Dreadful English Class: And You Thought Yours Was Bad

June 27, 2008
By Angie O'Brien, Wauwatosa, WI

My teacher told me I should write a letter. “Express your feelings,” she said. “Let the world know what you think! Combine the ink of the pen with the white of the paper, and together, you can do great things!” She said this with much waving of the arms, and skyward looks up to whatever gods she worships.

But that’s just the way Mrs. Marshfield is. Personally, I think she wanted to be an actress, but once it was apparent that she was no good at that, she decided to become what she would call “the next best thing”: a eleventh grade English teacher in a suburb of Chicago.

She’s not normal, Mrs. Marshfield, by any meaning of the word. Imagine that crazy weirdo drama teacher from High School Musical (you know the one I mean. The one with the size twenty dress-like things and five hundred veils, sashes, and gaudy pieces of 50’s jewelry) and combine her with an overweight belly dancer, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. That’s how she dresses on a “regular” day. You can’t even imagine what it’s like on Halloween.

And it’s not just her that’s the problem – wait – actually, it is her that’s the problem. Other “normal” Junior classes read Shakespeare’s Othello, or define basic vocabulary terms. I would have killed to be in that class.

Oh, no. Mrs. Marshfield doesn’t believe in “that wishy-washy nonsense the Board of Education makes young people suffer through” (imagine your grandmother saying that, and you’ll get the picture). What she believes in is “rhythmic poetry”, and “freedom journaling”, and “literary role-playing”.

“Oh, that’s not that bad,” you may be thinking to yourself.

But let me tell you something. It is that bad. Because by some ungodly fluke, I ended up being the only self-respecting boy in my class. Note: I’m not the only boy; I’m the only self-respecting boy.

I am a man. Men don’t sit around writing poetry, or acting out girl parts in some play that’s half in French from like the twelfth century.


Men do manly things like playing football, or watching football, or talking about football. Men do not sit amidst a gaggle of misty-eyed bookwormish girls (you know the one’s I mean. The ones who preorder their favorite books, and write novels for fun, and discuss books among themselves when their finished reading them. Those kind of girls.) and talk about ponies and fairies and whatever else they go on about.

So, I simply do what all self-respecting me do when told to do something stupid by a female: nod, go “Mmmm.”, and ignore it. It works every time.

Or so I thought.

The first assignment I refused to do was to personify the feeling of “love”.

Man translation: write a bunch of gooey, sappy crap you’d most likely find in a girl’s diary.

The girls were all over that one. It was, “What are you going to write about, Caitlin? Your love and appreciation for nature? What a wonderful idea!” And, “Oh my gosh, Susie, that was just about the sweetest thing I have ever read! I think I’m going to cry!”


But it gets worse, see, because then they all turn to me (because they all have stupid little crushes on me. You know what I mean: the batting eyes, the girlish laughter, the blushing if you even so much as look at them.) and go, “Oh, Allan, what are you going to write about? Something romantic? Something for that special someone?” And, “You should pour your heart out, Allan! Do you want to read mine? It’ll help you! No, wait! I’ll just read it out loud to you, that way you can get a feel for the rhythm and emotions!”

Double ugh.

Then, would you believe it, when I told them to go away, they ran to Mrs. Marshfield and it was all, “Oh, Mrs. Marshfield, Allan won’t do anything in this class, and it’s just so boring when one member of the group isn’t having as much fun as we are!” All with rising levels of voices and flapping of the hands.

I thought Mrs. Marshfield would just encourage me to do to the assignment, and nag a little.

Oh no.

Turns out, that was merely wishful thinking. She made it her personal goal to set out and “teach me the wonders of the gift of English, and how beautiful metaphors can come together to create a soothing work of literature that people all around the world can appreciate.”

Translation: she was going to make me do extra work that nobody else in the class had to do.

So that’s how I ended up spending my lunch hour every day for the entire first quarter of school sitting alone in her classroom working on “appreciating literature” or whatever.

Today it went like this:

Mrs. Marshfield: What is it you like to write about, Allan?

Me: I don’t like to write.

Mrs. Marshfield: Let’s try again: what do you like to read?

