Mr. Parks was perhaps the coolest elementary teacher on the planet. Well over 6-feet-tall with that late 70s Ken-doll hair, he suspended a Superman mannequin from the ceiling of his room, had a pet tarantula who was allowed to leave the cage, and dressed like the Tooth Fairy on Halloween.
I of course, got the other sixth-grade teacher. I recall little about her, although my report card that year does note “Dawn is a smart student with real leadership potential who spends too much time socializing.”
This has been on every report card of my life, by the way. Also every employee review.
But it is not his pink tutu or tarantula that forever seared Mr. Parks into my mind.
No, that is reserved for the sixth grade sex-education discussion. Because our teacher, bespectacled and far more librarian than libertine, was *way* too timid to deal with such things, the job fell to Mr. Parks. Both classes packed into his classroom to watch “the movie.”
Afterward, he told us we could write our questions anonymously, and send them to the front of the class, and he would answer them.
Now, I do not recall whether it was by pre-arranged plot, or we had reached some hormonal tipping point en masse. But I do know that every child in the portable who had a pencil turned in the same question.
I still remember Mr. Parks’ face as he opened question after question. First, raising his eyebrows. Then, then looking resigned as the pile of papers stacked up.
Finally, he sighed.
“I see you all have the same question.”
He walked to the board, and drew this.
And explained calmly. “When two people are in love, of course they kiss like this.”
Then, he turned back to the board and drew again.
He turned back to us — still speaking calmly, but turning crimson.
“And sometimes, when people get married, they kiss like this. You can see it looks like a 6 and a 9. That’s why it’s called ’69’.”
The class was big-eyed and silent as that sank in. Mr. Parks continued.
He turned and erased the board, then faced us again.
“I know that’s not a very detailed explanation. But if you have any further questions, I will be happy to send a note home to your parents, and I will let them know you are all very curious.”
And with that, our sixth-grade sex education came to an end.