Eddie Liptenstein. I saw him today. I actually see him every other day since we have biology together. If he sees me or even remembers me he doesn’t say anything. Sometimes I feel like Mia in Princess Diaries when people would sit on her because they didn’t see her. For all my shortcomings I am not as nerdy as Mia. I watched Princess Diaries when I was in seventh grade. Of course Anne Hathaway has moved on to some fairly amazing un-nerdy roles since then. I guess having a queen for a grandmother is helpful for transformations. Next time I see Gran I will ask for her magic wand. She’s pretty special. If I could drive I would jump in the car and retreat at her house. Our house, or apartment, isn’t that chaotic, but I do wonder what it would be like to have continuity.
Gran never did work out of the home. She said there was work enough in the house to keep her from taking on anyone else’s. Gramps worked thirty-two years as an elementary schoolteacher. He never wavered from the fifth grade. He never wanted to move up, down, or move sideways. “Fifth graders remained the same for the most part, even though times changed,” he once told me. “When I first started teaching, chewing gum was my biggest classroom disruptor. When I retired it was the least of my worries.”
He told me he liked how fifth graders were beginning to shed their puppy feet. They were still playful, a bit innocent, yet were seeing there might be a point to education. Then again, near the end of his career, he thought many of his students too full of play, not very innocent, and got the impression students thought education had no point at all since most of them either wanted to become rock stars, actors, or professional athletes, and who needs education for those careers? Gramps decided to leave the fifth grade classroom before he became too discouraged. He wanted to still like kids at the end of his career. I can relate. I don’t know how some of my teachers can stand some of their students. I barely like them and I don’t have to do anything except sit next to them for ninety minutes.
Let’s see, today in my biology class at our lab table one of the kids was more interested in forcing his initials into the table leg than taking notes for the upcoming quiz. The teacher never saw it, trying to initiate our interest in cross-pollination through a PowerPoint. Being in a darkened room maybe the kid thought he wouldn’t be caught. Hmm, a college educated teacher coming across initials embedded into the table where a student sat previously, whose name matched those very initials…did the kid think he would go undetected? Obviously he does. At least it wasn’t Eddie. Although if Eddie had grown in to a bad boy would that make him even more desirable? Hmmm, Hollywood and the latest YA Chick Lit makes me think so.
Eddie. I think he was cuter in fifth grade. He now has a bit of a goatee growing on his chin. His eyes are still so very, very blue, like the flowers on Gran’s best china plates. He runs cross country and has that long, leggy build. Not that stocky, chest thick, no neck build of wrestlers and football players are prone towards. Basketball players are leggy that way too. Swimmers also. It’s not like I’m boy crazy like some of the girls who outright ogle a guy and then giggle to their friends as he passes by. I’m appreciative. I can window shop right? After all, don’t guys?
Boyfriends mean drama and distraction. Seriously. I see the drama all the time and I’m thankful to not be part of it. It’s not wishful thinking either. How many of these couples are actually going to get married out of high school? I’ll see at our ten-year reunion. Don’t count on my RSVP.
I’ve been able to watch Eddie at a safe distance since he is not at my lab table. Back in September we randomly sat wherever. My game plan is to try to arrive early to a class and mark out a seat by the wall, if possible. Melting into walls is a specialty of mine. If there are no walls, then it’s in the back corner seat. I don’t want anyone behind me. I don’t want some six-foot something guy looping his feet around my desk because he can’t fit his under his own desk. I don’t want some girl behind me whispering next to the girl next to her and have the teacher shoot the eye daggers in my direction.
Melting in. Being unobtrusive. That’s my usual seating chart plan. Now and then there will be a teacher who sits us alphabetically so he or she can learn our names. Or we’ll get a teacher who does something really creative, like my biology teacher, who asked us to sit according to our birthday months, saying we could start off the year with something in common with our table partners. Our biology teacher is so new with her teaching credential she looks like a senior. No joke, I think I heard that one of the guys asked her out and I don‘t think it mattered to him when he found out she was the new science teacher. I wonder if they prepare teachers for that in their college training.
