Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Legend of Mrs. Moyer the Computer Teacher: A Story in Three Acts


For practically all of my life, I've loved playing with computers. I suppose I get this love from my late grandfather, who always strived to have the latest technology whenever he could manage it. When I was a small child, we'd sit in his ham radio room playing Pac-Man on his PC for several hours. It was amazing.

Despite this love, I absolutely hated going to my elementary school's computer lab.

I attended James Bowie Elementary School from 1992 to 1998. I look back on those years rather fondly, as I had great teachers, I made several new friends, and, despite the occasional bully, had a wonderful time.

The computer teacher during my fifth and sixth grade years wasn't so wonderful.

I won't use this particular teacher's real name in this story, partially out of professional courtesy, and mostly because I still think she's homicidal. Let's just say that her name is "Mrs. Moyer," even though those that knew her will recognize who I'm talking about anyway.

Mrs. Moyer wasn't really a "teacher" in the conventional sense. She ran the campus computer lab out of a tiny portable building as if it was her own personal fiefdom, which each class got to visit about once a month. Beyond that, she never had a real class of her own.

And man, we all thought she was the meanest person imaginable. She had a perpetual scowl on her face, and was never happy. Seriously, I thought she was like a bespectacled little toad hopped up on angry pills.

"Sit up straight!" she'd angrily bark at us as she stalked around the lab. "I'm gonna put thumbtacks on the backs of your chairs! Fingers on home row!"

And we weren't bad kids! In hindsight, we had a few class clowns, but overall, I'd say that we were pretty average. Hearing her talk to us, however, you'd think that we were all inmates from Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay.

Most of the time, computer class would consist of typing exercises, or edutainment games. And if we played games, we had to play them her way.

One time in the computer lab, Mrs. Moyer announced that we were to play Oregon Trail to completion and score a certain point total (or higher), then report our scores to her. From there, you could quit and play whatever you wanted.

At the beginning of this particular version of the game, you chose your profession. She ordered us to choose "farmer" as our profession. I never had much luck with keeping my wagon's passengers alive when I played as "farmer," so I chose "doctor" as my profession.

It paid off. I quickly made it through the game without anyone dying. I was stoked.

But when I went over to report my end point total to Mrs. Moyer, she exploded in a rage.


"But no one in my wagon died--"

"I DON'T CARE!" she yelled, turning red. "I told you that 'farmer' would have given you a higher point total! Go back and do it again!"

I replayed as a farmer. I achieved her point total. Everyone in my wagon died of dysentery.

Also during my elementary school days, we had these things called "Accelerated Reader" tests, which were short multiple-choice quizzes on certain library books, meant to gauge students' reading comprehension in preparation for standardized testing. As incentive, depending on how high your score was on one of these tests, you'd get varying amounts of "Bowie Bucks," which were redeemable in the front office if you wanted a small prize or something.

The sole caveat, though, was that the AR tests were done after school in the computer lab. With Mrs. Moyer. Alone.

I was so terrified of the woman's temper that I refused to go back there for any AR tests, Bowie Bucks be damned. It took my mother waiting outside the room, and a test about my favorite book (Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White), before I felt sort of okay with taking one.

And I aced it.

And it was the ONLY one I ever took at Bowie.

The consensus on the playground was that Mrs. Moyer just plain hated kids, and this line of thought was exacerbated by her dual status as a playground aide. Though we didn't see her but once a month in the computer lab, we had to endure her every day on the playground.

While the other teachers sat around calmly in their semicircle on a hill overlooking the playground, Mrs. Moyer, outfitted with a visor on her brow and a referee's whistle around her neck, would gleefully blast her whistle at any infraction, real or imagined, from both good kids and bad kids alike. And the supposedly guilty party would have to sit out part of recess.

We grumbled about her nearly every day. To say that she was our nemesis was a gross understatement.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Ramdiculous Feud: A Tale of Miscommunication, Drama, and Yellow Journalism at Angelo State University

Note: The following tale has been reconstructed from the newspapers, letters, and personal journal entries surrounding these events. Beyond that, this is how I remember it.

“Competition makes people better by pushing them to keep up with someone else. Get over the junior high jealous friend thing and man up, don’t just cry and moan because you have to actually be good now. Actually BE good. Spark that creativity and be original and entertaining; your peers and your competition will respect you more for it, and you won’t have to cry yourself to sleep at night anymore.”

–“Samuel Clemens,”
Ramdiculous Page, March 9, 2007
One evening about a month ago, during a Facebook chat with my friend Keith as we discussed his upcoming wedding, I came to a startling realization about an upcoming anniversary.

“Dude,” I typed. “March 7. Ten years since they fired me. A decade.”

“Damn,” said Keith.

I leaned back and whistled as I thought about it. It didn’t seem that long ago, but so much had happened in those ten years.

“That was one of the most important events of my life, to be honest,” I wrote.

“Why’s that?” he responded.

I paused, thinking about everything that had happened before and since March 7, 2007.