As a teacher, I’m pretty metacognitive about my own education. I can recall, with painful clarity, some of my most memorable experiences in classes in elementary school, high school, and college (yes, I left out middle school… I think I’ve blocked all of that out).
For example, when I was in fourth grade, I went to school one day close to Christmas with a tightness in my belly that I recognize now, even though I didn’t recognize it then. My mom and I had spent the night before making shortbread cookies and watching White Christmas, the very best Christmas movie EVER. The next morning, I went to school without much warning that I didn’t feel well except that my pants felt too tight. Every single pair of pants. I wasn’t in the classroom long before I felt sick. Epically sick. I ran for the classroom door on my way to the bathroom but I didn’t make it, vomiting spectacularly all over the floor of the hallway, where students were still milling about on their way to class and teachers were chatting, unaware that a student was going to go all Linda Blair on them. The teacher from the room across the hall was an innocent victim (later, when I was waiting for my mom to come get me, I overheard her whispering to the front office secretary that she would need coverage for the rest of the day so she could change her clothes). I realized that I wasn’t going to make to the bathroom down the hall, so I ran back into the classroom to be sick into the classroom sink. But I didn’t make it there, either. I threw up on Tamika Logan’s jacket. Sorry, Tamika. My classmates didn’t come into the classroom that morning, but the PE teacher was sent to me from the front office to escort me down to the clinic, which she did at arm’s length. I wanted to tell her that I was done throwing up, that she didn’t need to worry about me getting her multi-colored track suit dirty. Isn’t it funny how clear some memories are? Also, doesn’t it feel like I talk about vomit a lot in this blog?
In high school, I had an incredible teacher, Mr. Majeske. He was my English 9 GT teacher and my AP US Government teacher, so he had the unique opportunity to teach me twice in high school. (I’ve had that opportunity, too, and I’m grateful for it. Sometimes teaching ninth graders is enough to make you lose all hope in humanity, so to see that ninth graders become rational, tolerable human beings, well, it’s a relief). Mr. Majeske is perhaps the most obsessive compulsive person I’ve ever met. He always kept three writing implements on his desk: a red pen, a blue pen, and a pencil. And he would order them alphabetically. Anyways, when I was a senior, he assigned a senior research paper on a governmental issue. I chose the line item veto. Among his many provisos, a stipulation that required students to be on time to class the day the paper was due. If a student was late, Mr. Majeske wouldn’t take the paper. Of course, I worked my tail off on that paper and barely slept the night before it was due. It also happened that I signed up to present my paper the day it was due. I printed a copy of my paper and assembled the manilla folder Mr. Majeske required for submissions, then printed a second copy of the paper to deliver my presentation from but somehow forgot the second copy at home in a rush to get to school early. Thank goodness I planned to get to school early because that left me time to make a copy in the library before class. I made it to class with just moments to spare. My friend Beney, number four in the class and already admitted to UPenn, wasn’t so lucky. Mr. Majeske had to write a letter to the university to explain why Beney’s grade went from an A to a D for the third quarter.
Then in college, I took the science class required by my liberal arts college,
Rocks for Jocks Geology. I don’t know why I thought Geology was the best choice for me… I guess it was the least of the evils (by evils, I mean biology, chemistry, and physics… those were the only science classes offered at Mary Washington). For weeks, I attended lectures and 8 am labs, never really making the very necessary effort to learn material that was so foreign to me; I was bored and hated that I was wasting space in my schedule for something dumb. But I managed to do well enough. When I sat for the final, I knew I needed to perform well or I couldn’t earn above a C, so I studied, even getting help from my science major roommates. I sat, confidently answering multiple choice questions and the essay question, even finishing early, before all but one student in the lecture hall classroom. Walking to the lectern, I practically preened with pride at my accomplishment, not noticing the dubious looks from my classmates as I turned in my test and walked out, an hour and a half after I started. It wasn’t until I got home and spoke to my friends in the class that I realized that there were three required essays and I had only completed one. Hysteria ensued. I called my professor urgently, emailed, left a note for him at his office, stalker style. By the time he finally contacted me, I was resolved to my inevitable failure on the exam. I hadn’t guessed wrong… He wouldn’t let me retake the test. Ah well. I ended up passing the class with a C, I believe.
Despite the apparent drama in these stories, I had a pretty awesome educational experience. I love learning, even when I was young, and valued my teachers (most of them, anyway). It seems obvious that I would enter the education profession with the hope of providing similar (positive) experiences for my students. Of course, I’ve probably provided similarly terrifying experiences, too. That comes with the territory.
What experiences do you have from school? Was there a class that you dreaded more than the others?
This blog post was written as a response to the Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion.