An experience with my high school history teacher has been indelibly etched into my mind. At the time it happened I was a naïve, underachieving, average student with no self-confidence.
It is well known that I was not a good student. Earning an ‘A’ in anything other than PE was scarce, earning a ‘B’ was rare, a ‘C’ was common, and by this time (my junior year) earning a ‘D’ never happened again.
Somehow this history teacher motivated me to study harder. I really tried to improve my grades by staying awake in class, taking better notes, and doing my homework.
I worked and studied hard in this class. I turned in all my papers, did well on the tests, and was on track to earn an ‘A’. I was excited to show my parents my report card because for me this would have been a rare achievement. But it was not to be.
One day towards the end of the semester my teacher kept me after class. He talked to me about my grade and he started the conversation by explaining that there was a large gap between my total score and the lowest ‘A’. He also said a similar gap existed between me and the closest student just below me. Then came his memorable but disheartening comment, “Calvert you should receive an ‘A’, but I thought you would understand.” I did not understand and I received a “B+”.
This experience taught me a valuable lesson that I didn’t really learn and apply until much later as a college student. I have often wondered what would have happened if I stood up for myself, but at that time I was not able to do this. This is a good reminder that it is never too early, and never too late to work on developing respect for self and appropriate assertiveness, always balanced with deep respect for others as well.
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