RECORD STORE TALES #914 The Bad Batch
Mrs. Powers used to say to us, “You are the worst class I have ever taught!” She was good at the guilt thing. I understand that she continued to tell subsequent generations that they too were the worst class she has ever taught. With the benefit of hindsight, she was the worst teacher we ever had.
I had her two years in a row. Grades seven and eight. We were the worst class she had ever taught both years. Coincidentally, also the worst two years of grade school. A couple years later, my sister had her. She was still guilting and shaming the students when my sister had her. She was the epitome of old lady Catholic school teacher clichés.
We were not particularly worse than any other class. We had our bad apples, that the teachers didn’t seem to know how to contain. My time with Powers coincided with my discover of heavy metal music: Kiss, Priest, Maiden. Wearing my Judas Priest shirt to school was one of the biggest mistakes I made in the 8th grade. Powers gave me a good scolding in front of everyone else, who found it hilarious. She must have thought I was going bad too. I will always resent Powers for teaming me up with my nemesis Steve Hartman in gym class. The guy had been picking on me since grade two, and she thought we’d get over it by doing gymnastics together? The fact that I even had to touch the guy was disgusting to me. Why did she have to do that? Isn’t that borderline abusive?
In the 8th grade I had enough with Hartman and fought him one night after school. He brought friends; my only backup was Kevin Kirby. He was just there to enjoy the show, he didn’t care who won. But I managed to get Steve Hartman to leave me alone for the year after that night. That was pretty much it for his career in bullying; he never had a comeback though not without trying.
Kiss really did a lot to get me through the Powers years. My year of discovery for Kiss was 1985, the Asylum period. Not the greatest entry point, but I quickly found myself drawn to better albums like Hotter Than Hell and Creatures of the Night. It was Mrs. Powers who presided over the school retreat to Mount Mary. Possibly the loneliest week of my entire childhood as I bunked with every kid who ever tormented me. But we had to go; Powers scared everyone in class by telling us that any student she had that skipped the Mount Mary retreat ended up “dead or on drugs”. Bringing your own music was forbidden, so I memorized as much Kiss music as I could, to replay in my head when the going got rough.
Sex-ed was a joke of course. I remember the usual school films with animated cells dividing, and sketches of genitalia. The more we learned the less we knew. But at least we got to sit there watching a movie, so the teacher didn’t have to explain anything herself. Rock Hudson died of AIDS that fall, but none of us knew exactly what AIDS was. She asked us if we knew. One kid answered, “It makes you get old and die.” She responded, “Well, it makes you look old, yes.” We learned that much, and that you could get it from a blood infection. That’s what we learned. Can’t give this bad batch of kids too much graphic information.
Do you want to know the truth? Maybe Powers was right. Maybe our year really was the worst batch of kids she’d ever taught. Some of them, at least. Our only consolation was that she if she thought we were bad, she was going to find future generations were worse. If she thought I was heading down the wrong path with Kiss and Judas Priest, I wonder what she thought of Marilyn Manson or rap! She thought we were bad? The 90s were still to come!
One thing that struck me from that time that will always remain is this. Our family did not go to church much, but frequency in church visits didn’t seem to correlate to how good of a person you were. My sister and I were good kids. Some of these other kids that went to church every week were real assholes. Just an observation.
I hope that Powers did end up with worse classes than us. She deserved it.