“Please? Just five more minutes? Awww, do I have to? I don’t wanna go back to school. The kids there just laugh and make fun of me.”
Sound like your middle-schooler? Your reluctant teen tossing the covers back over their head? Nope. That collective moaning and groaning and clogging up your Facebook news feed is coming from the teachers reporting back to work here in the state of Florida. Don’t get me wrong. Pump a little coffee into them, wave a piece of chalk under their nose, and they’ll be back to their “I LOVE TEACHING” modes. But let’s face it, after a summer of sleeping in, an alarm blasting in your ear at 6 AM is bound to make a person cranky.
Want to make a teacher even crankier? Just ask, “When am I ever going to use this crap in real life?” Trust me, when you teach Algebra I, you get that question. A lot. Like a lot a lot. Sure, I’d smile and blather on about how it prepares you for future classes and blah, blah, blah. Other days, I’d snap and say, “Next week. On the test!” What I really wanted to say a lot of the time was, “Hell, I’m a math teacher and I never use this crap!” I mean really. When was the last time you had to graph a parabola or simplify a radical?
When I consider which of my classes were most useful or most useless, my list surprises me. My most useful ones weren’t my favorites. Some classes I remember most and loved fall into the useless category. My grades in the classes have very little influence on which category they fall into. Then there are the useless classes which should have been the most useful.
History – Mostly B’s and C’s with the rare A – No one ever got past teaching World War II. These people are dead and no matter how much I study about them, they’re not coming back to life. However, I will admit that I LOVED Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I. I still love that movie. I was quite disappointed in tenth grade World History when Mr. Williams did not break into a musical number, complete with synchronized swimming nuns, to teach us about the Spanish Inquisition. I guess it’s no surprise then that Dance History is my one exception. It’s the first and only history class that I truly enjoyed. Plus, it was the first time I recalled a teacher telling me I was a good writer. (That might be more of a commentary of my classmates’ weaknesses than my strength, but I’ll take the compliment regardless.) My one disappointment in that class is that Mrs. Pertalion did not break into a musical number to teach us about the influence of dance in the Spanish Inquisition either.
Psychology – High school: A – College: C – Blah, blah, blah, Freud, blah, blah, blah, Maslow, blah, blah, blah, Pavlov’s drooling dogs, blah, blah, blah, Jung, blah, blah, blah.
Psychology of Adolescence – Grade: A – This psych class gets special mention because it holds the honor of Most Useless Class Which SHOULD Have Been Most Useful. I mean for a secondary education major and later a YA fiction writer, this class had such potential. Talk about an epic fail. Anyhow, you know that “Party Rock Anthem” song currently on all the Top 40 stations? The one which has the line, “Everyday I’m shufflin'”? Yeah, that should be the theme song of my Psychology of Adolescence professor…except he wasn’t as peppy as the song. He’d shuffle into class, looking like a strong wind could knock him over, pull out one of the ancient yellowed papers sticking out of his bundle of books and proceed to mumble about what may or may not have been written on the paper. Who knows? He mostly talked of neither psychology nor of adolescence. The only thing I could tell you about the class was that if he wrote it on the board, it would be on the test.
French I, II, and III – Nothing but straight A’s – These classes are kind of the opposite of Psychology of Adolescence. I loved Mrs. Corbin, my French teacher. She and Mrs. Banks (trigonometry and analytical geometry teacher) were my strongest influences in my teaching style. And how could I forget French II with Nick Resta? (Dreamy sigh) Yet aside from ballet classes, I haven’t had much use for French. I haven’t visited any French speaking countries. (Disney World’s France in Epcot does not count.) Trust me, I wish I could count this class in with the useful ones. I also wish Nick Resta had asked me out.
Junior high band – An A, I think – All majorettes were required to be in symphonic band, so I had to take it. I loved Mrs. Legare. All my friends were in band with me. Having said that, I haven’t touched a clarinet since 1983.
Physical Education – Grade: who knows and who cares – Love it or hate it (and sometimes both at the same time), P.E. has to be one of the most necessary classes and I am not a jock by any measure. If I want to stay healthy, P.E. needs to continue to be a part of my life.
Driver’s Ed – I have a valid driver’s license, therefore I passed. – Useful class? Duh! Hardly a day goes by where I don’t use what I learned in there. Though I’m pretty sure Mr. Miles did not teach me the slam-on-your-brake, honk-your-horn, teach-your-passenger-children-inappropriate-words maneuvers whenever some flippin’ idiot cuts you off.
Typing – Useful class? Double DUH! If I have to elaborate, well, there’s just no hope for you, now is there?
And the title for College Class Most Useful For Influencing My Future goes to…Marching Band!!!! It was my only A my freshman year of college, thus keeping me from getting kicked out. I had a scholarship for being the feature twirler and a member of the Hurricanette danceline, thus forking out a tad less of my own money for tuition. Going to the football games was a requirement, and when you’re at the University of Miami in the late ’80’s? Talk about priceless memories! My closest friends to this day are my fellow band geeks. (People who know my dirt and still love me.) Aaaaannnnnddddd…last but not least, the class where I met a really hot trumpet player who later became my husband. Hey! I’m a romance writer and that class led to my Happily Ever After. Need I say more?