Tuesday, September 19, 2006
I reflected about the high school years the other day with one of my oldest friends, April. (that's the republican, for my regular readers) We spent alot of time together because we had similar circumstances -- only child, single mother and one of the few black students in a predominantly white classroom. We were also the girls with the answers. We were the students in class that teachers love, but students hate. We knew the answers, but it's not that we tried to draw attention to that fact. We weren't the kid in the front row who raised his hand for every question and pouted if the teacher picked someone else. We were undercover nerds. We tried to hide our brains, but the teachers would know better and call on us constantly to demonstrate that fact. Then they'd praise us and the other kids would roll their eyes.
April's talent is math, mine is English. Here is April's story, as told to me:
(My high school, 1993. Ms. Massaquoi's pre-calculus class)
Ms. M: Now who can look at this problem and apply the I Love Math Theorem?
April: (face buried behind textbook)
Ms. M: Anyone? Anyone?
April: (shrinks lower in her seat)
Ms. M: April! Do you know the answer?
April: Ummmm...not really.
Ms. M: Sure you do. Come up here and show everyone.
(she writes a series of numbers and gibberish on the blackboard as slow as she can, so her classmates will assume she's working the problem out as she goes along) Is that it?
Ms M: Class, look at this!! Do you see the answer? The answer is e=mc2. And April is the only one who knew it. How do you all feel about that?
(A few yawns from the other students)
April: It really wasn't a big deal.
Ms. M: Oh yes it was. You all need to start studying, like April. Do you know why she knows the answers? Because she stays afteschool everyday to practice math! That's right. Everyday. Ask her if you need help.
(April walks slowly to her desk and contemplates slitting her wrists and bleeding over the blackboard. But since that would ruin her wonderful problem solving, she decides against it)
For the record, April stayed afterschool only a few times to tutor a friend. Ms. M. saw them together and jumped to her own conclusions.
Anyway, here's my story. I'm taking a writing class for graduate school. Our assignment was to write our autobiography.
(Present day, Strength Univ.)
Professor: I apologize to you all, but I've been sick this weekend. That means I did two things I never do. One, I marked up everything and two, I used a red pen. So my apologies in advance.
Male student: Oh great. You can keep mine then.
Professor: Some of you are very strong writers and I was impressed. I think the highest score in the class was a 96. Anyway, after you see your papers, you can leave.
(She passes them out and I get my paper. I got ... drumroll please ... a 96!! I could leave now, but everyone else is reviewing their papers. I fear that if I leave, everyone will know that I got the highest grade. So I sit back and try to look pensive)
Professor: (approaches my desk with a questioning look) Something wrong, Ms. Wisdom?
Me: No. Just looking over some of these errors I made.
Professor: Yes, only a few grammatical errors. (she points to my score) But you did very well. You write like a journalist.
Me: I think that's my problem (I chuckle with another student)
Professor: Oh no, you did very well. Very well. Again class, 96 was the highest score. So if you have a 96, I wouldn't even think about resubmitting. I mean, any score in the 90s isn't worth revising, but I'll leave it up to you. But you can't really improve from a 96.
(I stare at my paper for a little while longer, hoping that no one picked up on the fact that I earned the 96. Then I slip out quietly)
Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of my grade. It just made me feel like I was in high school again, trying to fit in with the cool kids. It's not easy having this beauty and brains too. =) In the words of Eva Perrone, or Madonna, "I'm only a simple woman!"