Best English Teacher

by Mark

I recall Mr. Carr as a favorite teacher. He taught 12th grade English with a flare and was very caring. I remember best his emphasis on simple, elegant grammar. Many of us had learned to write long, flowery sentences, but Mr. Carr was unimpressed by our growing vocabulary or our ability to make a sentence longer with the proper use of conjunctions and descriptive phrases separated by commas, like the one you are reading now. Instead, he would have us eliminate unnecessary words. He liked sentences written in active voice. He taught us to break sentences into two, rather than run one on too long. Without realizing it then, I later came to appreciate a great similarity between Mr. Carr’s objectives and the simple style of E. B. White. I’m sure, in retrospect, that E. B. White’s writings guided Mr. Carr’s teachings.

But Mr. Carr was not only memorable for what he taught. He was a favorite for how he taught as well. He commanded respect without ever raising his voice or belittling a student. He held attention with zany antics that he never bothered to explain. For example, he had a very large rock on his desk, and he would pick it up, place in on his head, and hold it there with one hand on top, while he walked about the room and interacted with the class. He would look right at someone, and ask them a question about whatever we were studying at the time, with the rock on his head, and keep a perfectly straight face, as though there were nothing at all unusual about a teacher asking you a question with a rock on his head. Since this happened every day and to every one eventually, the giggling stopped, and the students answered with straight faces and were perfectly serious, as though there were nothing unusual about answering a teacher when he asked you a question with a rock on his head. Everyone quietly loved the irony that we were all engaged in this nutty hoax of pretending nothing odd was going on and being thoroughly entertained by it, even while we knew we had better do our best to answer the question.

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