Robert Kirby: This lazy student never had a lazy teacher

Robert Kirby

My grade school report cards are in a folder my mom kept. Why she bothered, I don’t know. Best guess is for blackmail purposes should I have ever amounted to much.

Hilarious, I know. Flipping through them, several words are consistent in describing my scholastic endeavors as a child — the most common one being “lazy.”

“Bobby does not finish his assigned work on time. Lazy and inattentive.”

“Lazy and disruptive.”

My personal favorite. “Uses profanity when disciplined.”

Nearly 60 years later, I admit to all of these. I was lazy, indifferent, and at times prone to obscenity (like when I got paddled, which happened a lot back when it was considered the right of any adult in charge to lay into a kid).

Despite all of that, I would never have used the word “lazy” to describe the efforts of any of my teachers, including the ones upon whom I wished “scorpion diarrhea,” the worst form of death my young brain could imagine.

A lot of effort was put into finding out why I did so poorly in school. Had I possessed the courage back then, the conversations would have gone something like this.

Teacher • “Why don’t you pay attention?”

Bobby • “Why aren’t you more interesting?”

For me, the greatest crime an educator could commit was being a bore.

Back to lazy, which is a hot button in education right now. During a meeting last week, a Salt Lake City school board member used the term to refer to some teachers who wanted to continue teaching online during this spike in the coronavirus pandemic.

“Online teaching is just a lazy way of attempting to teach children,” said board member Michael Nemelka.

I have no idea if that’s true. It’s certainly possible that lazy teachers exist. There are lazy people everywhere. I should know. Hell, I’m their king. All I can say is that I never had a lazy teacher, including the ones I hated. You couldn’t have a kid like me in your class and not constantly be on your toes.

One evening, my dad and mom came home from a parent-teacher conference with a teacher I loathed. I was understandably nervous — but prepared. I had two magazines stuffed into the butt of my pants and was waiting in the hall, where there was a straight shot to the back door.

When my parents came inside, they weren’t smiling. I fearfully inquired as to how it went.

Me • “Was she mad?”

Mom • “Honey, she broke down and cried.”

The Old Man didn’t flog me. From the look on his face, he was probably getting around to the distinct possibility that he might be raising a bank robber.

That was the beginning of me going to counselors, therapists and summer school until a really smart teacher said, “Just let the kid read. He’ll want to learn then.”

I don’t know about lazy teachers. I do know about effective ones. They always made me want to learn — in spite of myself.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.