Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Mrs. Lowmuff


Through junior high I attended school with a bunch of smarties. My theory is that I, being borderline retarded, was thrown in with the purportedly intelligent kids in hope that some of their brains might rub off on me.

One of our resulting privileges from the "smart" label was that we were always a year ahead of everyone else in math. For example, whereas most people took algebra in ninth grade, we took it in eighth.

My eighth grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Lowmuff, was a sadist. She had her reasons for being a total bitch to us, most notably because she had suffered severe back injuries in a car crash which left her crabbier than hell most days. Understandable. Yet not easy for those trying to learn through the hazy mist of her wrath.

Some days were worse than others for Mrs. Lowmuff. One time we suffered her pain along with her for several weeks in a row, when every day she would hobble up to her desk, sit down and say something like "don't any of you dare start with me today. The first stupid question I hear, you'll be out of here so fast your head will spin."

Then she would tell us she was in too much pain to stand up to write on the chalkboard, and would proceed to do so while seated and facing the class, reaching up over her head to scratch out her notes. The result would invariably be a series of unintelligible scribbles that no one dared question. Remember, this was back in the good old days when teachers still received a modicum of respect and cooperation from their pupils.

One time Mrs. Lowmuff attempted to teach us an entire two-week unit in this lovely style. At the end of each unit we were given a written exam, and lo and behold, the ENTIRE CLASS failed this particular test. I'll never forget the verbal thrashing we received from Mrs. Lowmuff when she handed back the papers.

"You all make me sick. From the results of this test one would doubt any of you even know what algebra is. Thanks to you lazy kids, I'm going to have to spend two weeks of my life re-teaching this entire unit. You'll all be lucky even to try to pass the exam I'm going to have to give you at the end of the school year. Good luck, fools. Now let's get started, and if you don't understand something you had damn well better open your mouths."

Damned if you do and damned if you don't. I also admired how she avoided any personal culpability in our failing.

On less heated occasions, Mrs. Lowmuff seemed to take particular pleasure in tormenting me. More than once she made public reference to my particular lack of ability in her chosen field of academia, and whenever she called on me she would say things like "Thomas, please read aloud for the class the first paragraph on page 87. You can read, can't you? At least I've heard rumors to that extent."

One time I lent a book on cat intelligence to my favorite teacher, Mrs. S. One day Mrs. S. said "Tom, I hope you don't mind, but I was reading your book in the teacher's lounge, and Mrs. Lowmuff asked if she could borrow it. I gave it to her; is that ok?"

Of course I wasn't going to begrudge my beloved Mrs. S. anything, but part of my soul died knowing I was going to have to make any extra contact with Mrs. Lowmuff.

Several weeks later I approached Mrs. Lowmuff to ask if she had my book.

"What book?" she replied, her raspy voice free of warmth.

"It's a book on testing your cat for intelligence. Mrs. S. said she lent it to you."

"Oh, that. Yes, I have it."

"Have you finished reading it?"

"Yes, it was very cute."

"If you're finished, may I have it back?"

"Yes."

"Ok." I waited. Mrs. Lowmuff just sat there, no movement, no reply.

"I'm sorry, but do you have the book with you?"

"Yes, it's right here in my desk drawer."

"Great. Can I have it?"

"Yes." She smirked and made no attempt to retrieve my book.

"Ok." I paused. "Please?"

"Yes." Still nothing but a grin. At least she was looking more pleased for a change.

Utterly confused, I slowly got up and returned to my seat.

I'm telling you, there was something wrong with this woman, and I suspect it went beyond her back pain.



Several weeks later I decided to try again. I approached her and asked if she still had the book in her desk.

"Yes, it's still here."

"Well, can I have it?"

"Yes."

I was beyond knowing what to do.

"Well, I've been up here twice to ask for the book. You tell me you have it right here, but you don't seem to want to give it to me."

"That's not true. You can have it."

"Ok."

Nothing.

"When can I have it?"

"That depends. When do you want it?"

"How about right now?"

"Ok." She opened the drawer and handed me the book. "Thomas, you need to learn to communicate more clearly. How was I supposed to know WHEN you wanted the book? You never told me when you wanted it until right now."

???

Maybe she had a point, but still. When I walk up to a food service counter, I guess I'm supposed to say "I'd like a burger, fries and a large Coke - RIGHT NOW, please." I never got the memo explaining that a time frame on expectations must be clearly established upon every possible human interaction.


At the end of the school year we had to pass a final exam in algebra in order to proceed directly to geometry during our freshman year of high school. I studied my ass off for that test; no way in hell did I want to go through beginning algebra a second time.

Mrs. Lowmuff was required to have a private conference with each student to deliver the test score and explain why or why not each student would graduate to the next level. This is what she told me:

"Thomas, you have surprised me. You passed this exam with flying colors. I had serious doubts about you, and even wondered at times what you were doing in this class. You don't always seem to have a lot going on upstairs. But apparently, you have learned something in my class, unless of course you cheated. Congratulations."


I'm genuinely sorry for all the physical pain she suffered, and actually I admire the creative ways she found to take it out on her students.

Nonetheless, what a bitch!

30 comments:

Old Lady said...

Whoa! I hate her! My Algebra II teacher always told me "Everybody is good at something Tymothe. Algebra isn't one of them."

Mother Hen said...

Brawk! I could've done better with my chicken scratch!

Doc said...

