Slide Show Day (Part One)

A few years ago, I wrote a three part series of posts about how well I got along with my high school Italian teacher. This tale of woe involves the same cast of characters (me and that teacher) and tells of an annual joke that I got “credit” for but never ever had a role in.

Before I tell the tale (or before you go to read the original series of stories), I ought to issue a disclaimer. I loved my teachers back in high school…except for the one who taught italian.

Now, please read on, or go here to start at the beginning and put this tale into context.

The Annual Slide Show Stunt

A slide projector. People under 30 - yes we used these. (image via

A slide projector. People under 30 – yes we used these. (image via

Every year my high school Italian teacher would bring in two trays of photo slides taken during her family vacation to Rome. She would ask someone to set up the projector while she was in the hall between classes. The first year I saw the slides, the person who set up the projector took the opportunity to turn a few slides upside down. I had no part in this and did not even know it was done.

Each time she saw a slide come up upside down on the screen she would turn and stare at me. After about fifteen upside down slides she was livid. She ripped into me. I pointed out that it was impossible for me to have done what she accused me of. Nonetheless, I was tried and convicted.

I’d tell you that this tainted our teacher-student rapport, but there was no such connection.

Success Breeds Success…Or Something Like That

My friends loved this unplanned development. The whole point of turning the slides backward was to have a laugh at the teacher’s expense. The resulting explosive venting of rage upon me was a bonus that was comedy gold to them.

For days, people who witnessed her eruption would catch me in the hall between classes and imitate her screaming at me “I don’t know how you did it Omawarisan, but I know you did this.” We all got a laugh out of it, but deep down I was glad that slide show day only came once a year.

Did I Mention That Slide Show Day Came Once A Year?

The teacher gave the class a week’s notice of when she’d be bringing back the slide show in my junior year. The class reacted with mock glee and looked back toward me, grinning. I knew what was coming.

On slide show day, I stood outside the classroom until the last possible moment. The teacher eyed me warily as I took my seat. The slide show started with an upside down slide and a death glare aimed at me. The class roared. I tried not to show any emotion. I don’t know if that was the smartest thing to have done, but I guessed it was better than laughing.

The show went on. The person who turned the slides over did a masterful job. There was no real pattern, no way of knowing when the next upside down slide would appear on the screen. At the end of class, predictably, I was in trouble again.

I thought my idea of waiting in the hall until class started would have shifted suspicion away from me. No such luck.

And Then Came My Senior Year

Things were going well for me in my senior year. My grades were good (with the exception of Italian). We had a great season on the Cross Country Team. I’d been accepted to college. I had a job. I had a girlfriend, the prom was coming up.

Life was good.

Then the announcement of slide show day came. Life went from good to bleak. The day before, I’d contested a grade she gave me.

Contesting the grade did not go well. I walked away with the same grade and a threat to make sure I was suspended before the prom. Suspension at this point in the year also meant I would not be allowed to attend graduation.

Slide show day would be the end of me, I was sure of it. My parents had gone to bat for me with and about this teacher the entire time I was in school. I knew they’d fight for me if it came down to it, I just didn’t want to be in the position to explain how I’d been suspended for my graduation.

Buckley To The Rescue

Mr. Buckley was another teacher at the school. He was a little guy with boundless energy. His classes were popular because of who he was and the level of concern he had for his students.

There are a few adults from that stage of my life (beyond my parents) who I can point to as major influences in my life. Buck is on the top of that list. He taught American History, coached cross country and track. In the midst of learning from Mr. Buckley about the founding fathers and the value of a strong race finishing kick, I learned a ton about myself. I made it a point to take one of his classes in my senior year. I didn’t need the credit from that class, I just enjoyed him that much.

In addition to being a great guy, Buckley saved my senior year.

(see you here Wednesday for the rest of the story)


28 Comments on “Slide Show Day (Part One)”

  1. I would hate to stereotype but it does seem that foreign language teachers are on the low scale when it comes to a sense of humor. Cole’s spanish teacher came right out and told the class he didn’t like Cole. The comment was confirmed and repeated to me during a following up phone call. MMM…The teacher is gone but Cole is still there. For the amount of tuition I pay I can be “one of those parents” when pushed.
    However, he was replaced by another Spanish teacher that seems to dislike all her students equally.
    Looking forward to the rest of the story. . .and hearing about the good Bucky.

    • omawarisan says:

      There are times to be “one of those”!

      This one had no sense of humor. My brother started high school the year after I graduated. He had the sense to take French – it wasn’t a language that she taught. She was in the room when his teacher called the roll early in the year. When his name was called, she looked up to see who he was, went over and said something to the French teacher, and left.

