Everett Rees was my high school English teacher. The name still strikes fear into anyone who had him. He was Oxford educated and head of the district’s English department. He was also a master contract bridge player and chain smoker. He was unforgettable in every way.
Both of my older sisters had him before me and did well in his class, so when I came along he requested me for his class during my senior year. Apparently he hadn’t bothered to read my academic transcript because I had no business being in honors English, in any school, much less his class of college prep scholars. To say I struggled would be a gross understatement.
The worst moment of my secondary education came when I had to do my first book report. I had chosen to read The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. It was 700 pages of pure misery and I never could stay awake long enough to finish a chapter. As the deadline for the report approached I panicked and read the Classic Comic Book version as a last resort. It was only about 50 pages and it had pictures.
The only remaining obstacle was to pass the oral report. His only question was, “What do you think of Cooper’s writing style?” I couldn’t have been more scared if I had been tied to the chair and put under a bare bulb. As my chest tightened and my mind raced, I finally mumbled three barely audible words, “It………was…………. tedious?” Realizing it was more a question than an answer, I prepared for the worst. All the while he had been thumbing through my book, as if in search of some physical evidence that I had actually opened it. After the longest 30 seconds of my life, he raised his head, peered over his glasses and said, “Exactly.” As a thin smile crossed his face he slapped me on the back and said, ” I don’t much care for Cooper’s writing either.”
As the air began to return to my lungs and my heart shrank back to its normal size, I began to realize who I was dealing with here. This teacher knew exactly how much pressure he could apply before CPR would become necessary. He truly seemed to enjoy his interrogation techniques. I think he even knew I hadn’t read the book but since I chose his exact word he let me off.
The rest of the year wasn’t much better but I was the only kid in all his classes that had perfect attendance all year. I didn’t dare miss class and so for my final grade I was given a D+. I never felt better about any grade I ever got. I learned more about how to think for myself and communicate properly than in all my other classes put together. Therefore, whatever writing skills I may possess I owe to him. Of course, if he was still alive I wouldn’t dare write this. So Mr. Rees, wherever you are, this blog’s for you.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.