It was the first Wednesday in September. The first day of school. As math rolled around, I got nervous. The room was humid and the teacher wasn’t there yet. Strangely, the woman sitting on the side introduced herself as our teacher. This was not going to work. She was over-excited and trying to be cool. I knew something was coming when she tried to act like a kid while still maintaining her authority as the teacher. “Mrs. Smith” did not seem like a good teacher for me. She couldn’t teach. I didn’t know how I knew this but on the first day of school I could tell so much about a teacher. It was weird. As if I had an extra sense, a sense to identify people on the inside. This year was not going to be good. I didn’t really know why, I just knew.
I tried my best anyway.
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But when it comes to fighting the impossible, I just don’t. Whatever it was that she was trying to teach I wasn’t getting, and she wasn’t getting through to me. Mrs. Smith did not present herself as a very approachable person. Not only to me, but to everyone.
It was like George Bush answering questions about his drunk driving past. The answers would never be forthcoming, no matter how hard one tried to elicit them. And I did try to get answers to my questions, but she didn’t communicate in a way I could understand.
When that happened, I felt a combination of resignation and fear. I stopped listening to her lectures and it became clear to me that I was in danger of failing her class. I wasn’t paying attention anymore and I had put up barriers to even possibly hearing what she was saying. Once those barriers went up, it was very hard to get through them. I was on longer getting the knowledge I was supposed to be getting. I didn’t get it. And I didn’t feel good about it. Not proud. Not smart. I felt like a failure. I felt like I did something wrong. I didn’t know how to fix it. On the outside, I behaved like I knew what I was doing, but on the inside, I knew better.
I knew I was not doing well. You know how they say with alcoholics, that they have to hit absolute bottom before they can start doing better? I hit absolute bottom. It was this one test. I didn’t study. I didn’t expect a test so early in the year to be at that level of difficulty, but it was.
When I took the test, I kept asking, “What did I get myself into?” “Why didn’t I study?” I started blaming myself for everything.
I knew I didn’t do very well, the only question was, how badly did I do? She walked up and down the rows, starting from my right to left. I would be second to last, prolonging my agony. I wasn’t looking at her, or at anything in particular, but I was just staring out into space. Finally, she came to my desk and showed me the results The grade – thirty seven. Not only is that a failing grade, it’s the grade my five year old sister would get.
She said, “You have to come for extra help.”
I replied, “I know.”
This grade, although anticipated, was still terribly disappointing. The test affected my average. But it really affected ME. I was behind. I didn’t really know what was going on. But, because of this, I started moving slower to make sure that I got everything. It was like I was running with an egg in my hand. I was hyper aware and trying to pay extra-careful attention.
This pattern of poor communication and poor grades, along with my whole attitude in class and the subject matter of the class, continued throughout the rest of the quarter. What I learned anything? Yes, I’ve learned the hard way that hard work pays off—and that no work doesn’t.