To Sir, With Contempt
October 24, 2012 8:41 PM   Subscribe

British Education Secretary Michael Gove was a dick to his French teacher 30 years ago, so he apologized. The Guardian goes a step further and asks a bunch of writers if they'd like to apologize to their former teachers. To wit: "I was, in fact, incredibly high. So was Pete. Now I can't even remember what happens in The House of Seven Gables, but I learned a lesson that day, just the same. Sorry again, Tim Dowling"
posted by bardic (38 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It's a start but sadly incomplete. I await Gove's apology to the entire British education system.
posted by jaduncan at 8:48 PM on October 24, 2012 [10 favorites]

I never thought I'd say this, but some of those 'apologies' make Gove look classy. And now I shall have to clean myself with bleach. (And have they edited some of them out? I swore when I read this earlier there were a few more in there.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:51 PM on October 24, 2012

“Sorry Miss.”

posted by sallybrown at 8:56 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every teacher I was ever a dick too deserved it. You wanna fight about Mr. Beaufield? Let's fight about it. That's not you teach Early American Literature!
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 PM on October 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Whelk, your typos are delicious in this context.
posted by jaduncan at 9:19 PM on October 24, 2012 [19 favorites]

I think some of my former teachers should apologize to me.
posted by orange swan at 9:40 PM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

Good reading does get you high!
posted by telstar at 9:56 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

When can we get the dick teachers to apologize to us? AMIRITE?
posted by xmutex at 10:07 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

One of the worst things about starting to be a teacher yourself is realizing just how baldly obvious classroom slacking is, from the front of the room. All at once you realize that those times you were "subtly" passing notes, or rolling your eyes at the teacher, or surreptitiously napping? So painfully obvious. I've written a lot of these apologies in my head.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 PM on October 24, 2012 [17 favorites]

I apologize for skating by on my smarts, not actually doing much learning and definitely the minimum amount of work. I essentially threw away the opportunity to get a free ride to university, the value of which--easily seen from lo-these-many-dropped-out-years later--I had no idea. So to every frustrated teacher who wrote "very bright but not engaged in class," I apologize.
posted by maxwelton at 11:02 PM on October 24, 2012 [9 favorites]

Also, I should now marry lobstermitten (on the strength of our complimentary comments)--which will be surprise to both of us and our respective partners, but so it goes.
posted by maxwelton at 11:04 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I do recall behaving very badly as a Grade 12 student towards an English teacher, Mr. Lampard. There were a group of us - nerdy, abrasive boys with intellectual pretensions, who all belonged for the Reach for the Top club. We often made jokes about Mr. Lampard's supposed lack of intelligence, and I cannot imagine why he put up with us.

On the other hand, having taught high school myself, I have to say that Grade 12 students, particularly boys, can be insufferable know-it-alls and snobs, so I suppose he was used to it.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 PM on October 24, 2012

Meh, I can't even express the bizarre relationships I had with my teachers. (No, not that kind of bizarre, you paranoid sickos)

It was cordial enough, but it had to be very frustrating to them that the amount of effort I would put forward was only infinitesimally greater than zero, despite their near constant effort.
posted by wierdo at 11:28 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd apologise to our Physics teacher - Mr Brain. He kept me back in his class for two years. He obviously realised that if I got to the top stream I'd stop working, so he kept me in the second stream where I worked my arse off in order to get moved up. He never moved me up.

I realised that I'd been played and I hated it, but I also know he had a rep for never letting any student fail physics. He was so proud of the fact. When it came to the results day, I asked him (nicely) if anyone had failed. He replied, glumly, that yes. He'd had two failures this year. I laughed in his face and walked off.

The look he had when I did this was a mixture of shock and utter devastation.

I'm sorry Mr Brain. You manipulated me into doing the work, and I've never been able to cope with manipulations. But I shouldn't have retaliated, and I shouldn't have mocked your one minor failure solely in order to hurt your feelings.
posted by zoo at 11:30 PM on October 24, 2012 [6 favorites]

I sure as fuck will not apologize to my high school French teacher. Fuck you to hell, Mr. F*****.

On behalf of my entire class, I do apologize to our 6rd grade math teacher for that one day you came to class with a paper bag and you were going to show us something, and then you told us that your husband made paper bags for a living and we didn't stop laughing for 10 minutes and you ran out of the room crying. Sowwee!
posted by phaedon at 11:54 PM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Dear Mrs Trager,

There is such a word as "cant". It means something like false or hypocritical speech. And the word "can't" is a contraction of the words "can not". If it doesn't have its own entry in your dictionary you will probably find it under the verb "can".

None the less, I am sorry for undermining your inspiring address by insisting on the literal falsehood of a what you surely thought was a common figure of speech.

Yours, etc.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:42 AM on October 25, 2012

Such a silly, cant!
posted by chavenet at 3:15 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd like my teenage self to apologize to my adult self for being so... teenage.

