Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just call me Spiderman. Only I'ma girl.

"To say that the Buffalo truly survived would be only partly accurate"

I was, as a child, a terrible student. Like Peter Parker, I was brilliant, but lazy. Unlike Peter Parker, I was not moonlighting as a superhero, rather, I was, like most children. Lazy. There was playing or reading to be done so IF I did my homework, I took shortcuts. My parents (as you know) were kind of the opposite of helicopter parents. Once I hit a certain age, I was expected to handle my shit so they only really seemed to know what I was up to if someone complained.

They were on a first name basis with my teachers from probably 2nd grade. There were nights when I dreaded the phone ringing and I always knew when it was a teacher. Sometimes I knew it was coming, sometimes I didn't.

It wasn't just homework, schoolwork was BORING and TEDIOUS (that was totally a spelling word when I was a 4th grader.) and I would have rather been reading. The only time I could really get into my classwork (other than reading time) was when we did science experiments. Those didn't feel like work, they felt like playing. Some things never change. While nothing can really excuse the laziness factor, I also know now that I didn't learn well in a traditional school environment. Even though I was in the smart kids classes, it rarely felt like a challenge so much as it felt like more work. With 36 kids in a class, I also didn't get the one on one attention that I needed to fully understand things like long division. Presented differently, I might have gotten it. If I had memorized my multiplication tables (why did I miss this? I was rarely sick), it likely would have been easier. But you sit a child down with 3 mimeographed pages of long division problems, and they don't actually get it and they are too embarrassed to ask questions, well, it's a recipe for incomplete assignments and a close relationship between my parents and teachers.

The first sentence of this rambling post is actually important.

I didn't really like doing news reports. Each week we had to get up in front of our class and give a current event or report on something. This sounds like an easy assignment, but my family didn't get the newspaper, which meant I had to get creative. We WERE allowed to do some sort of science-y demonstration, but another girl in my class had the same "Science Experiments for Kids" book I had so she tended to have that covered. Plus, a lot of the projects were not easily demonstrated. How do you show 35 other kids how to make their own kaleidoscope?

And so you got, the infamous dribble glass report.

I had a book that really sounded legit. I mean, how is a kid supposed to know the difference between nonfiction and creative nonfiction? So one day, I'm looking through the book trying to find something to do for my news report and I came across a chapter in the book on dribble glasses. I was ten, it sounded cool, so I wrote up my report and carefully "drilled" a hole in the bottom of a glass for demonstrative purposes.

I got as far as dribbling water all over the reading rug and the opening announcement of "This is a Dribble Glass" before my teacher pulled me from the front of the room. What I thought was an appropriate and interesting article was apparently NOT okay. I was hurt that I had actually completed an assignment and was excited to share, but that I didn't even get into the meat of the report before I was yanked. The phone rang that evening, loud and clear.

My teacher set me up with a classmate who's reports were always amazing. She was a good friend of mine so I was excited to have a reason to hang out with her. We went to the library and did a research report on American Bison. It had charts and pictures and I had one line I had to memorize. Katie did most of the work, but I was part of it and I think that was the only time I did well in anything other than PE. (I excelled at running back then)

Katie showed me the value of going above and beyond. I don't think I did another current event (at least not that in depth and certainly nothing that stuck with me) and I certainly didn't stop being lazy or getting into trouble at school, but that report will remind me always as an example of how things should be done. My parents always told us that it was not okay to do anything half way, and made sure that our chores were completed correctly, but didn't really show us how that translated out of the home.

I will always be grateful to Katie for helping me out. I've been lucky that way, to have the kind of friends that step up and help. I can only hope that I do the same.

By the way, my teacher made fun of me for months about that dribble glass, never giving me the opportunity to explain that there was more to it (she assumed that holding up the dripping glass was all I had to present). Since she brought it up, my classmates teased me about it too. I haven't forgotten what it feels like to be treated like a fuck up all the time. At the end of my 5th grade year, I was happy to move along to another class and the opportunity to do better. That teacher offered me the opportunity to stay behind a year. She said she felt like I was too immature to continue on to middle school. I chose to move forward. I hope I always do.

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