Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I Would Have Hated Me....

If I had had me as a student in high school, I probably would have hated me.

I don't think my teachers HATED me (at least not all of them), but I'm sure I was a source of frustration. It pains me to say it, but I was a bit....... no, not just a bit, a lot....... of a brat.

I wasn't a terrible discipline problem. I did the usual mischievous things, like skipping class, smoking in the bathrooms although we had a perfectly legal smoking area outside, skipping school, and writing in my textbooks.

But I made straight A's. I remember a seventh grade teacher pulling me out into the hall, and I'm sure she wanted to snarl at me. That, however, was in the days when teachers were too nice to snarl. I thought this particular teacher was cool because she had hair down to her butt, and she never wore it up or pulled back, and her husband was a veterinarian. I'm not sure I knew much about other teachers' spouses. Anyway, she told me wearily that she was sick and tired of looking at the back of my head and putting 100's on my papers. I don't remember my reaction. I'm sure I didn't feel sorry enough for her to shut up once in a while. I'm equally sure I didn't offer to stop making 100's, although if I had honed my smart-assness at that stage, I would have at least made the gesture.

I had the same teacher for math all four years of high school. (Eighth grade was included in our high school back then. We were called "sub-freshmen". Good Lord. That year I had my best friend's mother for math.) Dane Marshall must have wondered what she had done in a previous lifetime to warrant having ME for Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry. We didn't have calculus in my high school. If we had, perhaps I would be a pediatrician today and still paying off medical school loans. Between Mr. College Calculus and Mr. College Chemistry, however, I made a hurried exit from the honors program at UGA and went looking for a degree I could get for reading books.

Back to math. I loved math, because it made sense. Everything had an answer. It was either right or wrong, and I insisted on being right. Dane (I still have a hard time calling her by her first name. I thought it was cool that we had the same name, if we reversed the last three letters) always taught us the procedures, the formulas, the whatevers, and she also taught us the short-cuts. She said once that she thought people who were natural mathematicians were good at math because we were lazy. I still remember some of those short-cuts.

My senior year, I was pretty much out of courses to take, and they didn't like to graduate us early. As it was, they registered me for "home study" sixth period, which meant I left one class period early, but I didn't have a job, or it would have been "work study." I raised sand about it, because I didn't WANT to leave early. Leaving early meant I had to go home and wash dishes or sweep the carport or vacuum or something. Besides, it meant I had to make the mile-and-a-half trip back to school for pep rallies. I was on the drill team, so I had to be there for pep rallies. Besides, they were fun.

Dane allowed me to sign up to be her teacher's aide my senior year. In her mind, it gave her some help tutoring those who were NOT mathematically gifted and assistance in grading papers. In MY mind, however, it gave me yet another period in which to roam the halls. As treasurer of the student body, I felt it my duty to roam the halls. I also roamed the halls during what had been Psychology class. I don't even remember what caused me to pitch the tantrum during which I slammed out of DOCTOR Whatever-His-Name-Was's (was's?) classroom and swear I wouldn't be back. But I said it, and therefore I couldn't go back. Brat extraordinaire.

Back to math. Again. I was assigned to Dane's third period class to help her out. I would have earned the equivalent of one-half credit just for being a teacher's helper. I liked her, I liked the subject. Which renders me incapable of explaining why I never went. Especially considering the fact that Andy, a guy I was crazy about and dated briefly, was in that class.

One day I wandered down that hall during that class, and she had put Andy out in the hall. Me being A) a brat and B) not too bright, stopped to chat with Andy. You know why teachers usually put kids out in the hall? To talk to them later, when they've overcome the urge to separate their heads from their shoulders. So there I stood, chatting away with Andy, in the hall, during the class period I was supposed to be helping Dane. Naturally the door opened and she came out into the hall.

Before she could address whatever egregious transgression Andy was guilty of (I'm sure there were lots), she turned to me and said, "I want you to write an essay explaining why you haven't been in this class all quarter helping me and turn it in to me."

It would have been easy to do. I could write essays in my sleep. I could even have dredged up the fact that the class immediately followed break, during which the student council operated a concession stand, and I was responsible for counting the money and putting everything up. (Treasurer, remember?) She would have accepted that. She wouldn't have liked it, but she would have accepted it.

Only I was too big a brat to write it. I just refused. Because as a brat, I considered it my God-given right to wander the halls and do whatever I wanted to, and never mind writing a stupid essay to explain myself.

One day when I was in trig class, the registrar came to Dane's classroom. I could hear most of the conversation because I was sitting right next to the door. Dane had given me an incomplete for the teacher's aide half-credit I was supposed to get, and the registrar was trying to get her to change it. Dane stood her ground and refused. I graduated from high school with an incomplete for teacher's aide.

I respected her so much for that. Maybe not right then, but certainly after I became a teacher. I know I was one of her favorites (those were the only people who got to BE teachers' aides), and she refused to expunge a black mark from my transcript. Yet she's NOT the teacher who, when I declared my intention to become a teacher AFTER I had already graduated from college, looked at me and said, "You're going to be a what?"

I ran into Dane a couple of years ago at a training institute for AP teachers. I was becoming qualified to teach AP English; she was teaching teachers how to teach AP Calculus. We wound up at the same table during lunch. She explained to the others sitting at our table that she had been my high school teacher for four years. I admitted what a brat I had been and told her how much I respected her for refusing to change the incomplete on my transcript.

She had no recollection of the entire incident.

She had no memories of me being a brat.

She only remembered that I was an excellent math student and had natural mathematical abilities.

Sigh. I wish I didn't have those memories. I wish I had been as nice as Dane remembers me being.

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