Life Lessons with Fast Eddie

First off, understand that the title sounds way more naughty than this post is going to get; I’ve been thinking about innocent school days. As Judith pointed out in the comments to June is… , now used to be the time we younguns were released into the world every year.

And I got to thinking about Fast Eddie.

Have you ever noticed that I like asking myself leading questions with obvious answers and then answering? I sure have. Hah!

I’m fairly certain that I get that from my high school Algebra II and Trigonometry teacher, who I, and many students before and after me, called “Fast Eddie.” He talked *really* fast, which isn’t necessarily a great trait in an advanced math teacher, but I loved him anyway.

He did everything fast, in fact, and since he had the silkiest blond hair for a guy already in his late 50s, it flopped and blew in the breeze as he charged down the hall, as if he had been traveling by sports car instead of a pair of legs.

Hard to tell anyway, because he was always kind of a blur.

Fast Eddie was a smart, witty straight-shooter, and, most admirable to me, he treated us like adults but he always, always had the upper hand of the classroom. His very presence demanded respect.

He had also been a baseball player and coach for a long time, so he had that whole sports and competition thing going on too—which most often surfaced when a particularly trying English teacher (trying for all of us, including faculty) would peek in to stir up friendly banter during our classes.

Looking back, I suppose that was kind of weird, but it did mark the first time I heard the phrase, “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out,” so I can’t say as though nothing stuck with me from my year of Trig torture instruction.

Oh, and did I mention he was free with cuss words? That’ll always win you points with high school kids.

I have two great memories of Fast Eddie, the first is a conversation we had after I had gone back home after having been in college for a few semesters, having already declared my English and history majors. He was crushed that I didn’t major in math—so I didn’t bother to tell him I didn’t plan to even take a math course in college, or, ahem, ever again. (And I didn’t.)

His response was that I was wasting my mathematics prowess and that I’d, I quote, “have the world by the balls” if I doubled up in English and math, but, not surprisingly, that didn’t encourage me to meet with my university advisor. It was touching to hear his confidence in my abilities, though, especially after I had been out of high school for some time, and I’ll never forget it.

The other memorable moment happened when it came time for our first test in Algebra II, and the class conversation/pep talk went a little something like this:

Worried Student: Will [something about Algebra II] be covered?

Fast Eddie: (long pause; vacant look out window; smooths hair)

Look, folks, it’s test time.

(another glance out window; sits on corner of his desk while shaking foot furiously over edge)

What’s going to be on the test? The things we covered.

Will it be hard? Nah. Not if you know your stuff, but if you haven’t done the work, hell yeah.

Can I get by with bullshit answers? No you can’t. I don’t like bullshit.

Should I study? You bet your ass—this ain’t 2 plus 2 folks.

Any more questions?

I certainly didn’t have any, but the answering my own asked questions really stuck; I found it hilarious, and even better, effective. Somehow, that little Q & A helped calm my nerves for the first big test of high school. Sometimes you just need someone to give it to you straight, to let you know where you stand, to cut out the bull.

(Sadly, though, this story is about all I remember from Algebra II.)

I’ve always felt blessed to have genuinely liked so many of my teachers and professors, but never more so than when I came here and began talking to P and his friends about school. Not one of them could pinpoint a teacher they liked even a little.

Granted they were probably hellions whereas I was the class pet—only because of the effort I put into school, mind you. I was definitely no brown-noser and, in fact, had quite a few personality clashes with teachers as well, usually when I felt condescended to, but let’s not dwell on that today.

Because for this week’s Love Thursday, I’m thinking about some of those teachers who made an impact in my life, and Fast Eddie is certainly one at the top of the list.

What about you? Any teachers leave good memories behind for you? Any who you feel particularly indebted to? Any who you’d like to write a thank you note to right now (even if they’ve passed on)? Don’t let me stop you!

Happy Love Thursday everyone!