Ms. P has all these new ideas about making science interesting. For the most part she’s okay. She at least knows how to use technology. Most of my teachers still fumble with their TV remote. This teacher has tons of PowerPoints, and even puts YouTube clips in her lectures. She must sit up nights thinking and working on lesson plans. Ms. means not married, right? Not married, no kids, no husband, basically no life? That’s mean. I’ll stop. I like Ms. P, but I don’t think I will after what she did today. She’s cute, or I guess pretty is a better word for a twenty-something old woman teacher, and she usually has our attention when she talks to us. The guys like her, some are rude in their comments, I won’t bother repeating them, and the girls, most of them, gaze at her like she is someone they hope to be one day—older, independent, confident with a style.
Ms. P: “Class. I hope you can appreciate how we are moving into the second quarter and it’s around the corner for semester grades to come out. Remember, semester grades are the ones that count for your GPA.” A reality check that put things nicely into perspective. “Some of you need to bring your grades up. Some of your grades are so low that, well, I won’t go into the gory details.” A couple of kids snicker, giving away their grade guilt. “So, I’ve decided to create study partners. I know some of you already study together and if your grades are fine, then I am fine with the arrangement. However, some of you probably realize that studying with your best friend isn’t always the best idea,” she quickly plunged on, as she realized that we were getting the drift of what was to come. “I have drawn up a plan for study pairs.” She held up a hand at the murmurs. “It’s only for the rest of the quarter, or,” she drew the “or” out a little louder, “until I see significant changes in grades.” I could hear “significant” get underlined.
She then went to her desk and pulled out blue slips of paper, while most of the students muttered bits of discontent. Misoneism. A vocabulary word I learned which means “disliking change.” Students don’t care too much for change. Watch their faces if a teacher should dare create a new room arrangement. Choosing a desk to sit at for a semester becomes part of a person’s identity, and when a teachers move students’ desks, it’s like rearranging their hair, or making them try on a shirt picked out by their mother. The truth is that students like their bubbles, comfort zones, whatever it is that keeps us coping while we grind out our routine in school. We get used to where we sit, how the teacher teaches, and what will be taught. When we get forced to try something new, we may not always like it. This study partner thing was creating major comfort zone disharmony.
As Ms. P organizes the slips the questions emerge: “Ms. P? Why can’t we choose our partners? I mean, wouldn’t we know who we can study with more than you?”
“James,” Ms. P uses her patient, “I-get-tired-of-you-questioning-me” tone. “I’m not asking you to marry the person. It’s only when we are doing projects here in class.”
That brought up a good laugh. James actually got embarrassed and shut down. He is always asking what he must think are significant questions. I don’t think he asks them to be a smartalec. I think he asks them because he is one of those smart kids who doesn’t have any social sense. He isn’t Hollywood movie nerdy—but close. I hope he won’t be my partner.
“Okay, I will hand out the slips to one of the partners. Both of your names are on there, and you will need to go over to that person and if you don’t know your new partner, introduce yourself. This is not a big deal, you guys.”
She hands out the slips. I hope I won’t be the one who gets the slip. I don’t want to move from my wall and my comfort zone. There is an awkwardness that fills the room momentarily. No one is really moving until Ms. P says with a laugh, “Do I need to walk you over to your partner?” The tension is released and people start moving. She’s right, it isn’t a big deal. It’s still tough though. I haven’t gone out of my way to get to know people in this class and wonder who I will get.
“Hey,” I glance up and realize I’m being talked to. I’ve been watching the others move around watching for my partner and here he is. Eddie. He holds up the slip. “I guess we’re partners.” I guess so. My heart and stomach do the flippy thing. “Do you have the low grade or is it me?” he jokingly laughs.
“ I’ve got a C that’s hovering towards a D. I bombed on the last quiz. So who knows where I am now,” I shrug.
“Yeah, I bombed too. And it definitely wasn’t the first F-bomb. You’ve got the better grade. I don’t study like I should.”
That’s the extent of our conversation because Ms. P gives out the assignment and brings up one of her Power Points and then the bell rings.
“Later,” Eddie says easily, sliding his books off the lab table.
I watch him walk out the door while trying not to watch him. I think I liked it better when Eddie was sitting across the room. It’s easier to continue a fascination when he isn’t so up close. I will actually have to make real conversations instead dream them up. Talk about rocking the comfort zone.
- Day Three: Attention Defeated Disorder (veranano.wordpress.com)
- How to Salvage a Failing Grade (morethanatestscore.com)