Me: I don’t like to read.

Mrs. Marshfield: Oh, don’t be ridiculous, Allan, everybody likes to read.

Me: Well not me.

Mrs. Marshfield: Well, what do you like to do?

Me: I dunno.

Mrs. Marshfield: ‘I don’t know’, Allan, not ‘I dunno’. We’ve had 4 million years
of evolution. We don’t speak like cavemen.

Me: …

Mrs. Marshfield: What do you typically spend your weekend doing, Allan?

Me: I don’t know. Watching football, I guess.

Mrs. Marshfield: Do you like watching football?

Me: I guess. Bears are pretty good this season. Could go all the way.

Mrs. Marshfield: (hands me a piece of paper and a pen) Write about that, Allan.

Me: What, the Bears?

Mrs. Marshfield: Why not? You like them, you spend time watching them. They
should be something to celebrate! Something to personify! Something to describe!

So, now I’m sitting here at this desk writing about the Chicago Bears.

Mrs. Marshfield encouraged me to write it like a letter. Some weird way to express personalization, or whatever. I don’t really care. I do it so she’ll pass me and I’ll be able to leave her class forever.

I look down at the lined piece of loose leaf. What should I start it with? ‘Dear…someone?’ Who would I even write this stupid letter to?

I tap my pen in frustration. This is so stupid. Who starts a letter off with ‘Dear’, anyway, apart from little old ladies writing to friends that they haven’t seen in fifty years?

No, I need something catchier.

‘Hey…’ No. That wouldn’t work either. That would make me sound like some girl inviting her friends to a tea party. “Hey, Megan! Just finalizing our plans for that party! You’re going to bring the napkins, right? And Linda said she would get the china cups.” See what I mean?

‘What up…’ That worked…except it wasn’t “proper English”, and changing it to “what’s up?” would make it sound like that first frosty greeting you get from your ex-girlfriend a week after you dumped her.

I needed something manly! Something demanding! Something that at least tried to be original.

I put the pen down. I would come back to that. Right now, I would brainstorm.

But what could you possibly say without sounding like some desperate loser fan? And who would I even address it to? I wasn’t very well going to send this off to Soldier’s Field so Rex Grossman and Adrian Peterson and the rest of my Chicago idols could laugh at me, and read my letter over the loud system, so everyone could hear it at the next game.

That thought made me pause. The game. This Sunday. Chicago vs. Green Bay. First meeting of the 2008/2009 season.

Suddenly, I knew where I was going with this letter.

I wrote all lunch period, surprising myself. It wasn’t good, but whatever. I don’t want to write good, I just want to fill the page with “my thoughts”, turn it in to crazy Mrs. Marshfield, and get out of there.

The next day, when I woke up, a blackbird landed on my windowsill.

I should have taken it into account. I should have been like the Greeks: when there was a big battle and a raven flew overhead, they took that as a bad omen, and they all went home to snuggle up and read a good stone tablet or whatever.

When I saw that blackbird, I should have just went back to bed and grabbed the first stone tablet I could lay my hands on.

But I didn’t. I went to school.

And that’s how I found myself sitting in third period English, in a slight doze, while Mrs. Marshfield said, “Class, I’d like to pass around a very…unique piece of writing that was turned into me, that I thought demonstrated excellent point of view, and a thorough basis of fact and rivalry…”

I stifled a yawn. Blah, blah, blah…

Thinking back on it, I realized that I should have seen it coming. I should have known Mrs. Marshfield would pull something like that on me. In fact, I was stupid not to have seen it coming.

But I sat there, dumbly stupid, while Mrs. Marshfield passed out the piece. Until I got mine and looked down at it in horror. It was my letter.

She had photocopied my letter and had passed it out and now was going to use it as some literary lesson.

I raised my hand. “Mrs. Marshfield, can I go to the-”

“No, Alan, now be quiet, and you might learn something.”

I could only look down at my suckish letter, face burning with humiliation, and reread what I had wrote.

Attention All Green Bay Packer Fans!