34 Beans of Wisdom to “Life Lessons with Fast Eddie”
  1. Gil

    Brings back memories of very long ago. In my family the class of students got better with the younger ones. My brother a bit better than me, my two sisters better than my brother with the youngest the being the brightest. My brother and I always complained that we would never again need to know some things – like Algebra! Lo and behold at least 30 years ago I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out a sales tax question for a client. My little sister popped up with “let X be be this and solve for x…” Then the lecture came with the quote of years before about never needing to know Algebra after the class. Guess what? I still remember the formula she reminded me of that evening.

    Finally, another great post. Hope it has cooled down a bit.

  2. cheeky

    Again, I find another similarity with you. I loved school and also put forth effort. I was certainly no brown noser either but I think I had the occasional personality clash. Always outspoken; not always appreciated. 🙂
    I can certainly look back and remember favorite teachers and those that made a difference in my life.

  3. sognatrice

    Gil, that’s interesting on the class of students–I wonder if that happens often. I think second kids, at least, have a bit of an advantage because they have the older one showing them the ropes, so to speak, probably at an earlier age than they experienced. My brother taught me a lot of stuff from reading to tying my shoes. Glad you could use the algebra. Me? Haven’t had the occasion just yet 😉 Ah, and yes it has cooled down considerably–it’s downright gorgeous right now. Sunny, warm, cool breeze!

    Cheeky, yes, you described it perfectly. It’s funny because I was (and am) also a bit shy, but I’m not shy with my opinions. Some teachers didn’t like that so much–sometimes thinking outside the box isn’t very welcome in a structured lesson. I have many more influential teachers I could write about, but this one just stands out. I think it was the hair 😉

  4. Giulia

    Oh man, there are so many teachers that I remember from school. Each with their own little unique traits. It puts a smile on my face to think of them. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Figs Olives Wine

    A teacher who inspires like that is a rare, glorious thing! And, yes, the odd f bomb goes a long way with high school students! Mine were an English teacher in 9th grade and the professor from NYU I was just in Florence with. Both unforgettable – it’s the combination of their love of the material and their irreverant personalities.

  6. chris & erin

    hahaha! That Q&A made me laugh! I could see the scene in my head the way you wrote it…

    sad news about your 12 things not loading. keep trying 🙂 I’d love to see them (I figured you’d have some great photos)

  7. goodthomas

    Sad to sad that no one teacher has such an effect on me, no Fast Eddie’s in high school. I had some good teachers during my elementary, junior high and high school years, some I remember fondly. I remember a certain class or a certain lesson but none whom I would say consistently taught me “life lessons.”

    I did have a college professor who influenced me, touched me more than I could ever imagine. I think he made up for every teacher before him.

    Thanks for the Thursday smile. Hope all is well in Italia, a little cooler, breezier.

  8. sognatrice

    Giulia, I’m happy to hear you have some good memories too. It’s fun to look back and remember all the little quirks, especially now that we realize teachers were (gasp!) people!

    Figs, I agree–personality plus passion equals inspiring teacher. Usually, anyway 🙂

    Erin, glad you got a laugh. I smile every time I relive it in my head! About the 12 things, I may just have to guess at what yours looked like and go from there…sounds like too much fun to pass up 🙂

    gt, it really only takes one good teacher/professor, I think–one who inspires and really reaches you, makes you interested in things you never thought you’d like or deepens an existing passion. Like I said, I know I was lucky to have found that a few times. And thank you for your good wishes–there’s a glorious breeze (blowing away my work notes nearby) as I type this….

  9. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    Funny I was going to do a school’s out/graduation theme post.

    I actually liked school because I was out of the house. Just kidding. I wasn’t a brown noser but a very curious kid who stayed out of trouble for the most part (I did get detention during a H.S. trip to Montreal for breaking curfew. The Vice Principal, Dr. Collura, was very disappointed in me).

    There are so many teachers who meant alot to me. My fourth grade teacher in the Bronx, my fifth grade teacher in the suburbs, etc.

    When I was a kid I used to pretend I was a teacher with my younger siblings and gave them homework during the summer. My sister is ten years younger than me. She thought it was fun. My brother would rather play out in the back yard with his action figures. ha.

  10. Ally Bean

    Interesting because over the weekend friends and I had the same conversation about teachers who influenced us. Two of us had one great teacher, while everyone else had none. It makes me sad to think that so many people had no teacher who made an impression like fast eddie did for you.

  11. JennieBoo

    I had a “Fast Eddie” when I was in school. She was my Senior English/Literature teacher and I loved her with all my heart. She was as tough as nails, but gave to you straight and LOVED anything having to do with Literature. I loved her so much and still see her occasionally at various things. She had such a positive impact on my life.

    Thank you for recalling her for me!


  12. Held Hostage in Atlanta

    Great post that had me thinking. My Geometry & Trig teacher in HS was an “Eddie,” too! Not so fast, more “absent-minded Eddie.” I have fond memories of him with chalk dust all over his face and shirt—oblivious to it because of the passion he had for teaching. He, too, tried to talk me into a double major when I saw him after my first year of college.

    I come from a family of teachers and they would be happy to know how many of us have such memories. Have you tried to find your Eddie and let him know directly the impact he had on you? Do a google search…

  13. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    Funny, we had a “Fast Eddie” who taught Alegebra in high school, too. Unfortunately, this “Ed” was known as “fast” because his tendency to favor the girls and put the guys through the paces. To the point where he had all the girls sitting in front, and you quickly learned that if you just smiled and said, “But, I’m tryyyyyying,” you’d get a passing grade. Hmmm, not the best thing, thinking back, but when you excel in English and suck at math, it works for you for the moment. 😉 This was a slimy guy, though. Wore extra tight pants, when he really had no right to at his age and being a teacher for God’s sake. Creepy, really. Only a couple girls ever dared be in the same room alone with him after class…I was definitely NOT one of them! (Shudder!) But, one of my favorite teachers was my English and Lit teacher in high school, Mrs. Rumbaugh. Another was my English and Spanish teacher in Junior High named Mrs. Hooker. No doubt the reason she’d use a ski pole or club to bang on the tops of our desks to get our attention if we were chatting or sleeping, or how she would squirt us with a water bottle from across the room to get our attention all stemmed from making sure no one made fun of her name. LOL! But I still remember a lot of my Spanish to this day! 🙂


  14. Melissa R. Garrett

    What a wonderful post! I don’t believe any of my math teachers would make the top of my list, I dearly despised math anyway. However I had a fabulous teacher in the 8th grade who was just about perfect – Ms. Grayson. I ended up naming my daughter, Hannah Grayson, after her. To this day, she still sends Hannah a birthday card and we exchange Christmas cards.

  15. jessica in rome

    When you first said Fast Eddie I was thinking of this crazy bar in Spokane, WA…but that’s another story. I too have many fond memories of the teachers that touched my life. When I think back on high school it was such a great time. That doesn’t mean I was the popular girl and never got made fun of, I was actually a huge art geek, but those were the years that I met teachers that really became my friends.
    One in particular was my German teacher Mr. Moore (considering where I am now, I keep thinking WHY oh WHY didn’t I take spanish? In the hope it would be helping me with the Italian I am struggling with now) I became the president of our German club and loved everything about the class, the verbs, the wacky pronunciation and most of all Mr. Moore. At the beginning of senior year he died of cancer. I was devastated. His funeral was filled with hundreds of kids who, like me, had their lives impacted by him. He was the one who made me SWEAR to go to europe someday (he wanted germany, but hey Italy is close) and when I did I couldn’t help but thank him for playing a part in getting here. I recieved a scholarship in his memorial for college, another way in which even in death he is still supporting me. I haven’t been to Germany yet, I think it would be a mixture of pride and sorrow for the friend I lost, so I have been putting it off. I will keep my promise though and go.
    Great post!
    I added you to my blogroll if that is ok with you?

