Friday, June 26, 2015

ROLLER COASTER INTRODUCTION

Once I survived the upheaval of transferring to a new high school, and then having my schedule twitched so I could take AP English, I faced the array of very smart students in that class.  It was the final period of the day, and my reserves of bravery were dwindling when I went in for the first time.  The others had all been friends for at least three years, and some of them had known each other since kindergarten. They struck me as being intelligent, witty and rather sarcastic with one another, and I felt like an interloper, who quickly found a seat in the back of the classroom and tried to shrink into invisibility.

However, I appreciated the quality of teaching and the caliber of the other students' comments and began to feel somewhat more comfortable in the class. A few weeks into September, to my great surprise, Mrs. Klein chose my essay to read to the class as an example of a paper that had earned a "5," the top grade.  I was pleased, since I felt as if I belonged at last.

When she asked for comments, they were mostly critical.  The one I remember clearly was that I had not supported my arguments with any quotes.  That stung, because it was true.  I don't know that anyone had ever told me I needed to do that, but I never forgot the advice, and backed up every contention from then on with ample evidence from the text, in every class I took.  I remember feeling totally deflated as I got on the bus after class, for not only had my lovely essay been cruelly bludgeoned, but I was sure that none of the students liked me either.

Several months later, when I had gotten to know John Hazard better through our work on the Yearbook, he told me that when Mrs. Klein read my essay, he had thought, "Oh, no, that's really good; I've got to find something to criticize."  He told me that most of them saw me as a girl pitchforked into their midst from a Catholic school, who often wore a gray dress with a white collar and cuffs that looked like a "nun dress," and that I needed to be securely put in my place.  Fortunately, they were all basically good-hearted seniors, and I soon felt accepted and proceeded to develop a crush on each of the boys, one after the other, which was probably the result of having been among girls for three years and having had only Mr. Spock as an object of romantic interest.

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