Friday, November 06, 2015

NaBloPoMo -- An Important Teacher

Today I am running with a prompt from BlogHer.  Though because 1) I already used the Friday prompt and b) I am contrary-minded at times and c) I really liked the prompt offered by RGBP yesterday I am actually using the one set for yesterday:
Thursday, November 5
What is the most important lesson you learned as a child, and who taught it to you?
This is really an easy question and the person in  mind is an obvious choice but first one needs some history.

I was (still am at heart) a chronically lazy person.  I would do just enough to get by and that was it.  Nowhere did this show up more than at school.  Every report card from grades 4 on included at least one comment (this was in the era before computer generated comments, ones that were actually handwritten and personalized) in the tone of "Gord would have much better marks if he did any work".  I think I drove my teachers crazy.  They knew I knew the stuff.  I could always do well on the test. But I never did any homework.  At All.  Effort marks in that school could be a 1 (best) 2 or 3.  I don't remember ever getting a 2.  ALways 3s.

I remember in Grade 8, the second of 3 reporting periods.  The homeroom teacher, who also taught us Language Arts, was sharing with us what mark would appear on the report card coming out in a couple of days.  When talking to me she showed a 59% and then said "if I subtracted the 10% for lack of completed homework it would be 49% but I don't think that would look good on your report card".  I think she was hoping this would spur me to make more of an effort.  Which makes no sense when talking to a chronic underachieving 14 year old.  I heard that I did not have to do any work.

Then came Grade 9.  That year for Language Arts I had a new teacher, fresh out of university.  I quite enjoyed her class (though not enough to do any work mind you).  We used a Police song for our midterm exam.  She had us reviewing poetry through Harry Chapin and Cat Stevens, she created a graffittti wall on one of her classroom bulletin boards.  But where she shows up in this post came around the second reporting period.  My mark (which to be honest I had earned) was 39%, F+.  Around then it started to click in that maybe I really did have to do some work [nobody has ever accused me of being a fast learner on such things].  I then went through high school actually working (not any more than I had to but at least working) and sailed through as an honour student.

It was a turning point. To this day I maintain that if Miss Sobat had not given me that kick in the backside (as much as it--and the fallout when that report card came home--was less than comfortable at the time) I would have simply faded away.  She has insisted more than once that I would have gotten there eventually.  But I am not sure.  Another teacher helping me skate by (as many teachers had done to that point) was not what I needed.  I need the one who was willing to be a b***h (a term many of my classmates gave her that year to be honest.

Miss Sobat stands out for another reason.  My Junior High years were somewhat hellish.  I was a low (almost the lowest) slot on the school social totem pole. And while all school officials talked a good line about how some bevaviour was not acceptable there were some who made the line seem more real than others. Mis Sobat was one of those.  More than once I saw her make a point of defending members of her class who were being mistreated.  It did not, in the end, change much actual behaviour from the worst of my classmates but it made an impact.

To this day she stands as a favourite teacher of my entire academic career.

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