But I also had been instilled with a strong sense of confidence in my own ability to determine what was right and what rules were valid. Through no accident, I assure you, I sat at the back corner of the room in my trig class. My gentle but extremely mediocre trig teacher, Mrs. Seiver, would occasionally ask me if I would like to move closer to the overhead projector (Mrs. Seiver, herself, never budged from it). Simple Mrs. Seiver never once considered that her sentence form was the issue. If she had once considered a command, I would have gone. Grudgingly, yes, but I'd have moved because she told me to. But since she only ever asked, I simply responded that no, I wouldn't like to move to the front of the room; I was comfortable where I was.
|Mostly good, strong-willed girls|
Through some strange decision-making process, you were not required to take Calculus to graduate with honors from Thomas Jefferson High School in the early 90s. Most of my usual classmates did it anyway, but I saw that loophole and jumped right on through it. As a result, I had the opportunity of a free period my Senior year, and as luck would have it, Mrs. Dunn of the Biology department was interested in having me as a student aide. I had nothing but teenage contempt for poor Mrs. Dunn. I think she was probably in her late 50s at the time and had so large a set of front teeth that her lips did not close, and her teeth had dug a permanent dent where they rested on her unevenly lipsticked lower lip (I'm not condoning this judgemental attitude; I'm being truthful). She also saw me simply as a good girl and did not have the insight into my character some of my cleverer teachers did. And so she asked me to be a student aide. First period, to boot.
Through fortunate circumstances for me and unfortunate ones for Mrs. Dunn, my parents bought my older brother a car sometime during that school year. I can't remember what time of year that would have been (since seasons don't vary all that much in SE TX), but that car was mine until my brother came home from college for the summer. And that meant I was no longer at the mercy of my father's schedule when it came to getting to school in the mornings. With my father leaving early and my mother taking my sister to school, I often was the last to leave the house. As the year wore on, I slept later and later and missed more and more of first period. Eventually, I started skipping first period and my ditto machine duties entirely. I seldom had any reason to visit dark Biology corner on the first floor of my high school so I began to hardly even see Mrs. Dunn. I admit I felt some regret, but when the alarm rang in the mornings, that regret was never the the guiding emotion.
One day Mrs. Dunn managed to find me. She told me if I didn't start showing up to school on time, she would report me to some adminstrator or another. I may have made resolutions, but again, come 6:30 am, they were for naught. And so it came that I was summoned to Mr. Washington's office. Mr. Washington was one of our many vice principals and a pretty genial man. My one experience with him was the time my friends had him serenade me the morning of my birthday. I was not frightened of him, but I had not often been sent to the principal's office. So I was wary. He proceeded to talk to me gently about my responsibilities, particularly that of "setting a good example" for others in the school. He asked that I please start coming to school on time.
You know what I did? I never returned to Mrs. Dunn's classroom. I actually did show up for first period from time to time, but I went to the history office and played mah jong on the computer with my friend Jamie who was a teacher aide there.
I was found guilty...but I was not punished.
Maybe it's because I was 95% of the time I really good girl. Maybe it was because my older brother had been such a troublemaker, and I was so tame by comparison. Maybe it was because they were too busy with genuinely difficult students. Maybe they laid off because my mother was mayor of our city (my parents never would have advocated for this if they had any idea of what was going on, but I imagine the thought could have been influential).
But now, twenty years later, I feel so, so sorry for Mrs. Dunn. Poor woman, she had tangled with someone she had mistakenly pegged as compliant and got absolutely no support from the administration. My behavior was shameful, but so was Mr. Washington's.
On the other hand, I did get to sleep in.