When she wasn’t vexed, she was appalled. And sometimes she was vexed and appalled at the same time. This was not an uncommon state for my second grade teacher considering the misery we apparently instilled in her life. But the problem wasn’t so much that we left her vexed and appalled but that we had no idea what those words meant.
I was thinking about Mrs. Kinsler recently as the new school year rolled around and I realized that as much as I had despised Mrs. Kinsler (and she, us), I at least had to credit her for helping to significantly expand my vocabulary. She not only taught me the words vexed and appalled, she also taught such advanced words as “cretin” (as in “you miserable little cretins”), “ignoramus,” (“you are such an ignoramus, you must have been dropped on your head as a baby”), and “exasperated” (how she felt when she wasn’t vexed or appalled). So, apparently, we were cretins and ignoramuses and she was often vexed, appalled and exasperated by this fact. Although I didn’t know what the words meant at the time, I was not so much of an ignoramus that I couldn’t infer that she hated us. It was, in all, a delightful way to go through second grade.
While I’m not confident that Mrs. Kinsler was Roald Dahl’s inspiration for Mrs. Trunchbull in the book “Matilda,” I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t have a lasting effect on more than one child who, in addition to having their vocabulary expanded, ended up having years of therapy. She was that awful.
For me, the breaking point was what I will always remember as the Great Oreo Cookie incident.
Mrs. Kinsler insisted that we take turns bringing in a snack for the whole class for snack time in the afternoon. That would have been fine if not for the fact that she rated our snacks. Most kids got a “Good” or “Very Good” rating on their snack, especially if it was homemade. Only one kid got an “Excellent” and it was no surprise that he was the teacher’s pet – the only child in the class who neither vexed nor appalled Mrs. Kinsler. He brought in Hydrox. I have to admit, Hydrox were good but were they better than the chocolate chip brownies that my friend Karen’s mother had made? I think not. Still if Brian could get an Excellent for his Hydrox, than I would go him one better. I brought in Oreos. Everyone knew they were essentially the same thing so I thought I was a shoe-in for an “Excellent.”
Mrs. Kinsler got the class into our usual snack time circle. I distributed two Oreos to each member of the class. Mrs. Kindler took four. Then five. Then she took a sixth. I thought this was a great sign. At the end of snack time, we all held our breath for the pronouncement.
“Tracy, this was an enjoyable snack,” said Mrs. Kinsler. “But I have to give you a ‘Fair’ for lack of originality.”
No other student had ever received a “Fair” in Mrs. Kinsler’s class. I was devastated. As far as I was concerned, I failed snack time.
I held it together for the rest of the day and then burst into tears when I got home. When I finally hiccupped my way through the story for my mother, I could see the anger all over her face. The parents knew about snack time, but they knew nothing about the rating system. My mother was really vexed, and now, Mrs. Kinsler, was about to become really, really appalled.
The next day as I sat in class, I happened to glance out the door window just as my mother stormed by. Moments later, Mrs. Kinsler was paged to the principal’s office. When she returned, she was red up to her ear lobes and could not look me in the face. I wasn’t sure what had transpired, but I thought I was either going to sail through second grade from this point on, or they were going to find my dead body under the train tracks. I was OK with either option.
From that day on we had no more snack time, and no one except Mrs. Kinsler and me knew why. Aside from that, life in our happy class returned to normal. Then, just before Back to School Night, The PTA sent home a letter and asked the parents to bring in snacks for each of their children’s classes.
My mother thought for a minute, and then went to the store and bought a box of Oreos.
©2015, Beckerman. All rights reserved.
“Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir. How I Got Pregnant. Lost Myself, and Got My Cool Back in the New Jersey Suburbs” makes a great gift!! To get a copy for you or a cool mom you love, CLICK HERE