Twenty years ago, when I was in the 7th grade at Robertsville Junior High School, I had a social studies teacher named Mr. Charles Napier. He was a short man (I was shorter) whose breath always smelled of coffee and tobacco smoke and who wore dark, wet stains in the armpits of his dull yellow button-down shirt - short-sleeved. Sixth period with Mr. Napier was significant, that twelfth year of my life, for two reasons.
Reason #1: In early fall, we did a group exercise - I vaguely recall it having something to do with a problematic lunar expedition, a bunch of supplies, and having to prioritize which supplies to save and which to leave behind. The first order of business was to choose a leader. I, having done a whole lot of "research" on the Apollo moon landings for my sixth grade TACL class, asserted my claim to the role, being something of an expert, as it were, on being on the moon. I was challenged by a young woman, a transfer from the Catholic school, who maintained that her taking algebra in the seventh grade (when most "above average*" students didn't enroll until the eighth grade) made her the superior candidate for the position. She, of course, won, the quadratic formula being far more useful than knowing about the fucking moon
Yeah, it's as dorky as it sounds, but thus began one of those awkward teen friendships complicated by surging hormones, consummated only in the awkward negotiation of dealing with the stirrings down below while slow dancing at the 8th grade prom and in a classic "first-summer-home-from-college" drunken make-out session.
But back to Mr. Napier's social studies class...
Reason #2: Mr. Napier was big on pushing the study skills. He made us turn in pages full of "bug notes," where bug bodies (central ideas) had legs (supporting facts). His most pedagogically sophisticated trick was a way of demonstrating the efficacy of repetition. Because of this man, Charles Napier, I am saddled with an otherwise meaningless piece of trivia, a scrap of knowledge that is peculiar to a whole generation of children who passed through this man's classroom. I can tell you, with no uncertainty, that the first American officer killed by a bomb in World War I was none other than First Lieutenant W.T. Fitzsimmons of the American Expeditionary Force. A quick Google search
of the name turns up this site
The first individuals killed by the enemy were Lt. W.T. Fitzsimmons, Pvt. Oscar Tugo, Pvt. Rudolph Rubino and Pvt. Leslie Woods. They were killed in an air raid when bombs fell on Base Hospital No. 5 near Dannes-Camiers, September 4, 1917.
Mr. Napier infused this into our skulls by repeating the name three time, making us write it three times, saying it three times... you get the picture. Then he gave us the mental image of pounding on a mattress, having "fits" on your "Simmons" mattress. Clever, huh?
So there's your blog post for the evening. Hope you can handle the unrequitted love and mental scarring vibe we've go going on. Wallowing in early adolescence for a while might be kind of fun!
* Try parsing what that
particular construct signifies at a public school in Tennessee!
Labels: Flotsam and Jetsam