The best teacher I ever had was Mr. Tidyman in fifth grade. He was about seven feet tall (or seemed it) and had a comb over which he made fun of all the time and which would blow around in the wind, revealing his bald spot when he played war ball with us. He had an excellent sense of humor, told us jokes and funny stories all the time and encouraged us to be free spirits. He made school tremendously fun. He taught us a ton of math; more math than I learned in all three years of middle school combined. While kids in the other fifth grade classes were struggling with their multiplication tables, he made basic algebra and geometry interesting and common sensical for us. This is how he taught us what reciprocal fractions are:

First of all, he asked if any of us already knew what the word "reciprocal" meant. None of us did, so he gave us a demonstration. He told this kid, Tony Gonzalez, to stand on a chair in front of the class. Tony was wary, but complied. When he had Tony satisfactorily situated upon the chair, Mr. T. motioned to him and said, "This is Tony." Then he said, "Ready?" Tony looked sideways at him and said something like, "Uh-" as Mr Tidyman picked him up and turned him upside down.
"This is the reciprocal of Tony," said Mr. Tidyman as he held the boy upside down about 3 feet above the ground. We all thought it was funny as hell. Tony turned beet red, but he thought it was funny too. Fractions were always a breeze.

Mr. T. also loved literature. He read to us from Poe, Twain, Carroll, etc. He taught us what stuff like alliteration, metaphor and iambic pantameter were and gave us kick ass spelling words. Our very first spelling words on the very first day of school were prognosticate and procrastinate. Some of the stuff he had us read: Flowers for Algernon, Casey at the Bat, The Cremation of Sam McGee, Jabberwocky (He had us memorize this. I still know it by heart), The Secret of NIMH, The Raven, The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. He had us make up our own stories and read them aloud every week. After each student read their story, there was constructive criticism from the class. With an emphasis on the constructive part. Badmouthing fellow students was so not tolerated. He was very adamant about treating others with respect.

Mr. Tidyman had a whole book of weird poems and stories that he used to read to us from. I wish I could remember what it was called.
He had an 8-track, tape deck and a record player in the classroom and would let us listen to music during tests.
During recess and P.E. he'd come out and play with us.

We once went on a week long field trip up in the redwood country (California) to a camp called Silverspur. It was out in the woods and there was a gorgeous river/creek nearby. One day, he took us all out to the river and told us to find a comfortable spot on the rocks. They were huge rocks, smooth and warm. We all laid down, sprawled here and there. He told us all to relax, close our eyes and just listen. We listened. We laid there for around an hour I think, just hearing the world around us and feeling completely at peace. This was about forty rowdy ten year olds, mind you, all lying quietly, absorbing the world. I still remember the sound of the water very clearly. And the feel of the rock against my back. And the complete sense of love and tranquility that he showed us how to tap into.
Ms. B, (yes she has a full name. we never ever used it. in my mind she is always Ms. B) my 6th/8th grade history teacher, stage crew boss, loafing instructor, "bad joke of the day club" victim, new-age guide, and friend.

Interesting, because when i first met Ms. B i was terrified of her... absolutely scared to death. She's a slight woman, an ex-nun with a severe haircut and a fiery temper and a reputation that far preceded her. My first encounter was the first rehearsal for "alice in Wonderland" that the 4-6th grade choirs were doing. I was the 2 of hearts, had one line. On the spur of the moment, as we were running away from the queen who had just said "off with their heads", as i got to "safety" i decided it was *brilliant* acting to stick out my tongue at the guards because i was "safe" then. She *blew up* at me, saying "you're *deathly afraid of the queen. you would NEVER do that!!". I was terrified of the woman for years, and when i heard i had her for history i was about to die...

But without a doubt she turned out to be the most amazing teacher i ever had. Her classes were unusual, and *interesting*. She taught us how to meditate, when studying world religions. She had us take a fiction novel (i did the Silmarillion) and pretend it was a historical document we had, as archeologists, unearthed at a dig site, and analyze and evaluate the culture from the "document". She had us write poetry for homework, and learn basic japanese characters for use in class assignments. *weird* stuff--but i remember these things, and i could not tell you to save my life what i did in 8th grade, say, math. (Most of those years called middle school are a blur...)

Then there was the bad joke of the week club. Two of my closest friends, in typical 6th grade fashion decided we were just too funny for words. So, after overcoming our initial fear of Ms. B, when we realized she actually had a *great* sense of humor and stayed after class every day to tell her truly awful jokes. This stopped when we graduated 6th grade, resumed immediately in 8th, and even to this day, when i see her, she expects a joke from me, and always acts as pained as ever to hear it when i finally deliver the punch line.

Probably my best memories of Ms. B, though, come from my favorite activity period (we had 'activity' periods with things like choir, loom weaving, handbells, and... *loafing*!!) It was the only truly *free* time i got, all of middle school. For forty minutes each week, i was allowed to just let *everything* go and just *be*. One day she had us go outside, lie on our backs and look at clouds the entire time. Another week we played paper football all period. One week she had us lie in the dark while she played soothing music. She would not allow us to read, except in special circumstances, we were supposed to relax, mostly in silence, and just *be*. This "loafing" period, assumed by many to be just a joke, was some of the most quality peaceful time i have had in my life....

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