My 8th-grade history teacher was a HUGE influence on me. For one thing, he was a nerd, as was I. But he had a lot of fight in him, and cut the smart-asses in that class down to size with withering wit.
One day he announced that we were going to all sit according to eye color. After rearranging the desks in those groups, he then announced that the blue eyes would take a short quiz, which upon completion would earn them an A. The brown eyes would take a longer quiz, and couldn't make above a B. The green eyes had to write a report, and would make a C if they were lucky. And so on in that vein.
You clever people have likely spotted the intent of this exercise, but I was unlucky enough to attend a school full of complete idiots. Several of the green eyes, followed in quick succession by the brown eyes, made an unholy racket about unfairness that lasted most of the class period.
The teacher kept a completely straight face throughout, and seemed confused by their objections. The clues could hardly have been clearer as to what was up, since our next chapter was on the civil rights struggle. Only at the end of the hour did he deliver the punchline, and by then, everyone was so angry that it didn't quite sink in until the next day. The exercise seems simple, but was rather poignant in a school filled primarily with white students in a southern state.
That Christmas break, the same teacher got our local U.S. Congressman to sponsor a field trip to Washington, D.C., which remains one of my brightest memories of junior high. We spent a week touring the capitol, and even got a wave from President Reagan while his motorcade was leaving the White House. My interest in history and politics was given a gigantic steroid shot by that trip.
I'd love to track my old teacher down again one day and see how and what he's doing. Last I heard he'd left teaching to work for the above-mentioned congressman in D.C., but that representative retired a few years ago.
Thanks, Mr. H.