Thursday, 26 September 2013

Mr. Baker and the Bazooka E-mail


The time has come for me to interrupt the theme here. So far I’ve only told stories about the most ridiculous events of my childhood, and seeing as how I have a knack for doing ridiculous things, there was quite a high standard of ridiculousness to be met before a story would make it to post-dom. But to my utter disbelief, my sister’s life has managed to produce an event so fucking unbelievable that it’s in a class of its own. This is the story of Laura and Mr. Baker.

Laura has recently graduated high school and is now attending community college. Her English class is being taught by one Mr. Baker, a man who received absolutely glowing reviews on ratemyprofessor.com. He’s one of those aloof, charismatic teachers that you can’t help but like. The kind you’d want to have a beer with, the kind you might wish was your uncle, instead of your real uncle, who might have an alarmingly extensive collection of nazi memorabilia hidden in that one back room that he had always insisted was for storage which you accidentally stumbled upon that one time when you were seven thinking it was the bathroom and now you aren’t allowed to tell his Jewish parole officer about. I mean what?


I feel the need to stress how intensely shy Laura is. She suffers from extremely debilitating social anxiety, to the point where she has to psyche herself up for ten minutes just to summon up the courage to raise her hand and answer a question, and then forcefully pretends like she’s composed for the following ten minutes while bear-coming-at-you levels of adrenaline slowly dissipate from her system. She suffers from exactly the same cognitive feedback that I did in middle school, making desperate futile efforts to monitor and scrutinize her own moment-to-moment behavior for fear of embarrassment. This doesn’t, in fact, work. It, in fact, has precisely the opposite effect. But that’s a story for another day.


 One day, Mr. Baker assigned the class their first essay. It was a persuasive essay on a topic of your choice, on the condition that you get the topic OK’d by the teacher beforehand. Laura wanted to do it on why attending community college was wiser than jumping into 4-year universities right away, and she had a multitude of reasons to support the idea. Baker didn’t like it, told her she could do it if she wanted, but he wouldn’t recommend it.

He challenged one of her pieces of evidence, which was the fact that some part-time community college teachers also teach at extremely expensive private institutions. He seemed to be insinuating that it wasn’t a valid point, even though it established the fact that you’re getting the same expertise at community college that some people pay hundreds of thousands for at a private university.


She made the mistake of informing him that she knew that he had worked at one of the most expensive Universities in the area. It really pissed him off, to her surprise, and she decided to just cut her losses and go home.


She decided she still liked the topic, and would write the essay on it anyway. For many people, it would feel like a chore, but one of Laura’s favorite hobbies is writing. She plans to write novels when she’s older, and prides herself on her wordsmithing ability. She was eager to demonstrate her competence to Mr. Baker, knowing that she could prove to him that her topic was a good one. He would recognize her raw talent and perhaps even acknowledge her in front of everybody, thereby establishing her as not, in fact, weird, and effectively relieving some of her social anxiety. Everybody knew that this man was cool as hell. Nobody he admired could possibly be embarrassing. This was the key. She was fucking on it.


She carefully crafted that essay every day until she was perfectly satisfied with it. She triumphantly handed it to Mr. Baker and awaited his inevitable praise. It was in the bag.


And then it all went horribly wrong. The next day, Mr. Baker came in and was visibly annoyed. He angrily informed the class that virtually all of them had failed the essay. People exchanged looks. This wasn’t the man they’d met before. Something in his demeanor had changed drastically and based on what he was saying, it was entirely to blame on the students and their shitty pathetic excuse for essays. Laura was terrified that it might be because she’d defied his advice.


His irritation slowly mounted until it exploded fourth in a merciless verbal onslaught directed first at the students personally and eventually to every member of their generation. At one point, he chose a few words from a book and accused them of not knowing what they meant, personally demanding the definition from individual students, one by one. Nobody responded. They might have been afraid that he would turn them to stone with the sheer force of his contempt of them. He turned to Laura, and demanded she provide an excuse for their ignorance of vocabulary.


In reality, she knew what those words meant, as the majority of the other students there probably did. They weren't hard words, but nobody in their right mind would risk being wrong in the face of this rage. Meekly, she suggested that he teach them the things that he felt they should know. She said it out of panic. She said it as a desperate attempt to appease the guy, to get him to stop looking at her. It didn’t work. It had the opposite effect. He continued to rant, now in a slightly higher pitch, until he felt he could no longer look at them and abruptly left the room, never to come back. It was about 10 minutes into a 3-hour class. They were stunned. Oh my god. What the fuck.


The next day, he came into class just as angry as ever, and did the last thing I’d ever expect a teacher to do. He said, “It’s really entirely Laura’s fault that I left class yesterday.”


Laura sat there in silence doing her best to collapse into a black hole while he spent a good few minutes blaming her personally for his behavior the previous day, making sure to mention her by name. It must have felt like an eternity. He didn’t stop at doing it once. He singled her out by name multiple times over the remaining 3-hour class period. He cattily informed Laura that he "wouldn't be playing her games".

What in the utter name of fuck? What?!

Schizophrenia has become a valid possibility at this point. This is a girl who does her level best to avoid being noticed at all, who finds the idea of being the focus of attention emotionally crippling. She strategically sits next to the door in every one of her classes just in case the overwhelming need to run overcomes her. Simply driving to school can sometimes trigger an anxiety attack, and she was personally attacked by the TEACHER during the first couple weeks of class. She’s going to have to go back there for the entire semester. People are going to look at her, and Mr. Baker is going to loom. She HAS to go back there. For the entire semester. Imagine if this had happened to you, seriously.


She came home and she told me about what happened.


One of the things I don’t do very well is tolerate. Tolerate is not what I did.


Mr. Baker’s ass was mine.


