Three lone strands of hair were all that remained atop of 4th grade teacher Bruce Starkweather’s curious-thought-filled-head. Moving at a pace his body would barely have discerned from rest, the middle-aged pedagogue silently entered the already underway staff meeting and took his usual seat at the end of the completely empty front row. It would be handy for when it was his turn to take the microphone, as was his habit.
Starkweather was a man of banal stature; his belted dress pants sat slightly too high on his waist and his square plaid shirt, impervious to time, could have been from any one of the past three decades. A third trimester middle-aged paunch completed the whole cheesy, ticky-tacky look.
What he lacked in appearance however, he more than made up for in ideas; unconventional and whacky ideas for the most part. Anyone who’d worked alongside him over the years at Eagle Mountain Elementary could vouch for that. The previous month’s staff meeting had witnessed Bruce in all seriousness put forward the idea of a ‘virtual’ camp, when a pandemic-forced month of home learning had cancelled the real one.
His unsuccessful campaign advocating the right of male teachers to be able to glue flowers on thongs to thwart what he alone perceived to be a female-biased dress code still attracted comment a number of years on. Equally giggle-worthy for many of his peers was Mr Starkweather’s practice of ‘muting’ the overly-talkative students in his class with a collection of discarded TV remote controls he’d saved, brought from home and begun keeping on his desk. He’d even labelled them with particular children’s names.
No less eye-brow raising were his outdated ‘flowery’ writing techniques in English classes. These included expecting his students to mimic his ridiculous use of off-kilter similes like “as cold as a mother-in-law’s kiss” (try explaining that to a nine-year-old!). Many regarded him as someone to be somewhat suspicious of if one valued one’s professional standing at the school.
By the time the Principal had finished relating details of a parent complaint about the number of spelling mistakes in the current school newsletter and the various heads of department had each spoken their piece, it was time for the customary invitation, “Does anyone have anything else?” When Starkweather – who went by the name of Bruce but whose real name was Maximillion – rose on-cue, the eye-rolls, barely –disguised sneering and pinched mouths – all unnoticed by him – commenced in earnest.
For the next 10 minutes, with a face lit up like a winning pinball machine, he outlined reasons why the school’s lengthy report card comments would be better converted into easy-to-read emoji symbols. To illustrate his point, he included the examples of a double thumbs-up for the awarding of an ‘A’ grade and a smiling (“to emphasize the positive”) dog turd for a ‘D’.
As he drove home that afternoon, Bruce Starkweather couldn’t help but notice nearly all the intersections he passed through were green lights. To him this was a positive omen; a sign that his latest idea for the betterment of the school was certain, once more, to be a smiley-faced winner.