Thursday, April 26, 2007

The First Assignment I Ever Blew Off Out Of Boredom

(But not the last...)

Continuing on the educational theme, I thought I'd tell you about one of my earliest run-ins with the educational system. For some reason it made a strong impression on me. It probably has something to do with my genetic predisposition toward holding a grudge. I was going to pop in a link there, but I haven't talked about it yet, so you'll have to take my word for it. It's closely tied to my family's genetic predisposition toward jackassery, as you may well imagine.

In any case, a little background: Kindergarten was optional in my school district, and because I was the last child (Surprise, Ma!), my mom decided to skip it so she could spend more time with me. Go figure...

So it came to pass in the first few days of first grade that my teacher gave a little pep talk to impress upon us the benefits of a public education. Her talk progressed in the vein of asking a series of rhetorical questions about things that we were unable to do, but would be able to do after first grade. You know, things like "How many of you could change a tire before you came to school?" or "How many of you could solve differential equations before you came to school?" or something along those lines... my memory grows dim. The one that sticks in my mind is when she asked "How many of you could read before you came to first grade."

I had not twigged to the fact that these were supposed to be rhetorical questions, so I raised my hand, prompting the kind of response that one normally associates with Dickensian stories about orphans and workhouses. In front of the whole class she snapped back that I most certainly could not read before I came to school, and proceeded to chew me out for interrupting her spiel.

I was taken aback, but because I was raised in a household where one did not tell grownups when they are acting like an ass, I held my tongue.

A few days later, we began doing assessments for reading and math placement and being able to walk along a board without falling off. I guess that last one was for P.E. placement. I never figured that one out. One of the tasks was, and I kid you not, to count as high as we possibly could. She made a big deal over the kid who first reached 100. And the second.

It came to my turn. I started counting. Around 20 or so, I realized how staggeringly pointless this was. I briefly considered explaining place values to her. However, given her reaction to the whole "I can already read" thing, I thought that bringing up "I already understand place values" would probably not go over well. I started wondering at what point I should stop counting. I don't recall my exact thought process, but I'm pretty sure that it went something like this: "I could keep going with this pointless excercise until I hit a hundred to get the praise that she'd given the other kids, or I could show everyone up and just count until she has to ask me to stop... or I could just stop now and spend the rest of the time until lunch thinking rude comments about the really dumb kids."

I stopped and sat down.

Now, one would think that she would have the grace to apologize for her outburst when the reading aptitude results came back. One would be wrong. However, she did borrow a reading book from the fifth graders and let me have my own reading group. It was the closest she came to admitting she was wrong.


Johnny Yen said...

That story is right out of "To Kill a Mockingbird," which I assume you've read. I'm going to start calling you "Scout" from now on.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Isn't it funny how some of those early experiences are so well remembered, and how they shape who you are?

I remember being picked to go with my first grade teacher to go to the school library and come back with some books for my class.

One book I saw was from a series of books that I recognized because I owned a few of them. The characters were different, but I could tell the illustrations and cover were done by the same artist in the same style. "Oh," I said to her, showing her the cover "I love these books. I love the way the characters are drawn." She peered down her nose at me and told me I would do well stop showing off how smart I thought I was all the time.

I was so crushed. I really thought she would be excited about the book, too. I didn't understand what I had done wrong.

Later I figured out that some teachers just get a thrill out of deflating the enthusiasm of kids for learning. Sad.

lulu said...

I had my own reading group too. My sixth grade teacher kept failing me in spelling, and never understood my mother's arguement that it wasn't OK to fail me on 12th grade spelling words when I was in the sixth grade.

Teachers can be idiots.

BeckEye said...

I always excelled in reading, writing and spelling but for some reason in either 3rd or 4th grade, my teacher decided that I needed speech class for a supposed lisp. I NEVER had a lisp. EVER. I was in the speech class for about 5 days before they had to concede that I didn't belong there.

Natalie said...

In kindergarten I was often excused to go read stories to the 1st and 2nd graders. No wonder everyone thought I was a nerd.

deadspot said...

I was Atticus when we had to act out scenes. I think it was because I could pronounce all the big words.

Wow, Vikki. Some people just should not be teachers. I mean, at some point you would think that they would take a step back and wonder what has gone so wrong in their life that they need to feel superior to a six year old.

Libraries are great. Just about the only bright spot in second grade was that I was at a school that went all the way up to 6th grade, and the school librarians gave me the run of the stacks while the other second graders were stuck in the section with the little kid books.

Heh. I've been there, Lulu.

Luckily, kids are totally tolerant toward the kids that have to go to speech therapy... You can't tell it now, but I did the speech thing until 5th grade.

Wow, I bet you were reading even earlier than I was, Natalie. Nerd. :)