Lesson 7 – Writing About People

My Least Favorite Teacher

In my fourth year in high school in England, approximating to the U.S. 10th grade, my teacher was a priest known as Father Brendan. From his students of an earlier year, he had been awarded the nickname “Gobbo.” Somewhere in his mid to late 50s, Gobbo sported thinning hair, a large mouth with protruding teeth. When speaking to the class, especially if raising his voice for emphasis or attention, a mist of spittle would emanate from his mouth, dousing the boys seated at the front of the class. Although unfortunate and somewhat unsavory, spittle alone was not the root cause of my dislike for this man.

Gobbo was first and foremost an English teacher and had been for many years. His knowledge of the language and its grammar had been learned in the closeted environs of the priesthood. Over time he developed the sincere belief that he was right. Implying that the rest of the world, including his students, were invariably wrong.

Being a Catholic School within a dozen miles or so of a U.S. Airforce base, there were usually two or three sons of American service families in each class. Ours being no exception. Gobbo took seemingly great pleasure in pointing out at length the inferiority of English usage by our U.S. cousins. Their spelling was wrong, their usage was incorrect, and their word use left much to be desired.  Why did Gobbo do that? He took obvious pleasure in telling anyone, in this case, a couple of American lads, how stupid they were. And indeed, how witless their entire country was. By this time, rock and roll had arrived and was obviously here to stay. Consequently, the sympathies of the students leaned heavily towards the Americans. Gobbo earned no friends.

It could be considered an equalizer that Gobbo was equally dismissive of the English boys. Attempts to show initiative were often branded insolence and punished with a well worn and over-used cane. Condescension, arrogance, and ignorance were the untaught lessons we all learned from Gobbo. Fortunately, most of the boys declined such obnoxious skills when moving on to the fifth year. Leaving Gobbo to attempt to impose his seedy, self-serving will on the next batch of unsuspecting fourth years.

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