Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Mr. Tippet Comes To Town

In high school, I took a sixth period "micro computer" class. I still don't know why they called it "micro computer" when it was obviously a word processing class.

It was taught by a woman named Mrs. Askins. She was loud and Southern and smelled like cigarettes and expensive perfume. She was irreverent and lazy and really about the best kind of teacher you could have for the last class of the day.

There were a few friends in the class with me - not close pals, but folks I'd been in school with for awhile, so we formed a bond. We were smart and lazy and headed for great things.

Until Mr. Tippet showed up.

Mr. Tippet was a student teacher. Almost to the end of his collegiate teacher-training, he was assigned to our class for a semester so he could see education in action. He was short, young and sported a thin mustache. He also seemed to hate children.

Now, you'll have to take my word for it, but I was a pretty good kid. Didn't really break rules. I was following Christ, trying to be wise in my decisions, all that stuff. But Mr. Tippet and I didn't quite hit it off. Primarily, because he was jerk. From his very first day in class, he was sarcastic and belittling to the students. He picked on us, cajoled us, and came to class every day highly aggressive.

I'm guessing that it was fear. He wasn't much older than us, he had no classroom experience and he sitting beside a woman who had survived public school teaching for 20 years. I think he was scared. Turns out...he was.

The day of Mr. Tippet's first lesson finally came around. Mrs. Askins gave him complete control of the lesson, which was either a document in Microsoft Word or LOTUS 1-2-3. Can't remember which.

He was sweating, he was shouting. He was bouncing from student-to-student screaming to make sure we all stayed on the same page. My friend, Eric, who sat beside me, began mocking Mr. Tippet, adopting a Vietnam-era-battle-scene where the commander is doing all he can to keep his troops from getting blown to smithereens.

"Everybody stay together!"

"We will get out of this alive!"

"Man down! Man down!"

"Wright? Wright, come you read me?"

We thought it hilarious. Mr. Tippet did not. He lost control of the class. We didn't learn the material, but the real failure was the lack of respect from the students. He hadn't given respect for two months and then demanded it of a class full of apathetic teenagers. Rookie move? Sure. But there's a lesson there for me.

I'm afraid, I have Tippet-esque tendencies with my kids. I don't listen to them enough. I don't engage in things on their level. I don't give them enough respect. Yet, I demand it of them. And it isn't until both have gone to bed crying and my wife is mad at me that I remember guys like Mr. Tippet. Because I see him in the mirror.

I gotta' do better. Because if I can still remember Tippet's First Lesson with this kind of clarity, how much more will my own children remember these conversations and arguments and failures on my own part.

Fight the Tippet.


Liz said...

What a great introspective, yet funny, blog post. Way to recognize where you need to work on things. That's hard for parents...especially daddies.

I saw someone I didn't like in the mirror several years ago & completely changed the way I parent my kids. And I'm glad I did. We have a super relationship now and I think (crossing my fingers) that they were all too young to really remember the screaming, yelling, freaked out mommy I used to be. But maybe if they DO remember her, their memories will be overshadowed by the mommy I am today.

At least that's my goal...cuz you know, therapy payments are gonna suck if that's not the case.

Robert Conn said...

Todd, you're in danger of being a good man and a great daddy.