Mr. Deboard was a math teacher at our small little high school. How long he'd been there before my family moved there, I can't say, but he was the resident specialist in all things...squared. His specialty was Geometry, Trigonometry, and Calculus. He taught with knowledge far beyond what our weak and limited underage brains could absorb, but if we paid attention to his teachings, we could become masters over the Pythagorean theory, discover what x really equalled, and find the diameter of almost any shape.
However, it was the "paying attention" that proved to be our most daunting task. Who could learn from this man who provided such an array of distractions that would be talked about for dozens of years afterward? Such distractions have usually been retold through a combination of words and choreography. Due to the restrictions of the written word the blog presents, I will have to forgo the "acting out" that usually accompanies these stories. It will be most difficult, but I will try to lead you through this tale in such a way that you will get a full visual representation. Now, let me go into detail, although I warn you, some details are better left unvisualized.
By first impressions, Mr. Deboard was a normal looking man, even if his polyester pants and big '80s glasses (with a deep tint) were considered dated. He often wore sweater vests (brown or tan) over his button-up shirts, and he boldly preferred his collars to be up, as if he were a preppy country club member. The first indication that there was something quirky about him was when he was at the dry erase board working his way through a math equation. "Now if you look at this fraction, you can see that these are some pretty large numbers to divide. What if we reduce these fractions by dividing each by...." We heard not a word. All eyes were focused on the board, but it wasn't the equation that had us mesmerized. It was his absurdly crooked pinkie finger that seemed to banter back and forth between the dry erase marker and the white board. It jutted out in such an awkward position when he was writing on the board, that made us believe it had to have been broken a number of times to make it look like that. "What should we find first, the x or the y?" Mr. Deboard would ask the class. Who cares about the x or the y? What about that puppet show your pinkie finger is putting on for us?
I'll admit, we were far from considerate regarding his deformity, but he deserved our disgust through means of his other actions. One Monday morning we were all sitting at our desks, ready to begin our lesson. Most of us were trying not to stare at his pinkie finger when he casually leans against a side table and starts pulling up his shirt sleeves way beyond their normal allowance. As he continued to roll/push/squeeze his shirt sleeve up and over his shoulder, he announces: "You are probably wondering why I have this gigantic bruise running up my biceps..." No one replied. We tried to avert our eyes from the sight of his naked arms. "I went skiing this weekend and had a massive crash. It could have killed me." No one replied. In fact, I don't even remember seeing the bruise he was so proud of.
Another Monday morning, he goes into great detail, as he struts around the room, that he just got back from Mexico. Great trip. Only one problem. All weekend he had the unfortunate luck of experiencing the worst case of "Montezuma's revenge" that you've ever seen. "Now don't you be worried if I am in the middle of helping you with a math problem, and I drop everything and run from the room. Don't be scared. I'll be fine." To prove his point, a few minutes later just that exact thing happened. He almost ran into the closed door on the way out, and practically tripped over the unfortunate student who was outside at that exact moment. That scene will forever replay itself in my mind as one of the truly enjoyable experiences I had in that class. He was gone about 15 minutes. 15 minutes of pure bliss for us. I'm sure the faculty bathroom was never the same after that.
We quickly learned to choose the desks that were in the middle of the classroom. If we were too close to the front, not only would his pinkie finger drive us to insane distraction, but when he turned to the front of the class and spoke, you would be showered by little flecks of spit that shot out from the corners of his mouth. When this happened, it was like you were in a horror film that was shot in slow motion. You saw it form along his mouth. You saw it escape in a cadence of saliva, and yet you couldn't move out of the way fast enough before it splashed across your paper, arms, or for the terribly unfortunate, your face. It was impossible to predict, and inevitable to experience.
If you sat near the back of the room, you were too close to his desk, which was where he spent most of the class hour. He wanted to engage you in small talk. Enough said.
Now, I've saved the best for last. Heaven help the female who had a question on a math problem during the class hour. It was a mistake she only made once. It was a mistake we all suffered from. Mr. Deboard's eyes roamed the classroom, looking for any signs of a struggling student. A sigh. A shake of the head. A frustrated expression. She would start to stand, and gather up her book so she could go to the back of the room and ask Mr. Deboard a question. He stopped her. "Wait right there Suzie. I'll come to you."
Oh, you think him a gentleman? I think not.
She settles herself back down in her desk as Mr. Deboard comes swaggering down the aisle. He adjusts his belt just a bit, hitches up his brown polyester pants, and swings his foot up to rest on the waist-high desk just above her trig book. With his big shoe planted on her desk, he leans toward her, jaunting his hips forward in such a way that she can't help but be alerted to the presence of his bulges that are a fraction from her face, and he casually asks "What's giving you the problem here?"
There is just not a sufficient answer to that question.In order to never experience such a disastrous tutoring session again, we would either hold our questions until we got home, and would ask our dad (which is what my sister and I did), or we would make it to the back of the classroom before Mr. Deboard would have a chance to insist that he come to our desks, and ask him our question with him thankfully sitting down, and his bulges safely hidden beneath his table.
One day, in the middle of my Junior year, Mr. Deboard never showed up for school. His classes were chaperoned by different teachers throughout the day. The next day, the same thing happend. Weeks went by, with different substitutes, but Mr. Deboard never came back. He just up and vanished. We finished the school year with a permanent substitute. She was hired full time the following year. We never saw Mr. Deboard again. I always wondered what caused him to disappear like that. However, there was no love lost. I was finally able to learn mathematics without the hindrance of a polyester crotch in my face.