I’m honestly baffled by what has transpired in that class, and the only way I can make any sense of it would be to assume that Mr. Baker’s going through some serious personal shit and/or has suddenly developed some problem with his brain that has a 7-syllable medical name and an obscure team of Russian scientists developing treatments for in an underground lab at the expense of heaps of unfortunate monkeys. The thing is, I don’t give the hairy crack of a rat’s ass why Mr. Baker did what he did.

All I know is that he thought he would get away with it, probably because Laura is clearly so cripplingly shy. He experienced general anger because the essays were bad. He felt that her blasphemous suggestion that he teach had destabilized his inflated sense of self-importance and authority. He assumed that meek Laura wouldn’t do anything about it, that she would just be humiliated and shrivel up and be easy to make an example out of. That’s the part that pisses me off the most. He felt invulnerable.

I needed to destroy him.


Laura and I spent the next two and a half hours carefully crafting a nuclear fucking bomb e-mail to the Dean of English. It was scathing. It was eloquent. It was career-ruining. It was beautiful. The fact that he thought she sucked at English made it so much more sweet.


It is the best and most satisfying piece of writing I have ever constructed in my life.
Hitting send on that bitch gave me chills. As we did, Laura muttered ‘bazookaaa’. It’s the perfect word to describe what we’d done.


I honestly only wrote this post in the first place so that I could show off the e-mail. I’m like an old man. I get a buzz out of writing strongly-worded letters, and the more people who see it, the better.
Now view.


To whom is may concern, 

My name is Laura –last name omitted- and I am a current student at –omitted- College (-studentIDnumber-). I would like to issue a complaint regarding my English Composition professor, Mr. –first name omitted- Baker.

I attend his classes on –time of class omitted-. Recently Mr. Baker received our first assignment, and subsequently made a point of telling us that our performance was not up to par. He told the entire class that most of the students either failed or came very close to it. I don’t take issue with the fact that we did poorly. I choose to mention this only because it struck the entire class as strange that we could have dutifully followed all of his instructions and still managed to fall short of his expectations. 

It’s fair to assume that among any random group of students, the majority would be highly motivated to do well and eager to demonstrate their competence, and yet he was very dissatisfied with what we’d produced. I also choose to mention this because this was the first unusual scene in a series of increasingly bizarre episodes of Mr. Baker’s behavior, and seems to be the only thing that could have motivated what followed.

On the date of Tuesday September 24th, Mr. Baker spent the first fifteen minutes of class ranting at us about how "lazy" and "unengaged" we as students were. We were only a few weeks into the semester and he already seemed to have quite a lot to say about our poor character. He would occasionally appear to calm down and turn his attention to the lesson, only to explosively begin to rant again. For instance, after reading a short passage from the textbook, he suddenly chose a few difficult words and asked whether we “even knew what they meant”. He seemed disgusted with our shocked silence and then proceeded to storm out of class. When one particularly brave student followed him to his office and asked if he would be coming back, he said that he wouldn’t.

Each of us has paid for the privilege of taking this class. We had all taken the time and effort to come out to -school name- to attend lecture that day. Many students had other classes after his and found themselves with three hours to kill, and others had driven for over half an hour to get to school, myself included. Students are expected to attend class every day, it goes without saying that Mr. Baker is under a professional obligation to show up and teach the classes to the best of his ability. Based on his ludicrous and completely unprofessional behavior it would seem he disagrees.

Then, this morning, Thursday September 26th, Mr. Baker made a point of singling me out personally and blaming me in particular for his walking out of class. He said, word for word, "It's really Laura's fault I left class."

As you can imagine this was extremely embarrassing and distressing. He continued to single me out by name multiple times before the class ended. I believe he said something about "not playing my games".

I have no idea what "games" he is referring to. I am a very quiet student due to the fact that I suffer from social anxiety. Whatever it is that he imagines I have done, this was the first time he had brought it to my attention. I have barely said three words to this man and I’m shocked and appalled that he would be using public humiliation as a primary disciplinary tactic. 

This is the first time in my life a teacher has suggested that I have a behavioral problem at all, and the fact that it was brought to my attention this way was far beyond what I’ve come to expect from an institution such as -school name-. I would like to imagine that you hold your staff to a higher caliber of professional conduct. 

If a professor has a problem with my behavior, I expect him to address it privately with me and to specifically tell me what I’m doing wrong and what he expects me to change. This man instead chose to throw a tantrum and publicly reprimand me for “playing games”. This experience is so outlandish that I’m almost prepared to suggest that Mr. Baker is suffering from some sort of psychological episode. To think that he could be carrying out something like this while in full possession of his faculties defies reason.

Due to personal circumstances, it is of utmost importance that I succeed in this class. I went in with every intention to give my 110% and complete every assignment to the absolute best of my ability. Unfortunately, due to Mr. Baker’s conduct, an extremely uncomfortable tension has been imposed upon the class atmosphere and I’m faced with the prospect of dealing with it for the rest of the semester. 

Every class session from now on is bound to be intensely awkward and embarrassing for me, and I have no choice but to continue to attend. I’m also worried that my future grades might be influenced by Mr. Baker’s disdain and contempt for me personally. I realize it’s cliché for a student to claim that their poor performance is because their teacher has a personal vendetta against them, but at this point it’s apparent that his actions defy common sense. If there’s even a remote possibility that Mr. Baker’s opinion of me will negatively influence my academic standing, it needs to be addressed. 

Mr. Baker is a bully, and I cannot tolerate being treated this way. 


I expect to be kept informed of what action will be taken regarding this matter.



Thank you,

Laura –last name omitted-“








1 comment:

  1. hello,

    what happened to Mr Baker and your sis?

    ReplyDelete