Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"You're not as smart as you think you are."

The year was 1993. I was in third grade and it was winter time- January or February.

I'd spent the early part of the year getting in trouble.  I talked- a lot.  My teacher, Mrs. F, despised me.  It's not good when as a small child you can tell that an adult really doesn't like you.  All the signs were there though- she took the side of every other child against me.  I was sent to the round table for telling a girl to "Shut up", when she said it to me three times first.

I hold grudges.
Anyway, I remember about half the class was told to come up to the front of the room.  Of course I was one of the ones sent to the front- I volunteered a lot.  We were each handed a large card with a word on it.  Mine was "Whip".  We were to match ourselves up in pairs, creating larger words.

"All right" I thought, "This is going to be easy! Whip Cream!"  Yes, I know it's Whipped Cream. Seven year old me had no idea.  Don't even get me started on "Napoleon Ice Cream".

A quick search of the words and I realized this wasn't going to be quite so easy.  There were no other words that fit with "Whip".  Slowly the other children paired up and returned to their seats.  Soon it was just myself and a kid named Will.  Will had a card with two other words on it.  "Poor Will."  I thought that was interesting, since his name was Will and all.  He was hardly the brightest crayon in the box, but a nice kid in general.

I came to the brilliant conclusion that "Whip" must have been a last name.  So we lined up.  "Poor Will Whip."

"No!" Mrs. F. triumphantly thundered.  Her glee was honestly palpable.  We rearranged and our cards spelled out "Whip Poor Will".  I thought it was kind of unfair.  First we call Will poor, then we whip him? 

Mrs. F. finally confirmed our word was correct.

I don't remember saying anything, but I clearly must have said "oh, that one was hard!" or something similar.

Mrs. F's eyes lit up and she informed me "I gave you a harder one.  I wanted to prove to you that you're not as smart as you think you are."

Wow.  How pathetic is it when a 60+ year old woman engages in a battle of wits with a 7 year old? The rest of the class laughed of course and we were sent back to our seats.

I got the last laugh though.  Mrs. F. eventually decided on a parent-teacher conference. Why? I honestly do not know.  My parents pumped me relentlessly for information- what had I done? Was there anything else I wanted to tell them before we all went in to sit down?  I shook my head- no, I really didn't know what I had done.  Other than telling Candice to shut up and being sent to the round table.  Oh, and I talked a lot.  They were used to seeing that little tidbit on every report card from Kindergarten on up, so that was no great shock to them.

I let my mind wander a lot during the conference, but I do remember my Dad's face at one point becoming as dark as a thunder cloud.

"You mean you're punishing her because she answers too often, too quickly?  Because the answers she gives you are right?  Why didn't you just ask her to slow down?"  They talked a little more and then he turned to me and said "You answer the questions in class too fast.  Can you let some of the other kids answer sometimes?"  I nodded and they moved on.

It was a glorious day. Mrs. F. definitely got an earful on the way I was being treated in class (that the stupid woman admitted to herself).   She had to keep her dislike of me a little more under wraps after this meeting as well.  I had learned that good teachers do not tell 7 year olds how they want to bring them down a notch.  I had also learned that more behavior like that was to be reported to my parents.

So... to Mrs. F.- the woman who taught me I would never be a teacher unless I loved teaching, because otherwise you became a miserable old piece of baggage that picked on small children...

I'm still probably not as smart as I think I am- but you also didn't succeed in destroying any self-esteem I had, nor did you kill my love of learning.  I win.

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