This will probably come as a shock to you, but I wasn’t a good student in high school. I never aspired to attend Yale or become an astrophysicist, so I really didn’t give a rat’s left butt cheek about making good grades or taking my education seriously.
The thing is, I could’ve been a great student. I really had the potential to excel. Until my freshman year, I was on the honor roll, in the Beta Club, and I received quite a few scholastic awards. I also had my fair share of smiley faces and gold stickers on my work. But once I graduated from the math book with the roller skate on the cover, I quit applying myself.
My freshman year was rough. I actually went to summer school after 9th grade. My family was shocked, and somewhat embarrassed, because I’d never been a summer school kind of kid. But I was sentenced to early morning classes in June because I failed Distinguished Scholars Biology. I flunked that class because I didn’t understand what in the world an echinoderm was.
Oh, and because my teacher hated me.
Hate is not strong enough a word, actually. Loathed is more like it. Or abhorred. Yeah, let’s go with abhorred.
I’d always gotten along with my teachers, and often times been the teacher’s pet, but I knew on the first day of 9th grade Biology that the instructor and I were like Dulcolax and Lunesta. We just didn’t mix.
Why? Well, I discovered a tick crawling on my arm during class, and I promptly spazzed. I was about to set it on fire with a Bunsen burner, but Mrs. Biology stopped me.
“Susannah, that’s a living thing. Do you really want to destroy a living thing?”
“If it wants to suck my blood and give me the Lyme, then yes, Mrs. Biology, I would like to destroy it.”
“Release it outside!”
“Excuse me? You want me to release this tick outside?”
As her face turned an unsightly shade of crimson and a vein bulged in her forehead, she sternly pointed to the door. I carried the tick, the blood-sucking ectoparasite, outside to release it into the wild so that it could live a long and happy life giving people Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. (I carried it out on a sheet of notebook paper, because well, it’s a tick, not a puppy.)
After I thumped the disgusting disease-carrying little fella into the grass, I looked around to make sure Mrs. Biology wasn’t observing me, and I stomped my Eastland loafer on it. I’m pretty sure stomping on a tick doesn’t actually kill it, but it made me feel better.
Mrs. Biology and I butted heads for the rest of the year. I just couldn’t respect a person who demanded I spare the life of a blood-feeder, and she couldn’t respect a 14-year-old who laughed every time she said, “spermatozoon”.
I really could have applied myself in Biology and stayed out of summer school. Being booted out of the Distinguished Scholars Program could have been avoided. My mom could have received a new “My Child is an Honor Student” bumper sticker, but I just didn’t care. I would rather have fun and crack jokes.
I was sent to In-School Suspension for three days because I called my Spanish teacher “El culo”. My Home Economics teacher forced my classmates to put duct tape over my mouth because I wouldn’t quit interrupting class. I didn’t have a desk in American History, but rather, I had a wall to stand against. I wasn’t allowed to square dance in P.E. That was actually okay, but I pretended to be extremely offended by it as I sat on the bleachers watching my friends do-si-do. I nearly missed my high school graduation because I had detention.
I also liked to snore in Study Hall while I was sitting upright with my eyes open. I would stop when the teacher stood from his desk and walked around the large room to see who was asleep. As soon as he sat back down, I would start snoring again. This infuriated him, and it really hurt my throat, but I did it anyway.
I was at my worst in 10th grade English, though. I drove my poor teacher, Ms. Matthews, stark-raving mad. I’m pretty sure I was the reason she needed medication, and it was a fact that she had my mother’s number on speed dial.
Ms. Matthews resembled Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show. Resembled is an understatement, actually. I mean, she and Aunt Bee were damn near identical. I often started whistling the television show’s theme song when she entered class, and everyone would guffaw. They loved me. Ms. Matthews did not.
Often, as punishment, Ms. Matthews forced me to stay after school with her to write really tedious research papers. While I was with her in detention one day, writing an essay about Rudyard Kipling, it began to pour rain. She actually gave me the keys to her car and asked me to pull it to the front of the building for her so she wouldn’t get soaking wet walking across the parking lot.
She should’ve known better.
I can’t remember the make and model of her car, but it was really big and looked like something you’d see on an episode of Dragnet. I remember sticking to the vinyl seats and being thoroughly confused at the bulky turn dial on her radio.
I pulled it to the front of the school and got out, not before changing her radio station and cranking the volume all the way up. When she got in and started the car, Third Eye Blind nearly made her Two Ear Deaf.
By the middle of the school year, I had a special seat in Ms. Matthew’s class. It had a wonderful view of the hallway because, well, it was in the hall. There I was, 15-years-old, expelled from class for nearly six months. English was my favorite subject, my best subject, so it really was punishment to be banished to the boring hallway. Even Ms. Matthews had told me that I was an excellent English student. I could diagram sentences like no one’s business, and I loved writing essays that weren’t about Rudyard Kipling, but I was too concerned with being loud and obnoxious to be a good pupil.
My 8-year-old daughter is an excellent straight-A student, but I was, too, in elementary and middle school. I just wonder if she will take the road that I did- the class clown road. It’s a fun road, paved with sharts and giggles, but now that I look back on it, I often took it too far. There’s nothing wrong with being funny, but I terribly regret acting like such a heathen and putting my teachers through so much turmoil.
I saw Ms. Matthews a few years ago at a wedding shower. When I walked in, dressed respectably with my beautiful baby on my hip, we locked eyes. I thought she would possibly run for help, with her arms flailing. Instead, she looked at me and smiled. Then she said,
“Susannah, I’m glad to see you aren’t in prison.”