  16. -R-

    My husband is like P in that he didn’t like any of his teachers growing up, and my husband was also one of the class troublemakers. Think there might be a connection? =)

  17. Anonymous

    I have one professor to thank from the bottom of my heart. He was a dominate, self-congratulatory man who absolutely did not like me. He told me I reminded him of his mother, and he hated his mother. I was so depressed and full of doubt in his creativity class that I dropped out of writing school at the beginning of my last semester. At that point I was convinced I would never amount to anything. He convinced me that the world had no place for people like me.

    It took me a year to recover from his “teaching”. But in the three years since, I have published two books and made over $170,000 in investments. This one mean professor taught me how to get back up and go find a lemonade recipe!

    Oh, love your blog, by the way!

  18. smtwngrl

    While I still talk to my high school English teacher regularly when I go home to visit my family, it’s one of my high school science teachers that affected me deeply. He was truly supportive of even the most difficult students. He wasn’t afraid to tell it like it was. And he even stuck up for students to the point of being forced by the administration to resign a few years after I graduated. I wish I knew where he was so that I could send him a thank you note.

  19. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Good morning!

    Great post!
    Yes, there were/are teachers who have touched my life deeply and have been really influential.

    Not all of the teachers were school teachers though… sometimes our best lessons are learned from the most unexpected people.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  20. Judith in Umbria

    Yes, yes, yes, many teachers that I remember so well. From kindergarten through 3rd grade, wonderful teachers and then again some great ones in high school.

    I so appreciated my first teacher that I went back to visit her when I was over 40. She remembered me, which I thought amazing, and was pleased that I remembered her and thought my later successes were down to my beginnings with her.

    With unsupportive parents– “just do it, whatever it is”– the teachers made the difference.

  21. The Freelance Cynic

    Seems to be something to do with maths teachers. My A Level maths teacher liked to throw books at people, swear like a sailor, and tell us long rambling stories about the stupid things other teachers did!

    I’ve added you to my blogroll, hope that’s ok!

  22. Sara

    This is great, and so full of loving detail. Thank you for sharing Fast Eddie with us.

    Like you, I tended to like my teachers but clashed with some, when they patronized and condescended, yes, but also when they tried to tell me what to think about the world instead of letting me draw my own conclusions based on actual information. However, I can remember far more I really liked, even loved, than I can remember despising.

    There were some that surprised me, like the baseball coach/English teacher that everybody loved and I loathed, but more often the surprises came in the form of the “scary” teachers, the “hard” classes that I discovered were led by women — always women with this “witchy” rep — of great passion and depth who also had high expectations of everyone who sat in their rooms, expectations that turned out to be a pleasure to meet because as hard as these ladies were on slackers, they were twice as appreciative of work. I am thinking specifically of my fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. N. and Mrs. C., whose classes I was terrified to enter because of what other kids said, but ended up thriving in. I discovered I could draw (though I forgot and had to relearn this) in the fourth grade teacher’s class. I discovered I could write, really write, really think of my own stuff out of my own head and put it into words other people wanted to read (sometimes anyway) in the fifth grade teacher’s class.

    Those were some pretty great, and unexpected, gifts, just like my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. K., taking me aside and teaching me to read out of books, not just off street signs, while the other kids were napping because she could see I was ready, before I actually got bored.

    There was my eighth grade math teacher, Mrs. U., another “scary” teacher, who was the first person who ever explained algebra to me in a way I could really grasp, as well as explaining what it was for. There was my eighth grade science teacher whom everybody loved, whom my much older sister and school-hating brother had both loved years before, Smitty, with his ex-Marine Corps slang and his “science shows,” like when he’d drop sodium in water or set fire to potassium permanganate dusted sugar (and look, even in middle age, even after a head injury that made me forget most of high school, I remember these things). He also took us on hour-long “walks” around our suburb, some of them more like hikes, up the canyon through which trickled “Peewater Creek” (the water was yellow; we drew our own conclusions) or up the roads full of Spanish-style houses and golden fields where he’d point out all the plants growing in our own space that we might have completely overlooked without him.

