Sunday, June 27, 2010

In My Opinion (Commentary from Middlest)

(Middlest speaks for herself in answer to my previous post)

Hi, I am Middlest, as described in several of my mom’s posts. Yes, I did fail AP Lang. Yes, I refused to do my work. Yes, I drew instead of working with people who dislike me greatly (my teacher Constantly placed me in a group with these particular individuals who didn't even understand what we were working on). I don't like analyzing things, because, honestly, I highly doubt the writer intended that rock or hairbrush to have any real significant meaning. Also, as my mom said, I finished the reading assignments in days. The teacher didn't even give us the assignments to go along with it until she decided we were at that particular point. This bothers me greatly. I finish a book, I remember the main and even average details. Then two months later she tests me on "what shoes were Daisy wearing and why were they significant to the story". I find this utterly ridiculous. But, really, it isn’t even as simple as that. My frustration is deeply seeded.

I have always been a reader; I love books and words passionately. I can read up to three books (average sized, 200 page range) a day if I’m in the mood. I’ve probably spent more time reading than anything else. At some point I discovered writing. The first instance was in the third grade, when my teacher adored a story I wrote. I didn’t think much of it then, I just wrote like my then favorite author, Brian Jacques (side confession, I still read his books). Then in sixth grade, I wrote a poem in my Language Arts class. My teacher (a lovely woman who I still admire and look up to) had me read it in front of the class. When I finished, she said “It looks like we have a poet in the class”. Something clicked. I began to write and write and write. Nonstop. I loved it. I’d found a new way to use the words I loved so dearly. My teacher put me into her advanced writing class. (I attended a middle school designed for the arts, though I was there for orchestra, having been a cellist back then.) She became my idol and I went out of my way to impress her. I wanted her to praise my writing. It made me feel accomplished at something. She seemed to enjoy my work, which just fed my love for writing.

So, as most of the kids in my writing class did, I decided to go the arts high school for writing. I thought it would be the same and my teachers would be just as lovely as my wonderful mentor. But I quickly discovered how wrong I was. Where I had freedom in middle school, I was placed in a box here. My new writing teacher was a rather odd, scary man who preached contemporary writing. Everything was cliché, using big, beautiful words was a sin in his writing congregation. My writing freedom was yanked from beneath my feet. There I had to copy other writers who, in my opinion, were quite awful. The poetry I used to enjoy became torture, for I knew the next day it would be torn to shreds by competitive, arrogant freshmen who wanted to please the almighty King of Contemporary Literature. Here is where my hatred for every pin and thimble having sacred meaning became rooted. We were required to have“intent” with every piece. Slowly but surely, I began to cringe at the very thing I had loved.

I was also in an essay writing class, with a different teacher. The Grammar-Nazi Supreme. I’ve never been one for non-fiction, so I was already out of my comfort zone. She decided to “deprogram” us from standardized testing essay styles we’d been taught all our lives. So, were we to return to normal society where standardized testing ruled, we would be inevitably doomed. I didn’t do well in the class, and her constant criticism, telling me I didn’t want to be there, wilted and broke me down.

So, due to my stubborn nature and hatred for this confined box they kept me in, I ended up failing out of the school. I entered our local public school. (Having spent four years in the sheltered world of the magnet program, I was terrified.)

Now, two years later, I have failed AP Lang, much to the surprise of everyone. Simply, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I spent the first nine weeks kissing butt and showing off. For the first time, I received no acknowledgement for knowing my way around the English world. I could spend whole class periods being the only one to answer questions, but still there was not even a smile from the woman at the head of the class. So I shut down. I already knew most of what was being taught, so doing the work didn’t bring me any sense of accomplishment. I usually looked to praise in order to achieve that. In the absence of praise, I didn’t see the point in bothering anymore. I read the assigned books. I took the tests. That was the extent of it though. I could get much more satisfaction out of the two hours by drawing something beautiful, rather than reading and “analyzing” yet another essay on feminism or eating babies.

So, I admit to failing, and it being my fault. But I’m not ashamed of failing. It’s not because I’m stupid. Or I didn’t understand. The class just went too slowly for my taste. If I bothered to do the work it took me a matter of minutes. There is no achievement in it, so there was no point. I felt it was a waste of time, and yes, I did have to sacrifice three or four days of my summer for it. And a vacation. Which I’m sorry for. But what’s done is done, and I still would rather be drawing.