If my teenage self had focused on simple goals, I would have gone to a better university, received better grades, landed a better job, and been a much more successful person. Maybe not happier day to day, because we tend to be about as happy as we are preset to be, but satisfied with having done more with myself.

But my teenage self never apologized to anyone, so I'm not waiting.
posted by pracowity at 3:25 AM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Dear Mr Gove,

I apologise for never having behaved badly to my high school teachers and therefore being unable to empathise with your baffling well-received admission of it. If it is any consolation, I have sentenced myself to a life where I am never able to participate in the popular pastime of swapping stories about how cruel we were as children, using our age as if it were an excuse. I apologise for being able to see that they were human, like me, and as such having no desire to put any effort towards upsetting them or making their job, which was obviously a thankless ordeal most of the time, any worse for them. You are, in fact, just a dick.

Yours cordially, and with five figure student debt, Acarpous.
posted by Acarpous at 3:37 AM on October 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would like to apologise to Mr Nigel Riley. I'm sure what your freshly laundered socks were doing on a table outside the student common room. I wasn't the student who brought them into class and threw them around but I did laugh when you grabbed them and demanded to know WHOSE SOCKS THEY WERE.

It probably was, with the benefit of hindsight, not such a great idea for you to have put name tags on your socks. Although I can see why it might have been useful in some circumstances.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:31 AM on October 25, 2012

One of the hardest things about being a teacher is looking back and realizing just how many bad and/or mediocre teachers you've had in your own life.
posted by Hickeystudio at 4:41 AM on October 25, 2012

One of the worst things about starting to be a teacher yourself is realizing just how baldly obvious classroom slacking is, from the front of the room.

Oh, truth. The first lecture I gave when I started TA-ing was in the very same lecture theatre where I'd had my own first-year lectures, convinced that with 350 people in the audience there was just no way the lecturer was ever going to notice me daydreaming or doodling or passing notes or falling asleep. And oh, the horror of standing behind that lectern for the first time and looking out at the students and realising that I could see every single one of them.

I did as little as possible at every stage in the education system until my final year of university. I must have been very frustrating to teach, but I feel like I'm sufficiently working through my karma now, every time it slouches into my classroom in a baggy T-shirt with a two-week-late assignment and a book for a different class altogether.
posted by Catseye at 4:52 AM on October 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dear Mr. Sawyer,

I am sorry that in Fourth Grade I placed small placard on your desk reading "Warning: Insane Man." In my defense, I did believe you to be insane, and I thought the people had a right to know. I see now that you were not insane, you just had no idea how to tell if water was saturated. For future reference, if there is a thick layer of sugar at the bottom of the glass, the water is saturated. Still, my placing of this sign was an overreaction. Had I known your wife had previously been institutionalized, I would almost certainly have chosen different language.

Yours truly,
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:36 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think some of my former teachers should apologize to me.
posted by orange swan

Agreed. Deciding between the male gym teacher who punched me in the stomach in 4th grade.


the teacher who believed in some off shoot wicca shit and told me due to my low hairline, I was uneducated and stupid. Those with a widow's peak were creative. But I saw her obit so I think the apology is out the door.
posted by stormpooper at 6:13 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

They should also apologize for reminding someone who, thanks to the balm of oblivion, doesn't even remember their name or face, of their existence by another self indulgent bombastic gesture.
posted by nicolin at 6:47 AM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

>the balm of oblivin,

This can't be emphasized enough and may be useful to those who feel some guilt about past transgressions. My father retired recently after around 40 years of teaching, and even though he spent almost all of those in the same, very small district with blissfully (compared to most) very small class sizes, he spent around 35 of those years running into students at the mall and pretending to remember who they were.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:59 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was never a dick or a smart-arse to my teachers. I saved that sort of behaviour for the vicar.
posted by Decani at 9:16 AM on October 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Thresher:

I offer a mild apology for all the times after 7th grade English that me and my two buddies came up to tell you about the "hilariously offbeat" stuff we'd been thinking about during class. Today I realize you probably were putting up with it because you knew that us three were well-behaved and bright and probably bored out of our skulls most of the time, and that you dug our creativity and probably kind of got a kick out of us sometimes, but we probably made you late for your next class -- and I'll admit, the things that twelve-year-old girls who dig Monty Python and Star Trek think are amusing probably....aren't so much so.