Ha! And again, HA! No more Brett Favre! Aww, it’s a sad season in Green Bay right now, isn’t it? I know your record. Two and five. What a joke.

Ah well, I guess somebody has to lose, right? Might as well be you guys.

This is just your friendly little reminder of what’s to come this season:

NFC North Champion: Chicago Bears

Playoff Clincher: Chicago Bears

Superbowl Favorite: Chicago Bears

Superbowl Finalist: Chicago Bears

Superbowl WINNER: Chicago Bears

Wait, there’s one more stat I’ve forgotten:

Bottom of Division: Green Bay Packers

Actually, I don’t know why everyone’s making such a big deal now that Brett Favre’s retired. He was with you guys last season, and we beat you both times. Embarrassing, wasn’t it?

So, here’s to the Chicago Bears, who with Rex Grossman and company will utterly demolish the NFC North division, and become the NEW ‘Powerhouse of the North’.

To further let you in on a little secret, Donald Driver: overrated. Guy can’t catch a ball if it was thrown to him by a four year old.

Ryan Grant: fumbler. Remember those dropped carries against Seattle this year in the Playoffs? Get used to them. You’ll be seeing some more.

Mike McCarthy: idiot. Guy couldn’t coach a team if he was given easy step-by-step directions.

Al Harris: slow. He can’t figure out which way the guy is going, let alone cover him.

The Bears will emerge victorious, and here in Chicago, we’ll have a new song: GREEN BAY STILL SUCKS!!!!

The Football Population of Chicago

As if it could get any worse, Mrs. Marshfield read it. Out loud. To the class. Remember how I told you she wanted to be an actress? Yeah. She acted it out. Imagine a pissed off thug outside a club, and a bad sports announcer put together, and that is what Mrs. Marshfield sounded like.

I remember at one point, just trying to laugh it off, you know, to be cool. But then Mrs. Marshfield started using her “hateful voice”, and I just put my head down on the desk.

There was laughter. Oh yes. From the few who actually understood football. The rest came from how ridiculous Mrs. Marshfield looked and sounded.

When it was all over, Mrs. Marshfield said, “There now, class, is a young man who appreciates literature. Mr. Allan, this was simply superb.”

More snickers.

“Class, your homework will be to write a thoughtful page, in letter format, in response to Allan’s letter. Let the creativity flow! Think about the words he used, the feelings he was trying to create.”

The good thing that came out of that, I guess, was that I didn’t have any homework.

Later, when I was reading the letters (mostly just skimming through them. Most were from girls who didn’t know one end of a football from another, and were just trying to suck up to me to get me to like them or something) I came across one I found interesting.

Attention All Chicago Bears Fans!

You have been misled! Your team has been covering up their tracks for centuries; overstating their achievements to make them sound more ‘macho’.

It is true! We Packers may no longer have Brett Favre, the greatest quarterback of all time, but let me point out this fact to you: in seventeen years Green Bay has had one quarterback, while Chicago has had over twenty. Something’s a little wrong there, don’t you think?

Oh, and how about a status report?!

Rex Grossman: crybaby. When he’s not sitting out because he’s injured, he’s throwing five interceptions a game and getting booed off his own field. Remember that one?

Adewale Ogunleye: wannabe. When are the Bears gonna see some real defense?

Adrian Peterson: idiot. Most running backs run around their own players, not into them.

So there you have it! Common misconceptions! Lies!

Green Bay will be victorious this season. According to the experts, we have the best offense in the NFL, and Mike McCarthy says we’ll go to the Superbowl this year.

The Football Population of WISCONSIN (bigger than Chicago)

p.s. You guys lost your title of best defense in the NFC North to the Minnesota Vikings. Ouch. That’s pretty bad.

I stare at the letter dumbfounded, jaw hanging open like an idiot. I turn the letter over in my hands. Whose was it? Who knew that much about football too argue so fiercely against me?

I wrinkled my nose. Who in Chicago would be a Packer fan? Looking at the top of the letter, I see that the name has been crossed off. No matter. Mrs. Marshfield would know who wrote it.

I ripped out a piece of paper from a random notebook. This was war.

Attention Football Population of Wisconsin…

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