Friday, July 31, 2009
Apologies to Mrs. West
When I was a senior in high school, I worked a semester as a teacher’s aide. For one class period each day I helped one of my favorite teachers grade papers and do administrative stuff.
Sounds harmless enough, right? Well, you’d think so. But nowadays some of what I did as a teacher’s aide would get me thrown out of school.
Mrs. West, the teacher I assisted, was a terrific woman and an entertaining instructor. She sponsored our drama program and did a great job teaching English. A few years earlier, she’d helped me come out of my shell through involvement in drama. (I helped run the lights on “The Sound of Music,” and had a lead acting role in “The Taming of the Shrew” – and mercifully I will never again inflict my acting upon an audience.)
As her assistant, I had access to her gradebook. One day, a friend who had that class asked me to mark in the gradebook that she’d turned in her assignment, even though she hadn’t. I said I would, and I did.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Soon a friend of my friend made a similar request, and as in the shampoo commercial, they told two friends, and so on and so on. Pretty soon I had about a dozen people routinely asking me to doctor the gradebook.
I did it. I guess I thought it made me popular or cool or likeable. I didn’t really see the difference between being liked and being used.
Even worse, pretty soon I was drunk on my own power – I adjusted grades for a few kids who weren’t even in the period I assisted. (Mostly guys I thought were cute, including one or two I’d never even spoken to.)
As far as I know, Mrs. West never caught on to my deception. I raised a few people a full letter grade in her class, I’m sure.
The whole episode is so embarrassing to think about now. And thank God I was never caught or punished. I didn’t think of it as very serious at the time, but I might have never graduated!
(Photo: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, July 2009)