you're bullet proof and too cool for the universe.
Mr. West was genuinely impressed with my not so admirable accomplishments. Most importantly, he was hot, and that was a very cool thing to my 16 year old self. It's difficult for a 16 year old girl not to spill her guts to a hot, slightly older, man who is flattering her with talk of her brilliance. We talked for over an hour. When I left he made me promise to go to class the next day.
The following day, as promised, I went to Mr. Dick's history class and he didn't fall asleep. Instead he surprised the crap out of me by returning a homework assignment to me with a big red "F" on it, as he did to all 30 students in that class. It turns out, it had come to his attention that we were all writing journals about everyday events on our homework. No one in the entire class was writing about history topics. We had been doing this all year because he never read our homework; he just graded based on how much writing filled up the page.
Mr. West had busted Mr. Dick. Mr. Dick was on probation and I had, unknowingly, provided the very ammunition Mr. West had been looking for to get rid of a teacher he knew should not be allowed to teach. Fortunately for me, Mr. West left my name out of all discussions and never reported my truancy's.
Ironically, Mr. Dick chose me as the only student to be called up to his desk that day. He looked mortally wounded as he told me that out of all his students, he was most shocked to discover I had participated in this "homework scheme". Mr. Dick had a grievously incorrect impression of me. He thought I was a good kid, a focused student, an honorable person. I was none of these things at sixteen.
I looked everywhere except Mr. Dick's eyes and I apologized to him. I told him that "some of the kids" had told me I could get an "A" on my homework by just filling up the page with writing. It had been terribly wrong, but I had been short on time and had done it just this once and omigodiamsosorry Mr.Dick. Mr. Dick forgave me. He said he was disappointed in me, but it had only been this one time and he knew I was a good kid.
I, of course, had been filling my homework out the same way the entire school year. I was personally responsible for teaching all the other kids how they could get away with doing what I did. In fact, I had taught all of Mr. Dick's classes to write personal journals on their homework each night. I was a leader even then, heh.
Mr. Dick ended up losing his job, but it didn't happen for awhile. I think he taught for one more year, while on probation, before they got rid of him. Sometime soon I'll tell you how Mr. West went on to singlehandedly turn my semi-delinquent life around. You should know one more thing about Mr. Dick though. He had a daughter. Her name was Rosie. I'm not even kidding.