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Lessons learned outside classroom

Posted Monday, September 24, 2007, at 6:00 PM

I received an e-mail from someone, who I think was trying to be helpful, advising me because I hadn't been to college I shouldn't hold it against those with college degrees.

What I said in a previous blog pertained to my belief we have many good, solid tax-paying citizens who never saw the inside of a college, but are blessed with good common sense and we can all learn from these people.

To set the record straight I was a horrible high school student and will gladly accept a minimum of 95 percent credit for that academic shortcoming. I had this habit of reading what I wanted to read rather than what I was assigned to read.

Two weeks after I graduated from high school I entered the U.S. Navy for four years…and after that stint went to college on the G.I. Bill.

Some may not like what I am going to say about going from high school into college in the 1950s. I can't speak for all areas of the nation, although it may have been similar in all areas, but in Shelbyville and Bedford County it was often a case of if your parents could send you to college, you got a draft deferment.

For the majority of us it was either wait to be drafted or go ahead and enlist in military service.

Something must have happened to me during those four years of military service. Whatever happened, probably discipline and getting my priorities straight, I went from horrible high school student to good college student who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his class…in three years.

To supplement the G.I. Bill I worked part time in construction work, sometimes even between classes. I learned a lot from those men, black and white, on those jobs who never had the college experience. They urged me to do well in my classes and a few times when they knew I had a test coming up, they waited almost as anxiously as I did to learn my grade on that test.

Yep, I admired those guys then and admire people like them today, people who work hard to give their families a better life. We may not call it a degree, but we can all learn from them and their ideas on life.

Going back to my admitted horrible high school days and that habit of reading what I wanted to read at the expense of other assignments, I had an unusual experience during my senior year.

I walked into a classroom a little late one morning and the teacher put me down from the start and not for being a little late. The Nobel Prize had been awarded to someone and that was very much in the news.

"I know I'm wasting my time asking you this. No one else has given me the right answer and I'm sure you have no idea or have even heard of him. Who is Alfred Nobel?" she said.

Without hesitation, I said he is known as the inventor of dynamite.

She went into a semi-rage, demanding to know who had told me. When I said no one and pointed out I had just walked through the door, she accused me of telling her a lie. I heard later that day she had told at least one other class that I had told her a lie.

That bothered me then, but I was of the opinion, also without proof, that she favored students from well-to-do families. Perhaps we both probably jumped to conclusions.

Not too long after I graduated from college, I ran into that high school teacher. She greeted me with that same old sneer and remarked, "I hear you're actually trying to go to college. How long has it been since you graduated from high school?"

"Seven years," I replied with a smile. "The first four years I was in the Navy. I've just graduated from college in three years. Do you want to compare college transcripts with me?"

She snorted and walked away.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Such a person as your high school teacher had no business being in a classroom. Her bitterness comes from a deep wellspring of negativity. Had it not, she would have been delighted in your success as a college student. Many bright, intelligent, capable students are turned off to education because of our having geared it to the lowest mean. And because of mean-spirited people who pour their bitterness onto unwitting children; shame on her.

It was most likely your sheer boredom with the situation that lead you to "do your own thing" in school. Your maturity no doubt did help you but it is also the case that many, many young people struggle through high school and for whatever reason go on to college where they shine. College can be more stimulating and the independence found there helps to motivate success.

It behooves us all to improve our minds, whether through formal education or self teaching. I am very happy for you in your perseverance and your accomplishments. You stand as a positive example to many who need a little extra push and motivation.


-- Posted by dmcg on Mon, Sep 24, 2007, at 7:47 PM

Haha.. This is a GREAT blog. I love this!

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Mon, Sep 24, 2007, at 7:54 PM

I agree that formal education doesn't mean a person knows everything. However, I have a problem with anyone book educated or not, who thinks they know everything about everything when they haven't been out in the real world--that means you've lived or traveled extensively outside Bedford County. (certain persons on these blogs)

-- Posted by educated hillbilly on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 5:46 AM

I had a teacher at Central who was just like that lady you mentioned and I never understood why she was in the teaching profession when she wasn't dedicated to the betterment of each student. She only preferred select students who were from select families or who were academically in the top of the class. I transferred here from another school my junior year and even though I was in the top of my class where I came from, she made it a point to let me know that what I did there didnt matter here and that I would be hard pressed to reach that goal. It didnt really bother me though because I was taught to believe in myself and not worry about what other think and I just dismissed her as being bitter and sad.

Unfortunately though she still teaches today and I just wonder how many students she might have discouraged along the way.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 8:27 AM

Jaxspike, I think we had the same junior year english teacher! No crap!

She was short, not very nice and just an over all pain in the rear? One of those people who put your friend down in front of the entire class then when you have the nerve to stand up to her and you just simply say "that ain't real nice and you must have alot of insecurities to even bring up something like that I hope your own daughters are never in that situation and if they find themselves there don't expect them to come to you." I looked around and the whole class was looking at me like *you can't say that*. Then, at the end of the year with an average of an 89 in the class and a 92 on her final she informed me that I would not be graduating with the rest of my class, I had to go to summer school and make up ONE day! ONE DAY! She did it to be spiteful!

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 9:11 AM

Yes, it was an English teacher. I was hoping it was just me . . . that is just so sad!

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 9:47 AM

can you email me, I may know you. rfsmomma@yahoo.com

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 10:22 AM

Dang Laura, that is crazy.. I can see you telling her what you thought LOL!

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 6:32 PM

Unfortunately though she still teaches today and I just wonder how many students she might have discouraged along the way.

-- Posted by jaxspike on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 8:27 AM

I am sure several if we are thinking about the same teacher

-- Posted by Dianatn on Tue, Sep 25, 2007, at 10:40 PM

This woman actually had the nerve to tell a dear friend of mine "you have no right to be pregnant". In my book that is unacceptable. It was none of her concern. The friend of mine was not one who stood up to authority figures, but every once in a while every authority figure needs to be brought back down a level.

-- Posted by LauraSFT on Wed, Sep 26, 2007, at 6:59 AM

I'm reminded again how lucky I was to have the instructors I had.

Not only were they superb at teaching their subjects,they were skilled at removing the maximum amount of tedium from all the boring grunt work and giving us a taste for simple learning that got us through many rough spots.

Almost all of the best ones had a habit of exploring information and ideas (especially "off-topic" ones) as if thinking were the sweetest,most dangerous guilty pleasure we could find.

When we kept a discussion going after class,applied our subject matter to our lives or just had one of those "I got it!" epiphanies,it was obvious that these teachers were as proud as a dog with two tails over what we achieved.

But what they gave us from the textbooks was the least of it.

They showed how to be kind and principled in the way they lived.

They tried to help us make sense of life and made it clear that our character was going to be a lot more important our ACT scores.

They taught how to believe in ourselves and those around us and "be the change" we wanted to see in the world.

Every child they taught was given those precious gifts whether they were rich or destitute,brilliant or slow and attractive or repulsive.

They LIKED what they did for a living.

The bad teachers don't just harm their students by their cruelty or incompetence.

They cheat the kids by not sharing what "academic angels" like the ones I had so generously bestowed.

-- Posted by quantumcat on Thu, Sep 27, 2007, at 12:32 PM

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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette. He passed away November 15, 2014, at age 81.
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