Thursday, April 06, 2017

Instructive Comments from my High School Teachers

These are instructive comments from several of my high school teachers – an annotated sampling. I serendipitously found them while looking for something else in the archives.

Biology: Mrs. Hardaker. “Erik did a very respectable job on his exam. It was a happy note on which to end the year.” A nicely diplomatic turn of phrase. Though Biology was interesting, I hated doing the work.

German: Frau Stern. “He will need to spend more time during the summer in serious study in preparation for German II. Erik seems to recognize and comprehend grammatical concepts, but rarely applies himself.” Guilty as charged. See Biology. I thought it was cool she was from Hungary.

US History: Mr. Shuster. “Erik has perception and insight. It’s his decision to push himself and go the ‘extra mile’ to excel.”  Final report: “He has a keen insight into historical issues, consistently well-prepared and interested.” Nickname: Fast Eddy. He taught like a blunderbuss firing into the woods. 

English: Mrs. Barlow. “He has considerable potential in English studies. His narrative writing, in particular shows creative ability.” I recall reading a lot of Ray Bradbury for extra reading in this class, in addition to 19th century classics.

Geometry: Mrs. Shuster. “Erik has exerted sound effort during class all semester and has performed quite consistently. Quiet in class, he is interested in doing well and has a thoughtful facility for Geometry.” Mrs. Shuster was a very kind person. Just as I had in church as a little kid, I spent a lot of time drawing pictures and zoning out.

Film: Mr. Solie. “I had the feeling that much of what Erik turned in was done on the run [correct]. Shining through, though, was a good deal of natural ability.” This guy was a real character.

Speech: Mr. Singdahlsen. “I have appreciated getting to know Erik, and I am pleased with most of his work. He has given some very good presentations and benefited from work in an area that probably is not high on his ‘druthers’ list.”  Here he was not quite right: I found the class fascinating, especially exercises in which we had to expound on a topic with little time for preparation. This learned skill has come in handy over the years. Mr. Sing was fussy. He reminded me of Richard Dreyfus. 

American Legal System: Mr. Shuster. “Erik showed great industry and interest throughout the course. I was impressed by his keen insight into contemporary legal issues. I deeply appreciate his active interest in class.” This course provided a basis for continuing interest in, and understanding of, the complexities of legal issues and the great fights over public policy -- like today.

Southern Writers: Mrs. Vick (from Mississippi, with accent). “Erik has met the challenge of the course, and I am proud of him. He is well prepared in English.” Mrs. Vick was quite eccentric. More to write about her at some point.

Pre-Calculus: Mrs. Pritchett. Sad to say, of all the teachers listed here, I remember absolutely nothing about her (not even what she looked like) or the class, except for zoning out and, no doubt, drawing. “Erik has the ability to do much better in mathematics if he would consistently work. He understands mathematical concepts rather easily” but also lets them go rather more easily. 

American Studies: Mr. Conrad. “Erik at times contributed much to the class, at other times sat back and did very little. Erik is a potentially excellent student in history. His background is most impressive and he understands the processes in historiography. He will have no trouble in doing very well.” Usually when I was sitting back and doing very little, I was doing my own writing, &c., and still tuned in.  

Economics: Mrs. Wallace (also football coach). “Erik maintained an active level of interest in the course content throughout the semester. His written work tends to be correct in observations. Erik should be commended for awareness of issues and [extra] reading to expand on course content.” A dry subject, still useful, though.

Art: Ms. Singdahlsen. “Erik worked hard in an art class full of girls! They must have inspired him.”  Haha.

I thank all my high school teachers, even the mean ones. It's noble but grinding work. Most were actually pretty cool. They were also mostly on target. Do any of your high school teachers come to mind? 

6 comments:

Gina Mandas said...

Kathryn Kercher for 12th grade English at Berkley High School. This course was called Project Advance and was essentially the Freshman Comp series offered at Syracuse University as part of some dual credit thing. She was brilliant, kind, funny, and taught me to write well and think critically.

Also Betty Steele for 6th grade English, who spent the whole year teaching us how to diagram sentences. Nothing could have made me happier.

the walking man said...

I found most of the commentary funny to read though it seems as if a few of them had you pegged as a teenager. Oddly enough I do not remember many of my teachers through the 11 years I dragged myself to the same building for both grade and high school. I remember well the meanest bitch in a habit and wimple and the best looking Spanish teacher any HS kid in the 60's could hope for. Beyond that I draw a blank--maybe there is an evaluation for Catholic school disorder?

I do though remember one comment. In 9th grade a pushy nun, whose name shall have to be lost to memory, sent a "failing" slip home mid semester. She indeed did send it intending to name me as the slothful kid who was failing algebra 1. She made the mistake though of naming my older brother on the green slip.

One thing the nuns should have never done is give my "converted only to marry my mother" father an opening. Instead of just signing the slip he wrote "I beat him with a 2x4 and changed his name to Mark." One of the few clear memories I have was the gasp and look on the nun's face as she sent me from the room (retribution was big in Catholic school.) That of course, as I have said before, was the first of seven times I failed algebra 1; a personal accomplishment I am, beyond measure, proud of.

t said...

Realllly cool :)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

This is wonderful! What a happy accident that you came across these evaluations, even happier that you saved them all these years.

Also, I love that the German teacher was named Frau Stern. So appropriate for such a stern language.

I mostly remember my high school English teachers, as it was the one subject in which I consistently knocked it out of the park. I especially remember the hippie who told us to call him Brian and let us have classes outside in the spring.

Charles Gramlich said...

This is very cool stuff to have. I still have some of my grade school report cards around here. but none of these kinds of comments. good to get a glimpse into one's youth.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks y'all for the comments - much appreciated! Gina & Barbara, I had similar experiences with English teachers. Loved them all, some even more than others. Mrs. Boyd in 7th and 8th grade English was the gold standard, though my university lit. professors were also fantastico! Walking Man, much more fun to become Catholic after bypassing those horrors you experienced, I'm guessing.