School DazePosted: April 3, 2013
You asked about people’s reaction at school after Tim was murdered, and my experience was pretty much the same as yours: I was a sophomore in high school, and none of my teachers or coaches spoke to me about it, even to express their condolences. My counselor never called me down to his office or even spoke to me. In a way, this didn’t really sink in during the first few days after I went back to school. I think I was in shock, at least to some extent; it was hard to concentrate and I was even unsteady walking in the hallways. The lights seemed to have an aura around them and nothing seemed to be at right angles; it was walking in a funhouse.
A few weeks later a friend’s mother was in the hospital for an operation. I saw my friend’s counselor come up to him in the hallway, put his arm around him, and ask him how he was doing. The counselor invited him to come down to his office anytime if he was having any problems at home or difficulty in class. I remember thinking, what the fuck — my brother got kidnapped and murdered, and my counselor didn’t say a thing. Did that mean we had done something wrong? What could that be? More than a decade later I saw an article in the local paper in which my 10th grade counselor was named guidance counselor of the year or something. Jesus.
My math teacher, Mr. Kish, actually penalized me for the work I missed. The course was the honors level geometry course, and it was very difficult. I missed the better part of two weeks of school while Tim was missing and during his funeral. The day I returned, there was a test. The stuff on the chalkboard looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics and I got a D. Then the guy gave me a D for the entire marking period. I’d never even gotten a C on a report card before. I went to see him after class with copies of all of my tests — one A, several B’s, and the one D — and asked him why he’d given me a D for the marking period. He told me he’d given me zeros for the two tests I missed entirely. He then berated me for not following up with him about the work I missed.
While none of my teachers ever spoke to me about the killings, there was one who mentioned them in class — Mrs. Ball, a worthless husk of a person who pretended to be an American history teacher. The course was called “Frontier and Western Movement,” and it consisted of reading one chapter of a very dry textbook every night, copying down the study questions and answering them in longhand on notebook paper. These sheets were handed in at the beginning of class, and this homework counted for a third of your final grade. Then the teacher would ask the same exact questions orally, picking people at random, and students had to answer from memory with their books closed. The oral answers counted for a third of your grade, and the exams accounted for the final third.
The course was so boring I basically used it as a study hall and did homework for other classes. One day during her Socratic Q&A she said to me, “There are no open books allowed during the questions.” I held up my book, said, “This is my math book,” and got back to work.
Up until that point I don’t think she had ever asked anyone more than one question during the same class period, but that day she asked me the next seven or eight questions in rapid succession. I assume she wanted to embarrass me for not paying attention, but since I’d just read the chapter and written out the answers the night before, I pretty much had the material memorized. She rattled off a bunch of questions, but I had the answers just as quickly. “Daniel Boone.” “The Cumberland Gap.” “The Louisiana Purchase.” “The Oklahoma Territory.” “The Trail of Tears.”
She eventually gave up and returned to the front of the classroom to read aloud about Daniel Boone. Still visibly angry, she paused, swatted the Map of the United States with a big pointer and hissed, “Daniel Boone put Kentucky on the map like the Oakland County Child Killer put Oakland County on the map.”
A couple of people gasped audibly. I should have walked out of the classroom and straight to the office or at least said something in reply, but I chickened out. I just kept doing my homework and pretending it never got to me. I’m still ashamed of that. But I’ll always love one very pretty girl who shook her head and scowled at the teacher for the rest of the period.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I was a huge wisenheimer, but there’s someone who had no business being a teacher. It was bad enough that almost no one even acknowledged the tragedy, but to use it to try to hurt a member of the victim’s family — a minor — seemed as unconscionable then as it does now.
Sent to me by my brother Chris.