She made us stand up straight and walk single file. (Loved it.) No talking. (Even better.) On class picture day, we dressed per her instructions: coats and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls. (Sadly I did not own a sailor suit that year, or I would most certainly have worn it.) She called us Mr. and Miss, and made us step out into the hallway (though she probably called it a corridor) if we needed to do something distasteful like cough or blow our noses.
Her favorite word—which she drilled into our heads at every opportunity—was DECORUM. We were to exhibit this decorum at ALL times or risk inciting her wrath. On one particular day, a boy I'll call Wyatt Finch did something to set her off, and before any of us were even aware of his transgression, she swooped down on him like a crazed prehistoric bird:
“DO YOU SEE FIRE IN MY EYES, MR. FINCH?” she screamed. “BECAUSE THERE ... IS ... FIRE IN MY EYES.”
My entire urinary tract reversed course in that moment, and to this day, I pee out of my eyeballs.
Oh the glorious terror! So energizing. In the face of her high expectations, I was given no choice but to succeed. Whereas, the laidback, cool, charismatic teachers that everyone loved were always the kiss of death for me. If they demanded nothing, I delivered nothing. In spades.
And while I suppose I could go back to 8th grade with my current brain and achieve a fair degree of academic success, I would still have to sit in front of the punk-ass chump who would raise his hand at regular intervals and insist to the teacher that I had farted WHEN I HAD NOT.
I believe he sells insurance now.
And I hope that is punishment enough.