Daily Prompt: Fight the Power
Teachers are the greatest. My High School English teacher, Mrs. G. was absolutely the greatest:
- greatest abuser of power
- greatest holder of preconceived notions of ability
- greatest Luddite in the faculty of Murray Bergtraums’s H.S.
Let’s face it, life and as well as in school, you only recall two types of teachers: those people and teachers that had a significant positive impact on you (thanks, Mrs. Schneider, Ms. Feldgrebber, and Dr. Tobin) and those with which you had negative experiences. Guess which category Mrs. G falls into?
But not always; I had taken the elective English course in Thanatology, out of macabre interest (note the term GOTH hadn’t been applied yet back in the 80’s, so my interest was purely academic. I still recall the some of my favorite phrases, poems, and soliloquies on death and dying (“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,…” “Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light,…” “My days are in the October leaf,…” ). Sadly I give credit to the sollibus of the class, as Mrs. G did nothing to add timbre to these powerful and meaning words.
Coursework consisted of review and essays of the assigned reading, and routinely I performed, garnering B’s and B+ on turned in work. I fell into the middle and was content with that placement…
This assignment asked something different of us: Write your own gravestone.
(I know, morose, huh? but, WHOA, what an opportunity!)
For the first time we were being asked to introspect and create..new !
I stayed spent hours on this one assignment (easily treble the amount of time I spent on all my other daily assignments combined). This was going to be the assignment that opened her and my eyes to writing, she’d see that her course had affected me. And really, what better means of appreciation could any teacher want other than to see the impact of their teaching?
Prior to a narrative cut forward 48 hours, to the time our assignments are handed back, I should introduce Brian, my classmate, close friend, and other player in this teen-aged drama.
Brian was (and I imagine, still is) a mathematical genius. Blond-haired, blue eyed and quick witted and comic nerd, we hit if off easily. He was an A student, and appeared to apply himself to many studies.
But not to this class.
We joked about how little effort and time he put into the “Death Class” (always expressed with an audible exclamation and tremulous italicization). Regardless, Mrs. G was in love with Brian’s under-effort, and he routinely pulled in As for what he admitted was mediocre work.
Okay, flash forward (for real now) to the following morning when our assignments were returned. Many had joked on the necrophiliac nature of the assignment and we (the Geekerati) had all shared the numbers on how long we spent on the assignment and what we expected back. Some of our responses were tame, others funny, some snide, most sophomoric. Brian’s fell easily into that category and we, the Geek Squad, were all placing bets on Brian’s first B grade.
He got an A+
That wasn’t surprising given his favored son status
I got a C-
Red Circled C- with a note:
You copied this.
I was livid.
I had never debated a grade before, teachers, I knew were establishment..they didn’t make mistakes. And this! In the face of Brian’s easy and unearned A means this was more than a mistake,
It was prejudice.
Sight unseen Brian’s work was already presumed to be A material (I mean, had she even read it?). Whereas my hard work, when applied, was apparetnly so well written, that it was assumed that I COULDN’T HAVE WRITTEN IT (sorry for the caps, but even now decades later, this act of blatant disdain for work still makes me see red)
So, I waited after class, and summoned my courage to do the heretofore unthinkable, fight for a fair grade. Hre, now, in 1982, years before Spike demanded it of me, I was going to Fight the Power.
I don’t even remember what I said, but I do recall the passion I felt as I argued and lobbied for reconsideration.
After my diatribe (I don’t remember her voicing any argument) she changed the grade
WTF? not A?
I was pleased with myself. It was, I believe, the first non-parental authority figure I stood up to ..and won
The following year I would run for (and win) a seat on the student council.
To this day I still I still value the pensive introspection of a Danish Prince as voiced by a 12th century poet..
So I guess even a negative has a positive..
And, yes, I should’ve fought for that A+