Friday, August 29, 2008

What Did You Learn in School Today?

I wonder if Mrs. Dixon is still alive. She was my fifth grade teacher. My first impression has lasted all these years: the woman could bore paint off a wall. I doubt if she ever inspired anyone to learn a thing. 

Actually, I'll immediately take that back. She inspired five of us to learn American sign language. We'd split up the history assignments. Her tests were multiple choice. She just wanted names and dates, not reasons and causes. It was dull, dry and boring memorization. When the teacher doesn't seem to care, the students don't either. It never felt like learning, even before the cheating started.

Desks in her classroom were arranged in a circle. The five of us would sign the answers back and forth during history tests. It was unbelievably easy. We all aced the tests, since we only had to learn a fifth of the work. Since we were all A students, we were never suspected—never caught. And we did learn something. It just wasn't history.

It's been over fifty years since I managed to cheat in fifth grade. I'm not sure why it still bothers me so much, but every time after that when I wanted to cut corners in class, all I had to do was think of fifth grade, and it would stop me cold. 

So if you're out there somewhere, Mrs. Dixon, I am sorry I did it. I could have learned all the answers by myself. In fact, I usually did know them, but there came a point when I didn't know how to extricate myself without losing the friends. (Some friends, huh?) Luckily my family was transfered before I got into real trouble. 

Looking back, it's probably poetic justice that I remember the name of the boring teacher, but can't remember a single one of those exciting friends.

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