This post is part 10 in a 15 week series sponsored by Mommy's Piggy Tales that encourages women to record their youth.
I dreaded eighth grade. I had nightmares about eighth grade. I knew from the class above me that eighth grade meant having Mr. Campbell for THREE classes, and my class actually had him for THREE HOURS IN A ROW.
Mr. Campbell was that teacher that loved to intimidate you. And intimidate he did. He had the reputation for being scary mean and his classes were killers. Everyone warned you that he loved to fail students and he would require vast amounts of homework and projects and you'd be lucky if you made it to your eighth grade graduation after a year with him. And, like the silly teenager I was, I believed every story, even though my brother and new sister-in-law assured me that Mr. Campbell's bark was bigger than his bite. I entered the halls of my first day of eighth grade trembling.
My 8th grade school picture. My mom had recently told me that my bangs were too high. I didn't believe her - until this picture. See pictures of subsequent hair changes below.
Our class had the distinction of having Mr. Campbell teach us Bible, History and Science. I hadn't been in his classroom many times, but I recall the larger-than-life world poster framed on his wall, with intriguing army figurines adhered all over the continents. He was constantly in the middle of some big project for his room and currently there was a train track that was mounted almost near the ceiling that traveled a circuit around the classroom, even entering a tunnel made in the wall of a closet. And he had snakes. In cages. And he fed them mice in front of the class. You can imagine what a squeamish eighth grade girl thought of that!
My brothers, Kevin and Erik and my sister-in-law, Trena, pregnant with my niece. We are with my grandfather, who died weeks before Trena gave birth.
We entered his classroom with much fear and trepidation. I'm not sure I knew what to expect, but I figured it would be horrible. One hour with a difficult teacher was bad, but the time frame we had Mr. Campbell was outrageous. How would we survive?
As you might have guessed, I was completely wrong about Mr. Campbell. Our class loved him. He was a difficult teacher, with high standards and tough demands, but he was a gifted teacher who inspired us, joked and had fun with us and treated us like the semi-mature teenagers we thought we were. He was fair and outrageously funny, often devoting the entire 3 hour block with us to working on projects. We had more freedom in those classes as eighth graders than I would ever get in a classroom again until college. And I thrived in it. Gone were the days of sitting still in your seat while you listen to your teacher lecture, and in came freedom and exploration and understanding your subject so well that it was easy to retain the knowledge we gleaned.
Christmas 1992 - excitement over a walkman. . . remember those?
Being the silly girls my friends and I were, we often giggled and teased Mr. Campbell. He put up with it good-naturedly, and after we graduated from middle school, we even invited him to our party that one of my classmates hosted. He came with his wife and talked to us for a few minutes before going inside to visit with the parents. We huddled together and discussed the embarrassing idea that maybe Mr. Campbell thought we had a crush on him. I vividly remember thinking that I didn't want Mrs. Campbell (our choir director) to think we loved him, or something gross like that! So we called him outdoors and assured him that although he had become our favorite teacher, we were not in love with him. He laughed and said "good to know" and the subject was dropped.
The next year, newly minted as Freshman, we told the eighth graders what they were in for. We didn't spread the false rumors that he was a terrible teacher, we told them how great he was and what fun they would have and really talked him up. Unfortunately, most of the eighth graders never felt the same way about him as we had. I guess our class was a little bit special to Mr. Campbell and I've always appreciated the great year we had with him.
Mr. Campbell told all of us students that the day we graduated from high school, we were adults and could call him by his first name. Last year, at age 32, when I saw him and his wife at my parent's church was the first time I greeted him as "Mark."