    I could go on and on. I owe a lot of people far more than they were paid to give to me. Thanks for the reminder.

  23. imbi

    You’ve got a great way to bring memories to life. I almost can see him right in front of me.

    I had a great french teacher.
    I think I still have a bit of a crunch on him, because when I saw him at the reunion of school I suddenly realised he’s the only one who looks handsome with grey hair. LOL!

  24. Karen Cole

    My mind set in my “young” school days was simply….get through this. My parents were not educated people and did not instill a desire for learning. Somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that I loved learning new things (math was not and never will be fun)….but it wasn’t from a teacher in the traditional sense of the word.

    I was a great teacher. Art. Yes, I know everyone thinks that would be fun and easy but guess what? Generally people think they can’t draw, paint or anything else. You convince people by making whatever it is you are teaching interesting by being animated and enthusiastic about the subject.

    I do remember a song my first spanish teacher taught us however. 9th grade. Senora Effros. “Estas Son Las Manjanitas……..”

  25. Shan

    I loved my high school history teacher. He was the one that noticed me struggling personally and worked with my Mom to get me the help I needed.

  26. Kathy

    What a great story about Fast Eddie!

    Keeping with the math theme, the one teacher that always sticks out in my mind was my Algebra / Pre-Calculus teacher, Anna Clark. I was never a huge math fan, but I really liked her. I can’t recall any specific stories, but I can still remember the expressions on her face. I wonder whatever happened to her…

    Another teacher I recall was my Statistics professor in college. The very first night of class, she came storming in, and practically yelled that she wouldn’t tolerate any misbehaving, we were to pay attention, etc., and if we didn’t, she would kick us out of class! Of course, about 1/4 of the class dropped out after that first class, but those of us who stayed were in for a treat.

    She turned out to be one of the best professors I ever had…and fun! She told us later that the reason she came down so hard on us the first night was because the previous semester (her first semester as a teacher!) she didn’t establish any rules and the students ended up very disrespectful, they didn’t listen to her, and she had a miserable time each week. She even thanked us for listening to her and making teaching an enjoyable experience for her. I’ll never forget that.

  27. Nora

    Thank you for your support on my blog this week. I can’t wait to see what you’ll write on that particular topic.


  28. sognatrice

    Oh I just loved reading all of your memories! I’m short on time to respond individually right now, but I will soon. Thanks for commenting everyone!

  29. Karina

    What a beautiful tribute to your teacher. And funny too! He sounds like the kind of teacher that was no nonsense, but fair.

    Like you, I was lucky to have some wonderful teachers growing up…I had some monsters too, but we won’t go into that.

    One of the one’s who stands out the most was Mr. D. Mr. D. taught an elective for the honors students…I honestly don’t remember what the class was…Communication maybe? All I remember is that he was more like a counselor than a teacher, he would always start these incredible discussions, and let us just speak freely about things. He was all about us finding ourselves, what was important to us, etc.

    He also played “Dead Poet’s Society” for us in class, and so I’ve always associated that film with him.

    Mr. D was a great guy, thanks for reminding me of him again!

  30. sognatrice

    NYC, I used to play school too! My older cousin and I used to fight over who could be the teacher. I *loved* writing on the blackboard 🙂

    Ally, that is weird that you were just talking about this. It truly is sad that some people didn’t get to have the experience of a teacher that influenced them in some way–especially when I had more than my fair share.

    Jennie, I had a few good English teachers, one of which was the first to really encourage me to write. He wasn’t one of the “cool” teachers, but he sure helped my writing self-esteem.

    Held Hostage, must be something about the math teachers…although my geometry teacher? Yeah, not so much. I’m from a pretty small town, so it’s no problem to find Fast Eddie–we’ve run into each other many times since high school, but I’m not sure I’ve ever expressed his influence as I did here. Perhaps I’ll track down his email address and send him a link. Of course then I’d feel guilty leaving out all the other teachers…better get writing 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

    Christina, your Fast Eddie is too funny–love the image 🙂 And no, I wouldn’t have minded someone giving me points in math for trying. I wasn’t a big fan either.

