Search This Blog

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mrs. Krabappel - World's Worst Teacher?

All over the last couple of weeks, I've talked about teachers and teaching, and how if you have a teacher who really cares about their job, chances are you'll learn just as many lessons outside of the classroom as well as within.

Two weeks ago, we talked about a fictional teacher by the name of Miss Bliss. She didn't appear on television very long (only about a quarter of a year), but in the thirteen episodes we got to know her, she showed that she was a great teacher. Her patience with her class could be tested (especially with Zack Morris and Screech Powers being in her class), but she genuinely knew what she was doing.

Today, we're going to be looking at what one could call the anti-Miss Bliss. Or, I suppose one could call her something along the lines of Miss Apathetic.

I'm sure we have all had at least one teacher out there who simply doesn't care about teaching at all. They're either in the classroom just to get their pay, because they have absolutely nothing else to do with their time, or because they have been left so jaded over the education system that they've seemingly given up.

I'll be the first to tell you that when I was in school, I recall having at least three teachers in my lifetime who simply didn't really have any desire to be there. Granted, in the case of one teacher, he retired shortly after I was a student in his class, so naturally I can't be surprised if he spent more time counting the days to freedom instead of teaching us all about just how evil Caligula really was. But the other two I think were suffering from either an extreme case of burnout, or they were simply in the wrong profession.

Coincidentally, while I won't reveal the identities of people who I have not really had that positive of an experience with...I will state that the teachers who simply didn't care about teaching certainly reflected in the grades I received in said class. After all, if the teacher didn't have any sort of interest in what they were teaching us, how could we as students attempt to even care? It was certainly one of those Catch-22 situations.

But then I thought about looking at it through the teacher's eyes. Maybe there's a reason why they were the way they were. Maybe something happened along the way that caused them to abandon everything they were ever taught about teaching and they built up this impenetrable force field that prevented them from being as good a teacher as they once were.

Or maybe they were just born jerks and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it.

Well, in today's look back through the pages of TV Guide, we're going to look at a teacher who has seemingly lost her way. Oh, don't let the fact that this teacher is an animated cartoon character fool you. She is the very definition of someone who has seemingly lost sight of what being a teacher is all about, and she literally makes no effort in making sure that her students learn anything. I mean, when you stop and think about it, she's been teaching the same exact children for a grand total of twenty-four years and counting! Frankly, if I knew that a kid in my class was held back twenty-four years, I would be seriously questioning the quality of education my teacher was giving us.

Of course, I try to take a look at the good in everyone. Though it took me some time to find it, I did manage to come up with a list of pros in addition to the cons.

So, let's go over the clues. She's an animated figure, she's been teaching for almost a quarter of a century (even though she nor her students have aged a day), and she is so bitter about her job and placement in life that she has basically given the world of public school a huge “Screw You!”.

Have you figured it out yet?

If you guessed Edna Krabappel, you're absolutely correct! Since “The Simpsons” debuted on FOX in 1989, she has taught the fourth grade students of Springfield Elementary. And, considering the students that are in her class, it's no wonder why she seems to have given up on her once loved career.

Let's see. Well, we have Martin Prince. He's a self-confessed genius who knows everything there is to know about anything. Easily Mrs. Krabappel's best student. Of course, this sets the stage for Martin to outshine his teacher, which makes Mrs. Krabappel even more jaded than ever before.

There's twins Sherri and Terri, who are also bright students but could easily be classified as snobby mean girls who just want to make everyone else who doesn't have a twin feel self-conscious. Trust me, I went to school with a ton of Sherri and Terri's.

There's Nelson Muntz, the class bully who spends more time beating up the weaker kids of Springfield Elementary than cracking open his math books. There's Milhouse Van Houten, who spends more time hiding from Nelson Muntz than brushing up on American History.

And then there's Bartholomew J. Simpson. The very bane of Mrs. Krabappel's existence. The boy who has kept our teacher spotlight on a steady diet of dinners-for-one, cigarettes, and cheap wine for years.

Just how much trouble has Bart caused towards Mrs. Krabappel? Well...

  • He pretended to pose as a love interest for her to get revenge for her taking away his yo-yo.
  • He consistently gets horrible grades in her class, making her doubt her ability to even teach anybody.
  • He pulls pranks on her and all the other students and faculty in the school.
  • When Mrs. Krabappel embarked on a secret affair with Principal Skinner, Bart exposed their torrid little affair.

No wonder Mrs. Krabappel has absolutely no love for her job anymore.

But wait. There's a lot more to this story than what we're lead to believe. Yes, Mrs. Krabappel is a lost soul on the campus grounds of Springfield Elementary. But she certainly didn't start off that way.

To be honest, the origin story of Mrs. Krabappel has changed and been retconned so much that not even I know what the real story is. But the one that seems to make the most sense is the one theory that was explained in the episode “The Seemingly Never-Ending Story”, which originally aired on March 12, 2006.

