Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You can really learn a lot that way....

It was 1976.
We had this second-year Latin teacher, Mr. O, in high school who was completely incompetent. A nice man, mind you, but not ready to teach high school. We knew more at the end of first-year Latin with another teacher than at any point during Mr. O's class. He was actually somehow sucking prior knowledge right out of our brains and replacing it with nothing. Yet, there were tests. Of course there were tests; it was high school. How do you do well on a test when you are not being taught anything? That was a conundrum that was solved early on in the first semester by a group of five clever individuals.

Mr. O had a funny routine on test day: he would give us 15 minutes to "review" before the test, and there was always a translation section taken right from the book. So, on test day, the Group of Clever Individuals (GCI), of which I was not a part--I was way too shy back then to pull off their stunts--would watch Mr. O come into class, and, as soon as he laid the tests on the podium at the front of the room and then walked across the room, three of them would immediately run up to him and ask him questions, blocking his view of their fourth member, who was stealing a copy of the test. GCI member #4 would then hand the test to thoroughly brilliant GCI member #5, who would not only tell us all which part of the book the translation was from, allowing us to look up all the words, but would also do a quick translation himself, and pass that around in case we needed a little extra help. The GCI were heroes--fighting The Man, getting us all good grades. They were legends.

And, for a very long time, we were all geniuses. We were scoring close to 100% on the exams, and Mr. O must have thought he was the best teacher in the world. Everyone won, well, except, I suppose, anyone who actually was planning on learning Latin that year, but we were high-school sophomores....please.

Which brings me to my point--everyone needs to know what he or she is good at, and don't show off when you don't know what you're doing. Don't play wildly out of your league.

Back to Latin class--the whole 10th grade genius Latin class was derailed when, in the spring semester, a kid named Robert, desperately trying to be cool, attempted to butt in on GCI #4's turf and be The Guy Who Actually Stole the Test. This freaked out GCI #4, who wondered why Robert was heading for the podium at the same time as he was--was he a narc, a rat, etc? And the ensuing scuffle at the front of the room caught Mr. O's attention despite the best efforts of GCI #s 1-3 to keep O engaged in conversation. Robert was out of his league, trying to get in on the glory of being a GCI member. I like to think important lessons were learned.

Latin class was really difficult the rest of the year.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment