Today I’m sharing with you my memories of Mr. Prange. He was a real character and the story I wrote about him appeared in Life Lessons from Teachers. That’s the cover of the book over there on the right. Enjoy!
Mr. Prange Does War
By Susan Sundwall
When I was in school there were smart kids, popular kids, not so smart kids and the rest of us. Just like today but going backwards about forty years. All through those formative years I excelled at nothing. And I was quite happy being an okay student whose favorite classes were art and lunch and whose friends were few but loyal.
So when you want to know what teachers influenced me, for the most part, my sentiments are echoed above. There were smart ones, popular ones, not too smart ones and the rest of them. But there were a few who did stand out, among them Mr. Prange, my tenth grade social studies teacher.
He was un-remarkable to look at; tall, dark, middle-aged and balding. When I drag out my old yearbook, there he is on the teacher’s page frozen in time. I smile at the image and the memories of his classroom come flooding back.
He was one of those teachers who seemed to appreciate personality. There was one girl in class who always cracked him up. Her name was Rosie. She was a giggly faced girl, all braces and chubby cheeks, and her one liners were a delight to him. He freely laughed when she was expounding on one subject or another. There were also a couple of roguish boys who always came up with questions near the end of class that resulted in a story or two from Mr. Prange. Frequently they were personal and always entertaining. He probably knew that those boys were trying to keep him going until the bell rang - he indulged them anyway. And the rest of us hoped he’d forget about assigning homework as the second hand inched towards freedom.
But the most telling thing about Mr. Prange was the way in which he led us through the wars. The American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I & II, and the Korean War. Oh – and a few minor wars in between. The War of 1812 comes to mind. There was always a gleam in his eye when it was time to lead us through battle. Once when he was in full cry he threw his fist in the air and hissed, “Do you know why we have wars?” And then he leaned into his answer, fixing us with a knowing glance – challenging us. “Because men love war!”
I will never ever forget the passion in those words. And when I left school and had lived a little I came to agree with him as there seems to be no better explanation. Mr. Prange talked about how war kept life from being boring – or so we thought. It must have been true for him because he waged each battle in the curriculum right there in the classroom. He’d walk back and forth flailing his hands and altering his tone according to what part of the battle he was explaining. I have to tell you, I for one, was riveted.
These many years later I can say that what I learned from him was this; be passionate in whatever direction your life and will leads you. I don’t like war, but I can certainly appreciate a man who can make the horror and destruction of it come alive in front of a bunch of teenagers. I understand what such a passion can be in those who teach. And we’re all teachers sometime or other in our lives.
Mr. Prange’s example also made me realize that a teacher is simply another human being who has answered the call to educate. They’re for the most part older and wiser than those they teach. They are rendering a much needed service, often sacrificing hours that could be spent in more selfish pursuits. They are quite often a student’s best friend in the academic realm. Mr. Prange laughed at and with us, letting us know that we were human beings, too. We would need him for a little while to be passionate about things like wars and their battles, laws and what precipitated them, and most importantly about the people who came before us and influenced our lives.
Image: Free Digital Photos