Growing Up

Mr. Richardson, My Worst Teacher

A couple weeks ago I joined a blog carnival. I know, it sounds remarkably fun and exciting. You’re probably imagining opinionated bloggers sitting around munching cotton candy and elephant ears and playing rigged games for cheap prizes. But that’s not what it is. Really, it’s a group of bloggers who share posts and ideas and encourage one another.

The Daily Post offers ideas for blog posts that help prime the pump a little. One such idea was to write about your worst teacher. So here goes.

Takes One to Know One

Mr. Richardson was the chair of the English department at Kofa High in my hometown of Yuma, AZ. He may have been better suited for a college somewhere, since he was more demanding of his students than most other high school teachers. I had him for sophomore honors English. I immediately disliked him. He was pompous and brash and apparently had a dislike for arrogant sophomores like me—I guess it takes one to know one.

The focus of the first quarter was primarily on Greek and Roman mythology. I’m not sure why I was so put off by it at the time, since I was hardly following Jesus then, but I had an aversion to false deities and didn’t care to read about their ridiculous dalliances and absurd scenarios. I didn’t consider at the time that Mr. Richardson wasn’t encouraging us to worship the likes of Zeus and Athena and Poseidon, but was simply exposing us to incredible literature. It wouldn’t be the last time I had to read something I disagreed with (see my review of The Sacred Meal).

Black and Blue

Mr. Richardson held high expectations for his honors students. One time we were given a quiz to be completed in essay format. Probably three or four questions that we’d write a paragraph or two to answer. My pen ran out of ink midway through the quiz, so I grabbed another from my bag. Unsympathetic to my plight, Mr. Richardson docked me an entire letter grade because I’d used two colors of ink, regardless of my protests.

Looking back now, I don’t know what it was that changed my opinion of him. Maybe I eventually grew to appreciate being driven to write better and read more observantly. Prior to his class, I’d always done well in English. At first I was angry at receiving B’s and C’s, but then I took his challenge and worked harder and was rewarded with A’s.

A Bit Wordy

Mr. Richardson may have been for that first semester the teacher I’ve hated the most, but something in me changed and he became my favorite. I’ll always remember something he said about me, though I’m not sure if he was addressing my writing or my answers and comments in class or both. He said, “Matt, you are a man of many words.” I’m also unsure if it was a compliment.

He never made requirements on the length of an essay. He always said to use however many words were necessary, but he also pointed out that the better writer you are, the less words you’ll need to get your point across, because you’ll know how to use them well. I think Mr. Richardson would be proud if he saw how long my posts were a year ago and where my average word count stands now.

Mr. Richardson pushed me like so few teachers have. I’m a better writer and a better man because of it. He raised my expectations of myself.

To this day, I make sure to carry in my bag two pens of the same color ink.

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2 thoughts on “Mr. Richardson, My Worst Teacher

  1. I disliked Mr. Richardson for the same reasons. I didn’t have him for honor class, but his expectations for his Senior students were just as high. I don’t remember getting anything above a C. My feelings toward him changed when I skated through English 101 w/ a “B” and 102 w/ an “A”. And you might remember, I received a 100% on my rough draft 12 page term paper for my English 102 class. Impressive. All thanks to Mr. Richardson.

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