Old School

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Not for Thee.”

I never say things like this so please keep it to yourself.  I was a very smart kid who never had to work to learn anything I wanted to learn or enough to get by in classes that didn’t register, can you say Latin?   Now that dates me but the time is important.  This took place in 1955 when I was a junior in high school.

I received a normal report card the first of three six-week periods in the first semester except for my chemistry grade.  Now you should know I became a physicist and my first year college chem teacher tried hard to recruit me for chemistry.  So the presence of the first D I had ever seen on a report card was disconcerting but for it to be in chemistry was clearly a mistake.  So after school I gave up walking with my friends downtown to the bus and went up to the chem lab to set things right.

Miss Lyons had ruled that chem lab long enough to have spoken fondly of my mother who had graduated two years early in the days when they dealt with smart kids by moving them to the next grade whenever they got too far ahead.  She was considered as tough a teacher as we had and I had no plan to charm her nor did I think any more was needed than to gently call her attention to her obvious mistake.

She was seated at her desk in the front of the lab doing whatever teachers do after school when I entered and cleared my throat,

“Miss Lyons, there’s a problem with my chem grade”  I said as I handed the report card to  her.

She looked at it then at me and said, “no, it’s all right” and handed it back to me and looked back to the papers on her desk.

I was now confused with my 16-year-old confidence a bit frazzled but I was not about to leave.  “But, Miss Lyons, you gave me a D.”

She looked up again, sat up and moved her chair back.  “Roger, you are very gifted,  but you’re lazy.  If you tried you could learn a great deal more than just what you think is enough to get an A .  You’re not going to get an A in my class until you do the kind of work you’re capable of.  In fact if you don’t do better next time I’ll give you an F.”

I don’t remember how I extricated myself but I do recall being angry at the unfair treatment.  But times were different.  I knew better than to expect my mom to back me up on this.  School was my responsibility and trouble at school meant trouble at home.

So I sucked it up and got A’s the rest of the year.  I never had a teacher I respected more, but for reasons obvious to everyone I can’t advise a teacher today to use her strategy.  That saddens me.