I was mostly quiet in high school. A lot of you might be surprised to know that, since I'm an extremely talkative, very social person now. But back then? No. I kept my mouth shut. But I made exceptions.
Looking back now, I don't know how my teachers put up with me. Whenever I had to give a speech, I went so far off the reservation they probably should have all given me F's. Yet every time, I got an A. How is that possible?
In speech class, they made us recite a short-short story or a poem. Everyone found some meaningless garbage no one remembers now to pretend to be into because it described how a flower grew out its pedals. Me? I read Stephen King's "The Man Who Loved Flowers." Yikes, right? In another class with a similar mission, I went with King's "Paranoid: A Chant." That doesn't sound right for any student, right?
In English class, I had to teach the class something about any book. I decided to compare THE STAND by Stephen King (I'm sure you can see a pattern) to LORD OF THE RINGS. Keep in mind, this was back in the day when talking about LORD OF THE RINGS would brand you as a geek, and geeks were not cool back then. I earned the respect of my teacher, but none of my fellow students gave a shit.
I even got the opportunity to read my own short stories to a class, even though they were really shitty back then. Seriously, I don't know how I got away with it back then.
In fact, I forgot about the whole thing until earlier today, and I pondered why I did it. The only thing I can think of is this: my fellow students were not my intended audience. I was after my teachers, but not in the way a brown-nose would want attention. No, I wanted to fuck with my teachers a bit. Maybe even challenge them. Even back then, I knew my tastes were vastly different from the majority.
What I didn't expect was my teachers to embrace me and my odd way of going about things. I thought of myself as an unconventional iconoclast back then. I had no idea that these teachers wanted someone like me to come along. Every teacher has to deal with students who don't give a fuck. They just want to get their minimum-acceptable grades and move on. Teachers, more than anything, want to know they've made a difference in their students' lives. Making a difference is a rarity, at least it was back when I was in school.
So . . . here's my list of teachers who helped me a great deal. Ms. Fanning from 7th grade, who read my stories and encouraged me from an early age (even if they contained questionable material for a boy of 12). Mr. Sibley, who shaped my life more than I was even aware of until now. Without him, I would have become a superficial asshole obsessed with my own dick. Not only that, he introduced me to my hetero life mate, Rob Tannahill. Without Rob, I would not be who I am today. Then there's Mr. Tourney, who taught me how to question everything, especially my own government. And thanks to Mr. Langner, who taught me that writing was more than fantasy fulfillment.
I didn't get to meet many interesting writers in college, but I did take classes with Ron Wigington. He taught me to cut all the bullshit out of my work. He helped me break out of other writers' styles and helped me to find my own.
I'm sorry I was always a cunt in class, from junior high to college, but I like to think I got a few laughs. I like to think I entertained. I like to think I maybe helped someone get through a boring class by telling a few jokes.
But never mind that. I'm supremely grateful to those who accepted my mad bullshit and helped me be a better writer.