In that episode, we learn that the summer before she began teaching at Springfield Elementary, she was in a relationship with Moe Szyslak of all people! The relationship between both of them was absolutely perfect, but Edna didn't particularly care for tavern owners, prompting Moe to come up with a way to abandon his business without Edna finding out the truth. The rest of the plot was kind of contrived involving known criminal Snake and a bunch of Mayan coins, but how the love story ended really sets the stage for Edna Krabappel's life.

You see, Edna and Moe were about to leave Springfield for good and one of the last things that she had to do was resign from her new job at Springfield Elementary. The problem was that there was one person who prevented her from doing exactly that.

Bart Simpson.

Turns out that Bart Simpson was feeling sorry for himself. At that time, Bart was a year or two away from being a student in Mrs. Krabappel's class, and he told her a huge sob story about how he constantly was getting into trouble and that he wouldn't amount to anything and that he was a lost cause. At that point in her life, Mrs. Krabappel didn't like to see anybody fall through the cracks, so she bought into Bart's cries for help hook, line, and sinker - unaware that Bart was only acting that way to cause a distraction for Nelson himself to steal some equipment from Springfield Elementary.

And, the rest, shall we history. In just two short years, Mrs. Krabappel went from a teacher who wanted to change the world, to becoming a woman who was so jaded and so bitter about life that she just stopped caring. A rather depressing display, don't you think?

Ah, but wait. What if I told you that inside that battered, bruised, and broken heart lay a single ray of hope? What if I told you that despite all of the hurt in her life, there's still a little piece of her that still cared? You'd think I was nuts, right?

Well, consider this.

At some point before the show began, we know that Mrs. Krabappel was married. We can only assume that her former husband's last name was Krabappel. And we can assume that based on how she belittles herself and has a bit of a warped view on love that her husband certainly lived up to his name. The divorce was finalized by the time the show began, and we are constantly reminded that for the first few seasons of the show that Mrs. Krabappel was a lonely woman. She frequently bought soup servings for one, watched trashy television, engrossed herself in romance novels, and basically jumped all over every single man who crossed her path be it a high school principal, a Japanese sushi chef, or even a member of rock band Aerosmith!

That's why some people really considered it cruel when Bart created the mystery man of “Woodrow” (in the guise of hockey player Gordie Howe) in a fit of revenge against his teacher for spoiling his fun. 

However, when Bart witnessed his teacher breaking down in a fancy restaurant after “Woodrow” stood her up, he really felt horrible. With help from the rest of his family (well, with help from everyone except Maggie and Homer to a lesser extent), Bart wrote Mrs. Krabappel a final letter from “Woodrow”, which broke things off with her, but let her know that she was loved. And, you know, I do think that while Bart's intentions were initially mean-spirited, by reading Edna's letters to “Woodrow”, he got a better sense of who she was.

And hey, it's not as if Mrs. Krabappel took great pleasure in failing her students. Sure, when Bart kept failing her tests, she did take some joy in using her faithful red pen to mark off every question that Bart got wrong. But in the season two opener, Bart really did study hard for a test when he prayed for a snow day (and magically got one), and he missed passing by one mark. He broke down in tears in front of a shocked Mrs. Krabappel who actually attempted to comfort him. And in what could have been one of Mrs. K's greatest moments, she actually awarded Bart an extra credit point when during his meltdown he revealed a fact about American History that was correct. She found it within the kindness of her broken heart to award Bart an extra point bringing his final grade to a D-minus.

All right, so a D-minus is nothing special. To Bart, it was worth everything. And, he thanked his teacher by kissing her on the cheek...and promptly regretting it once he came to his senses!

Basically, Mrs. Krabappel could be a great teacher if she put out the effort to make it happen. And, I think at times when she was at her most happiest in life, those were the times in which she was at her happiest. In particular when she was in a relationship with someone else. She and Principal Skinner had a little fling going on for a few seasons (in which Bart accidentally discovered their secret which caused both Skinner and Krabappel to blackmail him into doing their dirty work, which lead to Bart exposing the affair), but we all knew that Principal Skinner's only commitment was to his mother. The relationship was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

Although, Mrs. Krabappel has apparently fallen for Ned Flanders of all people, which kind of makes me chuckle. The so-called scarlet woman of Springfield entering into a romance with the purest man in Springfield. Sigh...the writers of The Simpsons clearly know the definition of irony, that's for sure.

So, I suppose looking back on the life and times of Mrs. Krabappel, it's easy to see how she ended up the way she did. She came into the world of education ready to change the world and be a positive role model for her students. Unfortunately, she became a victim of the American public school system and was placed in what could easily be one of the worst elementary schools in the entire continent of North America, and the more problems she had in her class, combined with the general apathy of the school board and school staff who worked at Springfield Elementary...well, again, it's easy to see where her dreams got derailed along the way and she retreated into her shell of bitterness.

However, several people over the course of her life have gotten her to open up more and in some aspects, they have reminded her why she came to Springfield in the first place. Principal Skinner, Ned Flanders...heck, even Bart Simpson helped her.

Perhaps there may come a time in which Mrs. Krabappel finally sees her purpose, and she may end up getting her second wind yet. But, I'm not exactly holding my breath on that one.

No comments:

Post a Comment