My apologies, but more importantly, thank you for your infinite patience -

P.S. - I'm also sorry I got all carried away when I saw you chatting with my piano teacher and thought you were a couple and it turned into this 7th grade gossip thing. I didn't know about your husband.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:47 AM on October 25, 2012

To my sixth grade gym teacher who forced me to do a "chest bump" in volleyball by holding my arms behind my back, and then ater my bra back fastening consequently came undone, smirked knowingly at me when I immediately asked permission to go to the bathroom:

You are a shithead for more reasons and behaviours than I have time to even go in to and you're lucky I didn't tell my mother at the time instead of about six years later, because she was apoplectic.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think some of my former teachers should apologize to me.
posted by orange swan

Here's mine. Not the worst atrocity visited upon me by a teacher, but the one I think I would most appreciate an apology for:

Dear Milk White,

I'm sorry for the time I encouraged the class to laugh at you for eagerly offering to answer my weekly bonus trivia question and, as I mistakenly believed at the time, getting it wrong. In the 17 years since this unforgivable incident, I have had ample opportunity to review many episodes of I Love Lucy, and, with humble regret, I must concede that Ricky Ricardo's nightclub is indeed called the Tropicana, and not the Copacabana as I insisted, with what must have been almost unbearable smugness, during that eighth grade social studies class. Please accept this sincere expression of regret for the subsequent years of classroom shyness and anxiety which may have resulted from my error.

I also regret that I never got to see your Vitameatavegemin girl impression from the previous summer. I'm sure it was very nice.

Mr. Peace
posted by milk white peacock at 2:12 PM on October 25, 2012

Dear Mrs. Dervaitiis,

I'm sorry we gave you a nervous breakdown. I can see now that you didn't derserve it, that you were just completely unprepared and incapable of handling a pack of teenage boys bored out of their skulls and looking for fun. You simply had no place being in front of a classroom, effectively dangling your insecurities about like a side of raw beef in front of a pack of wolves.

I hope you did eventually get better, and got out of teaching. You really were absolute shit at it.

Capt. Renault.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:46 PM on October 25, 2012

Dear Mr. Prior,

When you pulled me aside in the hallway, by my ear, to let me know that there were perfectly acceptable words in the English language other than the one I had used, to express what I had just said, and upon my challenging you on that, advised me to come back once I had graduated university, whereupon we could have this discussion once more --

Consider this my rejoining that conversation of twenty-two years ago, with three university diplomas in hand (which is two more than you had, as I recall). My position has not changed. I firmly believe that the English language is highly efficient, dropping any word with an identical meaning as superfluous fairly quickly. As such, the remaining words have a meaning and value shared by none other. And it is with that firm belief in mind that I now tell you to go fuck yourself, you antisocial fuck. Fuck you forever.

Capt. Renault, B.A., M.A., LL.B.
posted by Capt. Renault at 4:56 PM on October 25, 2012

I do apologize to our 6rd grade math teacher

Goddamn, now that's a typo.
posted by phaedon at 6:27 PM on October 25, 2012

To my 2nd grade art teacher:

I was a weird kid. You I'm sure you knew that.

I am still weird, but to this day I cannot fathom how I got into my head the idea of stealing one of your pink erasers labeled "Mrs. A," covering your name with Elmer's Glue, and masquerading the eraser around as my own.

What I thought was a foolproof plan quickly unraveled. When I brilliantly went to show off my "new" eraser to you (I know, right? Grade-A genius at work here), you rightly became suspicious and asked me to hand it over.

I still remember my disbelief and mounting horror when I realized that you had seen through my plan. Time slowed to a crawl as you burrowed through the layers of glue with your nails, edging closer and closer to my downfall. I wondered how anyone, ANYONE could have the good sense to recognize their own eraser when the name was covered with glue. Who cares if the shape, size and color were the same? The name was hidden, for goodness sake!!!

You never looked at me the same way after that incident, and I don't blame you. Thanks for nipping my fledgling kleptomaniac tendencies in the bud. Judging from my first attempt, I don't think I would have made a very good criminal, anyway.
posted by Kamelot123 at 11:20 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Dear Misters S and S, thank you for encouraging my interest in computers and computer science.

Dear Mr B, it was remarkable that you marked me wrong for writing "4/100 = 4%" on a chemistry final for not showing my work. Percent = "per centum" = "per 100," your conversion factor method be damned.

Latin, motherfucker! Do you speak it?

Even my math teacher couldn't convince him to budge.

posted by zippy at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2012

One of the worst things about starting to be a teacher yourself is realizing just how baldly obvious classroom slacking is, from the front of the room. All at once you realize that those times you were "subtly" passing notes, or rolling your eyes at the teacher, or surreptitiously napping? So painfully obvious. I've written a lot of these apologies in my head.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 PM on October 24 [16 favorites +] [!]

I gave a lecture last week, in a ~180-200 seat auditorium. Back right corner couple all but making out. Pretty much dead centre someone clearly playing games on their laptop. Front row left someone constantly looking out the window (fair enough it was a nice day). I could go on, but nobody wants to hear about 50 odd 18 year olds thinking that I can't see that they're on their mobiles sending text messages. Well either that all they're reeaallly keen at looking at their crotch for minutes at a time.

Now to sit back and wait 30 years for the apologies I guess!!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2012

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