  2. Wendy says:

    On our first day of Italian class, we were told “Per imparare la lingua italiana, bisogna avere orecchie ad anima”. Are you missing any of these? I would not have thought so…

    Anxiously awaiting mercoledi!

  3. T E Stazyk says:

    You mention that you had a girlfriend at that time. It wouldn’t be Dorcas’s grand daughter would it? I see a pattern developing here.

    • omawarisan says:

      No this was Dorcas’ granddaughter’s immediate predecessor. I gagged on asparagus her mom cooked.

      In my defense, it wasn’t that her mom cooked it. It was that it was asparagus and a hell of a time to be bold and try something for the first time.

  4. What? NO! I want part 2 NOW!

    • omawarisan says:

      See what I did there? I learned it from watching Gilligans Island. They were going to get off the island, or so it seemed, but then we had to wait to find out that they wouldn’t.

  5. Debbie says:

    I hate being blamed for bad things I didn’t do. Sounds like your Italian teacher should have kept her slides and projector under lock and key. Unless, of course, she just wanted an excuse to embarrass you and glare at you in front of your whole class. I’ll be back Wednesday for the rest of the story!

  6. asterisk says:

    I can’t wait for the final installment…


  7. Michelle Gillies says:

    Wednesday? I have to wait until Wednesday? I’m sitting right here until then.

  8. If I die before Wednesday I’m going to be really pissed off.

  9. We Found Him Captain! says:

    Wow! I seem to recall that there was a high school language teacher in Maryland named Mrs. Mary Mussolini. She is the grandaughter of Benito of WW II fame. Was that your teachers name?

    Why must we wait until Wednesday? I’m getting a headache from this……. O.K. I’m gonna take a BC headache powder………….and set my alarm for 1 AM Wednesday.

  10. Laura says:

    The only high school teacher who didn’t like me was my high school Spanish teacher, and, like you, I think our relationship got off to a rocky start because of a misunderstanding about my name. She kept calling me “Perla”, and I was annoyed/amused at the fact that she couldn’t get my name right (“Perla” does sort of sound like a shortened version of my last name). Finally, after three years of this, she told me that Perla was a nickname she’d given me because I was like a pearl. I didn’t believe her.

    Between that and the fact that I’m really bad at languages and could never get the pronunciation right, I wasn’t her favorite student. But she was never openly hostile — the worst thing she did was refuse to write a college recommendation for me (I’m not sure why I asked the teacher of the class I was doing the worst in for a recommendation in the first place, actually).

    • omawarisan says:

      What is the thing language teachers have about assigning people names? Is there a conversion table for names?

      Yeah, if you remember from the original series, this whole three year war started on the first day of class. She butchered my last name, then asked for my help to pronounce it. Then she asked what language it was. I had to tell her it was Italian. I could have said Korean, but I wasn’t trying to be a trouble maker. Unfortunately, the truth was more cutting than sarcasm.

  11. Oh, a cliffhanger! More now, now I want the next installment now.

    I had a teacher like that, she was my homeroom teacher in middle school (grade 7-9). I always believed she should have been retired long before I got there. First day of school, first year she took one look at me and decided I would be her target. I had her every year all three years, ours was a hate – hate relationship from then on. She taught English also and I always had her, Homeroom, English one after another three years. She was an odd duck though, she gave fair grades no matter how she might dislike you, I think this made her face sour.

    • omawarisan says:

      Isn’t that the worst? Some people just are not going to mesh, and there had to be other English teachers. I’m glad she was at least fair.

      The grade I contested – she gave us a group assignment. Everyone in my group got an A, except me. I got a D. I asked her why, the answer was “because”.

  12. Sandy says:

    What school offers Italian ??? Did you make this up ??? Haha…..straight up Spanish for me !

    • omawarisan says:

      On a hill in Maryland
      stands our Alma Mater.

      Grandest place in all the land
      to ev’ry son and daughter.

      Though our school days soon will pass,
      classmates say goodbye.

      We will ne’er forget our class
      and Oxon Hill High.

  13. […] Slide Show Day (Part One) → […]

  14. […] friend Sandy commented on one of my posts. I answered her with the Alma Mater of my Alma Mater,  Oxon Hill High […]

  15. […] wheelchair mailing list joke. He was certain I was the prankster and told me so. I began to have flashbacks of my high school Italian teacher wrongly accusing me of sabotaging her yearly slide show…. My only defense was […]

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