Friday, March 02, 2007

Women are Fantastic Friday: A Hole in the Fence Meme

To graduate or not to graduate, that is the question...

One day, a couple of weeks before high school graduation, my Senior English teacher called me back into her class after the bell rang. She looked me in the eye and told me quite bluntly: "Mary, you are about to NOT graduate from high school." I had begun my high school career with a high B average. Capable of more, I was never all that enthusiastic about homework, thus my semester grades would always be lowered by a few zeros in the grade books. With each year, there was more homework and more reading required and lower grades. I'm sure my teachers experienced much frustration with my performance. I eagerly joined in class discussion and almost always performed well on tests. Ask me to bring in homework, though, and you'd more than likely be left wanting.

I remember my junior year we were required to write a term paper. Each step in the process, we were to have checked off by the teacher. One Friday, I sat in class with my note cards, outline and rough draft. My teacher was going to check off all three the same day. My comparison of Dick Diver from Tender is the Night and Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby was due the following Monday. It was now or never. Before Mrs. G. could place those three little check marks in her grade book, a voice came over the loud speaker announcing a bomb threat. We were to evacuate the room immediately and convene on the football field. We weren't supposed to take the time to gather our things, just get out of class. NOW. IT'S A BOMB THREAT. I was hustling my little self out of there as quickly as possible when my teacher called out to me: "Mary! Grab your work!" Apparently there are some things worth risking life and limb and my term paper research was one of them! There was no bomb. The students of our school were quite safe and my term paper was turned in the following Monday.

The first semester of my senior year, I had a consumer math class. I believe these classes have been phased out, but I spent a semester learning how to balance a checkbook, file a tax return and amortize an entire 30 year mortgage. Of course, me being me, I didn't turn in my loan calculations. BORING! I was graced with an F+. F+? Is that even possible? The teacher, Mr. B., decided to give me that most unusual grade so that I could make up my work the next semester in night school. (Yes. That is how old I am. We had night school classes available for high school students. We had driver's ed, too.) All I had to do was complete the missing loan assignment and I would be done. So, for a few weeks, with much resentment in my less than rational teenage heart, I calculated the interest, added it to the principle, subtracted the payment--over and over again--30 years worth.

So now, I found myself looking at Mrs. A. and at a loss for how to respond to her declaration: "Mary! You are about to NOT graduate from high school." To be honest, I don't remember everything that happened during that conversation. I have vague memories of stomach pain, rows of zeros in the grade book and some sort of understanding of what work I would need to complete in order to pass her class. Cut to graduation day. I had managed to fulfill all my graduation requirements. The tradition at my high school was for all the graduates to walk to their seats with the teachers lined up on either side of them at the entrance to the stadium. As I passed Mrs. A., she grabbed my hand and shook it, exclaiming, "You did it!"

I credit Mrs. A. with throwing the metaphorical glass of cold water on my face which I needed to wake up to my situation. She was an excellent teacher and I realize that she always saw my potential. She encouraged me to take the AP English exam. I refused because I was angry that I was being asked to take the test when they wouldn't allow me to register for the AP class. Now, I can look back and appreciate that she thought I had a chance of passing the test even without the preparation I would have received in the class. Sadly, I think that kind of encouragement was so foreign to me; I didn't know what to do with it. I was trapped in my "Can't Do" attitude.

Today, on Women are Fantastic Friday, I'd like to give a virtual toast to Mrs. A. A teacher who cared. Thank you, from the bottom of my high school diploma holding heart!


(I hated this picture of me in the yearbook. I had too much foundation on and not enough of any other kind of make up so my face washed out completely. My hair needed to be cut and so my bangs did this flippy thing. Ugh! I did have better photos taken to pass out to my friends but was stuck with this one for the yearbook.)








Women are Fantastic Friday is hosted by Sophie at A Hole in the Fence.



I did it! Have you?

13 comments:

Lulu said...

Mary-Lue - having a son that is graduating from high school this year, I can relate. I'm glad that you shared this story about an inspiring and caring teacher.

Beck said...

THat picture of you in the yearbook was quite cute! You should see mine - I wasn't allowed to wear makeup or use hair products, and so the resulting pictures are a monument to my parent's cluelessness.

Sophie said...

I think you and I were in high school at the same time. I really enjoyed your description of "back in the day" because that is a slice of life for me, too. What a great story; your teacher stepped out of her comfort zone to reach out to you. Thanks so much for participating in this meme! I really enjoyed your story.

daisies said...

how cute were you :)

i had one of those teachers, my highschool english/drama teacher ~ she gave me more than i could ever express ...

i think this was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful caring teacher, thank you for sharing ...

Shari said...

Yay for Mrs. A! I had a math teacher that made me fall in love with math so much that I ended up taking Pre-Calculus and loving it. He was so supportive and if someone didn't understand, he would explain it in different ways until they did. Great teachers are the best.

Mel said...

Makes me wanna whap the person who decided to invent the saying "those than can do, DO....those that can't do, teach".

Pshaw to THAT!

And thanks to Mrs. A--she done herself proud!

atypical said...

I loved this entry so much that it has set me to thinking about maybe honoring a few women in my life starting next week. It could happen!

I, for one, am glad you had Mrs. A. If it weren't for her, your life might have taken a different path, and we never would have met.

-t

MarillaAnne said...

Isn't it wild? "Just doing her job" meant she issued a challenge that still causes you to write ;~) ... and she inserted a spot of change for you.

Isn't this a great meme? I swear between you and Sophie and TheOddMix, I feel like I'm always thinking!

ttyl
pam

Aliki2006 said...

What a wonderful and moving tribute to this woman--and what a great idea for a meme--women are fantastic friday, I love it!

meredith said...

I am thankful, too, for a couple of good teachers that gave me the encouragement I needed to get where I am today.

ewe are here said...

What a nice post!
I wish there were more teachers who made that kind of effort... just a little bit 'extra' is all some kids need once in a while.

And I think your pic is cute!

Alpha DogMa said...

Yea for good teachers! I hope my kids have at least one teacher like this (and my Mr. D.) who are passionate about their jobs.
Great post

allrileyedup said...

You're hard on yourself. Your high school pic is cute. I had two teachers who really pushed me in high school. When I graduated from college, in degrees relevant to the fields they taught me in, I sent them graduation announcements. I have no idea if they knew remembered me or not, but it was important to me that I remembered them.