Squirrel #1 & Squirrel #2
A lot of the next things I write are going to have to be fact-checked and substantiated by others, but this is the things that I remember. I think I just wrote the forward to my book.
Coach Sylliaasen taught math to the 7th and 8th graders at Garretson. People seemed to know him best for his coaching cross country and track. His intensity at the meets was unparalleled by any other coaches, he'd often run further at a cross country meet than the athletes, I think. He was known for his effectiveness and spirit. His oxymoronic screaming of "RELAX" seemed to be anything but relaxing, but he was always there on the course where he needed to be. "Catch that guy" or "Go NOW" were phrases we needed to hear at moments when we were lagging or falling back. He kept giving us a task or a goal when we needed it most.
He also coached 7th and 8th grade basketball. But other than the time I scored a basket for the other team, I don't have much to say about that. (I'll save that for another story... I have a legitimate defense!)
But my primary concern right now is Coach's classroom. His lesson often hustled through lesson after lesson at breakneck pace. But having grown up around Coach since my younger days playing with his sons, Brad (who was a year younger than Matthew) and Tim (who was a few years younger than me), I was always very comfortable around him and always felt I could get away with more in HIS classroom than in any others. This didn't always go over so good with Coach.
I was (and AM) very chatty and would often talk in the classroom to the point of getting in trouble for not listening. For a while in school, they used a name on the chalk board and checkmark discipline system and I think my name was on every teacher's board. (After you got a checkmark or two, you'd get detention... I only got it a few times, so I did HAVE some self-control, but often I didn't practice it.)
In Coach's classroom, I think I had my name on the board every day. He did his best to separate me from those that would instigate my chattiness... often it was Peter Caffrey, sometimes, I think it was Mary Koens. He would put me in a desk up in the front of the classroom in the corner and the other chatty person would get a desk in the other front corner. They were reserved seats for Squirrel #1 and Squirrel #2. I would proudly take my place in my little throne. Many times, I was just trying to be the class clown and by putting me up front, Coach was just giving me a stage. I seem to remember the desks for the squirrels eventually were next to him on either side of his desk facing forward to discourage any interaction with others and clowning around.
Coach's chalkboard, besides being used for names and checkmarks, was also used by students working through problems when we'd be in the middle of a lesson. When Coach was lecturing and going through a lesson, he'd use the overhead projector. He would project the screen onto a white pulldown screen that was retractable up into it's metal case mounted at the top of the chalk board. When pulled down, it was held in place with a loop of a rope on a nail or hook or something. I'm sure that early on in Coach's teaching days, the hold-down rope wasn't used but that after an unforeseen and unpredictable immediate retraction of the screen, Coach probably developed his back-up anchor system.
When using the projector, you need to write on a clear piece of plastic. The problem is, if you used one sheet at a time, you'd need to hold it down while you wrote... plus the sheet would fill up immediately and often later parts of a series of mathematical lessons would need to refer back to an earlier part. Finding the sheet that had the part you were looking for would be very difficult if not impossible to find that part. So Coach used a scrolling clear piece of plastic. It was just a long piece of plastic that went from one spool then across the projection screen area then to a receiving roll. Each had a little handle on them for spooling the film in either direction. If Coach had to refer back to some part earlier in the lesson, he could just scroll the film back. Then scrolling back forward again to new clean film he could continue where he had just left off. This was all done with blue or green or sometimes red dry-erase markers, so that when the scroll was all filled and he was sure that everybody had the lessons down, he could go back and erase the entire scroll blank again.
Coach didn't have the best of handwriting, but it was legible and we "got it". But sometimes, we'd need to ask verification is what he wrote was a 1 or a 7, or a 5 or a S, Things like that. But not a big deal. We got it. He made math fun. His preparation for us for upper levels of math (trigonometry and calculus and such) were very helpful, and I remember even in high school that I was able to go to him and ask him for help with whatever we were working on. I knew that his explanation style and temperment was easier to deal with that going to Mr. Olinger, who would come off as a little, umm... intense at times. We often avoided spending more time with Mr. Olinger than we needed to. Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed his classes, but there were times. (If you didn't get Mr. Olinger's sense of humor wasn't everybody's cup of tea... if you got it, you got it... if you didn't, you were lost and probably didn't like his class).
Back to Coach and his scrolling overhead projector. Every day, we knew Coach would do a few scrolling-forwards-worth of lessons. One day, Coach was late getting to class. We never knew where they were, they were just not there. We always just assumed there was a big teacher party going on in the smoke filled teacher's lounge down by the old gym. Some sort of party where they all talked about the bad kids and schemed up plans make our lives hell. Realistically, he was probably just going to the bathroom, but we always assumed the worst. But before he got back to the classroom, Jay Schleuter, went up to the projector and scrolled the clear film ahead a page or two and with a permanent marker wrote the words "Coach is a roach" then scrolled it back.
Fast forward to the middle of our lesson that day and as Coach frantically wrote and talked he scrolled ahead a few times and at some point he was mid-sentence when he scrolled ahead again, stopped (clearly he saw the words) he turned and saw them on the screen, he licked his thumb and tried to quickly swipe the words off. The giggles of the class turned quickly to laughs as the words didn't come off and he tried again to no avail and finally sighed and scrolled the screen further ahead. He let the laughing die down, he eyeballed the classroom to see if the guilty party was maybe laughing louder than the others, but we all laughed terribly loud. There was no clear culprit.
I'm sure he figured it was Squirrel #1 or maybe Squirrel #2. How wrong he was... or was he?
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I'm just a creative guy that's looking to throw all this spaghetti onto the wall and hope something sticks.