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(Hey kids; punk your teachers!)

1976.  We’re putting our high school yearbook to bed, but still have room for some candid shots.  I had just purchased the classic, albeit new at the time “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt.  Yeah, that’s me in the front, right.

As soon as I walked in the door, all my buds thought the shirt was a riot (we were all easily amused).  It was determined that it deserved an appropriate place in the yearbook, but how, where?

Idea.  I would slip on a jacket so that no one else could see the shirt.  We would cruise around the halls — which we sometimes spent more time doing than attending class — until we found a victim.

Aha!  One of our favorite English teachers was just then whetting his whistle at the water fountain.  “Mr. Yarworth!  Mr. Yarworth!  Can we take a picture with you?”

He was a nice guy and far from stupid — smart enough, in fact, to figure there must be something up, as evidenced by his cynical facial expression.  And so I was placed strategically next to him and when we all said, “Cheese,” I quickly slipped off the windbreaker, revealing the T.  We showed him afterward what had occurred and a good time was had by all.

Flash forward 4,000 years.  The guy on the right is now a published author.  The teacher on the left was appreciatively acknowledged in the end notes of said author’s debut novel.  After all this time, I hardly know where any of my teachers are — so, too, the rest of the guys in the photograph which graced our yearbook.

Then one day not long ago, out of the blue, I get a wonderful, handwritten note from that very teacher.  In it, he indicated he had been tipped off about THE FOURTH HOUSE, picked up a copy, and was deeply touched (or something to that affect) by his mention in it.  He added, “Do you remember that yearbook photograph?  I got a copy of the original and have had it mounted and displayed in my office for the past 26 years.  It reminds me of the type of fun and close relationships that used to exist between teachers and students, the sort that are not really seen in today’s schools.”

I’m bullish on teachers.  I think they are the most underpaid, yet influential people alive.  I remember every single one I ever had.  Yet not for one minute did I ever think that any of them remembered me.  But there I was, staring out at every visitor to this man’s office for the past 26 years.  It was humbling.

Was I the best student he ever had?  Hardly, I’d say.  Hell, I’m not even the best or most celebrated writer from that graduating class.  That honor would go to Scott Weidensaul, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and author of around 26 books.  But maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world to be the class clown sometimes.  Apparently, when you do it in a good-natured way, it makes you memorable.