    Melissa, that’s a wonderful story! Ms Grayson must’ve felt so honored (and, btw, Hannah Grayson is such a beautiful name)!

    Jessica, thanks for sharing that–such a beautiful tale, and I’m sure you’ll be quite emotional when you step foot in Germany someday (speaking fluent German, right?). And of course I don’t mind your adding me to your blogroll–if you’re not on mine yet, you will be soon 🙂

    R, yeah, I think some of the class, um, un-participators-in-a-postive-way may not have had such a great teacher experience. Their loss!

    Anonymous, thank you for your kind words about the blog and for sharing this. Yes, sometimes the reverse can be true as well–teachers/professors who you don’t get on with can push you further. I had one of those in law school who basically picked on me until I started raising my hand to answer all his questions and also to ask him obscure but informed ones as well. He stopped his bullying pretty quickly 😉 Congratulations on your success, and thanks for commenting!

    Smtwngrl, I hope you find him; I’m sure it would mean a lot to hear that his efforts made a difference. Thanks for commenting!

    Scarlett, you’re absolutely right. There’s something to be learned from everyone, I think–just takes a little more effort on our part sometimes.

    Judith, how wonderful! My elementary school teachers were some of my favorites as well. In fact, there are only a few that I really didn’t have strong positive feelings about. Those early years in education are so important.

    Freelance Cynic, throwing books too! Yeah, I think that may have happened once or twice in my math classes. Thanks for the add–of course it’s OK!

    Sara, I think condescension and trying to tell you what to think about the world often go hand in hand–some just didn’t want to be challenged on anything, and that’s usually where I ran into trouble. I loved reading about all your favorites…maybe you’ll go on and on someday over at your place?

    Imbi, yes, it sounds like you’re still a bit enamored…thanks for sharing 🙂

    Karen, my parents weren’t really pushy about school either–I was always just a curious kid, wanted to know everything (not much has changed there!). I’m sure you were an excellent teacher–your passion is inspiring to me and I’m not even on the same continent 😉

    Shan, that’s just great; I love hearing things like that about teachers because parents really do place a lot of trust in them. We hear a lot about when they drop the ball, but it’s nice to hear when they do well, also.

    Kathy, too funny! I had a great Accounting prof in college–I’m not even sure why I took the class at this point, but it would’ve been torture with anyone else. He started every class the same way…he’d walk in and start acting out a scene from a movie and the first person to name the movie got a candy or something. Very fun 🙂

    Nora, no need to thank me. I should have that post out next week sometime, and I’ll be sure to let you know.

    Karina, Mr D sounds awesome…more like a college prof than a high school teacher, and I mean that as a compliment. A lot of time high school teachers are forced into what they should teach and how, but profs have more freedom, and I think that shows in class discussions, especially. Lucky you 🙂

  31. JennieBoo

    By the way, I wanted to give you something,. Go onto “OSOMOLOVE” and right click the pink box in the right hand corner. Save and post on your blog. ENJOY!

  32. sognatrice

    Hah, Jennie, I saw this comment just after I posted and sent a button off to you 🙂

  33. a far away friend

    Sorry, I got a little behind on reading your blog…I’m not even sure if you check new comments on old blogs. Anyway, Fast Eddie …. what a great blast from the past !!!!! I think he’d be honored to know that he made your Blog site !!!! I loved the class scene recall !!! Great Memories

  34. sognatrice

    Friend, hmm, now I’m wondering if you weren’t in that Algebra II class with me…now if only I write a post about the eccentric English teacher mentioned here. And then the PA history teacher. And Latin…and…oh my…this could go on forever!

    Anyway, just so you know, I get an email letting me know when a comment has been made on a post, so comment with confidence wherever you like 🙂



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