(As for my GPA and college, there is concern, but I, this may so like arrogant teenager speaking and it may be, usually figure something out in situations like these. I have another year. I’ll make good grades. And see where that gets me. Otherwise, it’s just a couple classes. If I have to do it again, I’ll do it again. If I can’t make it into college, I’ll figure something else out. Sure life will be a little harder, but really, it’d be hard either way.)

 -Middlest, the Oblivious

And there you have it! Motpg.

© 2010 All Rights Reserved


  1. Oh my! Sounds as if some in-depth discussions have taken place. Not sure I have any advice worth offering on what comes next. I think I will be coming back to you for advice in approximately 13 years from now when my turn comes at all this :-)

  2. I think there's a huge difference between teachers. Some will accommodate those who are advanced and some simply don't want to take the time and do the extra prep work for them. It's a shame that there are students stuck at both the upper and lower ends of the class due to this loophole. I'm sorry that you're one of them.

  3. Middlest, I enjoyed reading your post. As a teacherm I know there are some rotten ones...don't let them bring you down.

    Please tell your mom that on Monday I have an award for her!

  4. A great teacher does make all the difference.

  5. It's kinda weird to respond since it's a teenager who is writing this, and she knows she's being stubborn. But, Middlest, all I can say is my husband had pretty much the same attitude as you currently do, and he didn't understand nor realize, until several years later, how foolish he was and how he wished he played along better when he was in school. You have the rest of your life to make your stamp in the world, and do it your way. If you play by "their" rules now, it'll pay off in spades later.

  6. Oh MY middlest! I'd like to hook you up with my son ... but not till you two can compliment each other rather than being EXACT duplicates! I can't tell you how many "It doesn't matter if you're smarter than the teacher" talks we've had. Finally, mid-year, his dad and I gave him complete autonomy at school. He pulled through ... just barely. It was the thought of summer school that did it for him. So, in 5 or 6 years when you've both figured out that it's smarter (and frankly, pretty fun and funny!) to play the game in certain circumstances ... and you're both the top of your college classes - let's get you together.
    And to your incredible mom: just found your blog! LOVE it.

  7. Middlest, as a mother I must say "shame on you," it's my job. Sometimes you just have to play by the rules to get by in life. But, just as ME (a former AP english and college lit education major and as someone who also sometimes had to learn the hard way and also sometimes just brilliantly got by by thinking smarter not harder) I would say you are absolutely so, so right. about all of it. i wish you all the best with whatever you do with your brilliant life. just keep your mom from losing her mind in the process, will ya? ;-)

  8. Middlest - fantastic. I know what a difference a good teacher makes. I hope for gifted nurturing teachers for my kids, and hope that they are able to withstand the teachers that aren't so nurturing. You keep using those big beautiful words.

  9. Yikes. I admire your self-knowledge anyway (and your tenacity, I must admit, since I was the consummate teacher-pleaser and that kind of makes me cringe now). I honestly don't know whether to say stand fast! or don't be a dork! So I'll just say keep writing. Screw the crummy teachers, but keep writing.

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments. I'll seriously consider your advice, I appreciate it. :)

  11. Hello Middlest. As you are a teenager (and everyone knows that teenagers may not always look to the future or listen to advice from adults), I'm not sure you will hear what I have to say, but I'm going to say it anyway.

    I love to read and write, and I too loved it when the teacher praised my writing-there are several teachers in my past that I still remember fondly for their avant-garde approaches, and it's one of the reasons I was drawn to the teaching profession (I graduated with a degree in secondary education English).

    But just as there are good teachers out there, there are a few rotten apples in the bunch. I remember one college professor who gave me "C's" on all my papers because I chose to give my own opinion in a paper instead of giving his. (Um, don't tell your mother this but I earned more than a few bucks writing papers for my classmates in this class, and on those papers I got "A's!")I went to the head of the English department to complain and was told that this is why this particular professor teaches only a few classes and there was nothing they could do!

    So what did I do? I gave that professor what he wanted and my grades went up. Did I sell out? I don't think so. Sticking to my so called "principles" wouldn't have hurt that professor any-he could care less whether I got a "C" or an "A"-but doing so would have hurt my GPA and that was more important to my future goals.

    Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to do because it will lead you to your eventual goal, and not doing so will have dire consequences. (Many times there are no second chances...)And as for praise, do yourself a favor. Instead of looking for it from someone else, try doing your best just for you-praise in the "real world" is very rare.

    "He that is proud eats up himself; pride in his glass, his trumpet, his chronicle; and whatever praises itself but in the deed, devours the deed in the praise." William Shakespeare

    Take care of yourself (and your mother)and good luck next year!

  12. I can empathize...I spent my grade school years in enrichment programs having a genuis level IQ, but was completely disillusioned by high school. I simply wasn't challenged enough in the areas I excelled at (also writing & language), & had no use for the areas I did not (math!). And yes, having a set curriculum crammed down your throat did nothing to encourage my own gifts or voice. I, too, grew to hate Daisy...for the love of Pete, we spent a week on the symbolism of the green light at the end of the Envy?? Jealousy?? Why do I care?? It made me so miserable, I still remember it 25 years later LOL! That dang green light... retrospect, after having walked away from my dream of writing, I can tell you that Susan has a very valid point. Sometimes we need to put our heads down & plough through it, like it or not...not for the benefit of the Grammar Nazi, or your parents, but for yourself. This is YOUR life, your dreams, your goals, your GIFTS. Conforming for the short term, sucking it up if you will, can only serve to make your voice stronger, & give you those opportunities to reach your goals. Good luck to you, I have no doubt you will make it happen for yourself!

  13. You Ladies......
    Rock The Universe!
    this is me...Motpg ; )

  14. Oh, Middlest: you sound like, well, my middlest! I tell him he has to play by the rules first, then he can write his own later.

    That's just what my experience has been.

    I loved your post!

  15. Wow! She is awesome! I love it. I love the minds and workings of our youth. It definitely a generation thing because my daughter is just like that.

    As long as she accepts responsibility and admits to her failing then, it's forgivable in my book (not written by the rules either).

    This was too cute!

    Did I miss it, is she grounded? lol.

  16. Okay so I read like you read. Like a book or more a day. I love to write. I did awesome in school and have a bunch of degrees. Most of which are useless.

    HOWEVER, I think that feeling like you're too smart for the teacher or that s/he's is too boring is a cop-out. We can learn from anyone. And if you need to know Daisy's shoes, know Daisy's shoes. You can be smart and creative and still do well on a test. And worst part is that the only one who suffered is you. Your teacher just went right along teaching about the significance of rocks or whatever. Ugh, I hate that!

    As for college, I don't think you NEED college. But it's AWESOME. And one of the few times that really really smart people, who know a LOT about a subject, are willing to teach YOU. I loved that. College changed my entire outlook on life and people and government and society. I wouldn't be the person that I am today without going to my college.

    I hope that this comes off right. I think that you sound like an amazing teenager with wonderful talents. And I believe that we get lots of chances in life so this is by NO MEANS a make or break issue.

    Keep writing. And reading. And I hope you get to enjoy some summer.

  17. Unfortunately I just wrote the world's longest comment and my computer ate it. But essentially, what I wanted to say, Middlest, is that I am impressed by your sense of self. I have always loved reading and writing too. And I am also the kind of person that gets a lot of validation from others. If my teacher didn't like it, I was discouraged.

    But the truth is, as an artist, you have to believe in yourself. Always. Because art is very personal. And not everyone is going to like your masterpiece even if it goes on to win a Pulitzer. But deep down you've got to trust your own genius.

    And meanwhile, don't be afraid to play the game. Even just a little. During my time at poetry writing grad school, I was amazed at how much I learned from professors that I originally thought were lame and annoying. Or didn't get me. (I can't tell you how many times in grad school I was accused of spouting a plethora of cliches.) Give it a chance. But through it all, keep that strong belief in yourself. And never forget that cliches are cliches only because they are ulitmate truths that have just been spoken one too many times. I believe in you!! And I'll be waiting to read your bestseller one of these days.

  18. Thank you everyone (again) for commenting on my post. You're advice does make sense and I do plan on playing the game next year just to get through and get on with actual life. Not life-in-an-angsty-box, by soandso county school board. I'm still considering college, and other options as well. I really do appreciate your comments. :)

  19. I think you need your own blog.

    Here's the thing about school - it is always about the teacher. How well you do, what your mark is, will always depend on your teacher. All you have is the knowledge you did your best. That's the best thing to take from school.


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