WOW! I thought my math teacher was a scar-faced psycho, but I guess that just comes with the territory.
1 math teacher = wacko.

Doc

Splotchy said...

I think you have things mixed up, CP.

I would be surprised if she wasn't already a bitch prior to her accident.

Perhaps the car crash was just God punishing her.

BTW, by word verification was "BIOTCH".

Dino aka Katy said...

well at least she motivated students to learn - even if it was just to get away from her.

Grant Miller said...

She sounds dreamy! I bet all the jocks had a crush on her!

Melinda June said...

I'll remind you of this woman the next time you're crabbing because of your chronic back problems.

hapabukbuk said...

omg. i would have peed myself. i don't do well with mean authority figures. congrats on getting through it!

GrizzBabe said...

I'm speechless. I didn't know such evil people existed let alone allowed to teach our precious youth.

Beth said...

I've been called "Miss Lowmuff" a few times. Think they were trying to tell me I'm crabby?

Beth said...

BTW, send that b*tch a copy of your law degree. And that video of you dancing.

PinkFluffySlippers said...

Holy crap, that's weird and mean, what she did with the book.

At my school, the sadists taught elementary, the pervs taught middle school, and the ex-hippes and uber-nerds taught high school.

jin said...

I didn't know what to write in comments about this one.....

but then I saw Splotchy's "Perhaps the car crash was just God punishing her." and laughed so suddenly I spit coffee on my keyboard so now I can't leave a comment cos I have to clean up.

Bubs said...

Wow. I agree with Splotchy--she was a bitch before the accident. It just goes to show you that, in spite of what Hollywood might have us think, terrible accidents and pain aren't necessarily followed by soul-searching and redemption.

For what it's worth, I always found that math teachers, more than any other teachers, were the worst at dealing with kids who didn't "get" their subject. There just seems to be something in the makeup of math teachers that render them incapable of understanding people who aren't naturally good at math.

The worst combination of all is math teacher/gym coach, but fortunately you don't see that very often.

Flannery Alden said...

I thought this kind of teacher only existed in fiction.

Tenacious S said...

Unlike you, I had a perfectly nice algebra teacher in eighth grade. Maybe if he had been meaner I wouldn't have had to take algebra over again Freshman year. See, I was the kid that was pegged as a "smartie," but it applied only to subjects that didn't involve too many numbers. You had to receive a B+ or higher to skip freshaman algebra. I got a B. And I got a B again the next year. Why do I feel like I failed?

BeckEye said...

Maybe her bitchiness was a result of living with the name Lowmuff for so long, and not so much the back pain. Unless of course you're making that name up.

What makes a person like that even WANT to be a teacher?

Chris said...

My high school calculus teacher had a hook for a hand. He was the only teacher that had a dry-erase board rather than a blackboard, probably because his claw wouldn't accomodate chalk. He was a pretty bitter guy, although nothing like yours. Thanks to him, I aced the AP exam and didn't have to take 5 hours of calc in college.

Dale said...

I've had some incredibly incompetent teachers in my time too and some of them even managed to be quite violent. I'm glad they saved her just for you.

Bluez said...

Sounds like a nun I once had for a teacher in catholic school. No wonder I'm brain damaged.

lulu said...

I had a math teacher/coach combo for algebra; I wrote about him a while ago..worst teacher ever.

My brother used to do that "Now" thing when he was in middle school; maybe all the years of hanging out with middle school kids turned her into one of them, what a bitch. Still, I think I am going to start using that "unless of course you cheated" line with my own kids

lulu said...

I had a math teacher/coach combo for algebra; I wrote about him a while ago..worst teacher ever.

My brother used to do that "Now" thing when he was in middle school; maybe all the years of hanging out with middle school kids turned her into one of them, what a bitch. Still, I think I am going to start using that "unless of course you cheated" line with my own kids

The Freelance Cynic said...

We had a teacher like that. Everything was made better when we made her cry!

Johnny Yen said...

What a flaming, flagrant, piece of shit asshole she was.

Too bad you can't talk to her now:

"It's okay, Mrs. Lowmuff-- I understand that people get cranky when they're ugly and they never get laid."

Doc said...

JY, you crack me up everytime, you rascal!

Doc

Writeprocrastinator said...

"How was I supposed to know WHEN you wanted the book?"

Ah yes, "semantics" are just little ruses that people use to cover up their antics.

"But apparently, you have learned something in my class, unless of course you cheated."

Wow, my teenage-self would just lumped it, like yourself. My adult-self would've said "wellllll, such a considerate thing to say. F**k you very much."

Eebie said...

Amazing how much of a bruhaha this piece spawned ...

The Nurse Ratchet of teaching math doling out the pain. I'm back in school and I tell you, power corrupts all. Give someone a bit of power for too long they will abuse it. This bitch is no different; she had the power and the bitch to pack it up, the auto accident only made her more cantakerous and vocal.

anandamide said...

from a different perspective:
sure, she was a bitch, but in the end you got a pretty great anecdote out of it....

probably worth it !!!!

Creepy said...

How is a creep like me supposed to get past a name like "Mrs. Lowmuff."

You could have written a Nobel or Pulitzer quality piece and it wouldn't have mattered. You've got to change a name like that! Some of us aren't so sophisticated.

jewgirl said...

no, honey, she's not a bitch. she's a raging cunt in desperate need of a cock up her flange.

the yarn is hilar squared. but, oy, to have to suffer that bitch.

what a snatch on wheels.