To preface, I would like to say, I am NOT looking for a YOU GO GIRL! sort of reaction.
When I was fifteen years old, I was square. Maybe not in the way where you dress in Hush Puppies and pleated khaki pants, but still. I was a straight A student and I never got in trouble in any way. Every teacher expected that I was just going to do my homework, not cause trouble in school, and there was no way I was going to be the student to get reprimanded for any action. Like I said, square. Obviously this is an alright position to be in.
Pete’s real name was Earl. Or it was. Apparently, he hated the name and went and changed it when he was still young. Pete also hated being called Mr. Manring, his last name. So, he told us all to call him Pete. Pete was the shop teacher at my high school. He was also the horticulture teacher. I wanted to get some ectra science credits in for the college career I am still pursuing, so I signed up.
Pete was and always will be a poster boy for good ol’ boys. Example: In class, he would mention certain types of trees, if the class was confused he would say something along the lines of, “Oh, y’know, like those new ones the Andersons just planted along their fence line.” Uh, I didn’t know the Andersons, I would rather you prepared and showed me a picture of this tree you felt it was worthy I knew about, Pete.
This was in 1994, the same time era in which I was basically bound in flannels, jean shorts, baby doll dresses and hiking boots. I was a new student, and new students at this school stuck out. It was literally as though a flashing neon sign was attached to my back that blinked, “OUTSIDER…OUTSIDER…OUTSIDER”. I was warned in the class that precede horticulture that the easiest way to do well was to sit up front, talk to Pete in between his pseudo lectures, and basically act girly.
Well, somehow I developed a feminist’s state of mind in the five minutes between those classes. My sister (who took the class with me) and I sat in the very back row. While we certainly did the work, I was not my normal square self. And I saw what those who had warned me had meant. All the other girls in the class were right there up front, chit-chatting with Pete and being girly. These were not stupid girls, they just played the game and got their A’s. And I, got a D-. HO-LEE-CRAP! During the duration of the semester, I was not disruptive, I did all my homework, but from the get go I hated Pete. I am pretty sure he knew it too. He referred to me and my sister as ‘Miss Prisses” which was exactly what we were trying to not be.
After that, I honestly cared a bit less about grades. I had a big giant D on my report card. No longer was I able to qualify to graduate with honors. It was that experience that clued me into the reality that unfair grades existed. I then saw school as largely, a joke. And for years later, I wanted to send Pete a letter, telling him exactly what I thought of his strange grading scale. This was not a class where you had tests and such and knew about where you stood the entire term. I really don’t remember anything being graded, ever. We really didn’t do much. It was sort of a joke of a class where Pete would send us outdoors and tell us to find noxious weeds for the entire class period. Or, he would give us a pop quiz with the only question being, “Write down your social security number.”
Last week, I found out I am too late to spout off what I feel about the man, he has passed away. I really am not upset about my missed chance. I mean, I don’t feel any need to tell the guy off any longer. I almost wish I would have played his game. Honestly.
Would it have been better to sit up front and played along with the backwards rules that he held in his classroom? It might have been. I do it now everyday in my job. Today, while I was waitressing, I apologized to a woman who said her fruit was cold. I was not sorry in the slightest. It’s fruit. By law we have to keep it in a refrigerator kept at 41 degrees. It will be cold. I am constantly doing things to appease people at work to get what I want/need. And my performance of apology to this woman warranted in a 40% tip. The payout was indeed worth my insincere appeasement of her irrational behavior. In that same frame of thought, I could have sat up front, BSed with the old redneck and gotten that gold cord to wear around my neck when I sat for that graduation ceremony in the gymnasium way back when. I guess it depends on if there would have been any worthy payback. Had I kept up with the A’s, possibly I would have applied for all those scholarships and been serious about college when I was eighteen. Maybe not. I’m just not sure I feel better now, about being prideful about not giving in.