Out Of School.

So the school year is coming to an end which, for the first time in decades, is of special significance to me because I’ve been auditing a class. It’s something I’ve thought about doing for a really long time—where I work allows me to audit one non-degree seeking class per semester, and while I wouldn’t say no to another degree, especially when it’s cold out, I’m really just interested in learning, and auditing a class is a great way to study a subject without any pressure, even though an audit is usually not an enjoyable experience, which is probably why the word “plaudit” doesn’t get more use, but that’s another story. I first became aware that auditing a class was an option when I was a senior in high school, too late for it to be of any use, although I did wonder why they wouldn’t let me audit algebra instead of making me take it a second time after I flunked it the first time around.

I was in college before I read Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar in which her protagonist, Esther Greenwood, in an event Plath probably lifted from her own life, is terrified she’ll flunk chemistry because science just isn’t her bag. So because she’s excelled in all her other classes she talks the administrators into letting her audit chemistry and sits in each class looking like she’s taking very serious notes when in fact she spends the whole time writing poems. And I thought, hey, I could do that—except for the excelling in every other class part.

Well, there is some pressure on me, even if it’s mostly self-inflicted. I’ve been trying to keep up with the assignments and the readings, and I’ve done fairly well, although not as well as I hoped going in. I thought with my age and experience I’d be smart and cool like Val Kilmer in Real Genius, but instead I’ve been more like Rodney Dangerfield in Back To School, only not as rich, not as funny, and just as old, so I can’t even joke about why I don’t get no respect—I just get docked points for grammar. And the end of the class means a final exam. Fortunately it’s an exam and not a quiz—I’ve never been a big fan of quizzes since high school algebra, and while being bad at math was part of the reason I flunked it the first time around I think some of the blame should also go to my teacher Mr. Blankley. It’s bad enough that it was the first class of the day and I came in barely awake. Mr. Blankley looked like a bloodhound with a bad toupee and barely had the energy to breathe. He’d sit at his desk and stare at the wall behind us. And he spoke in a low drawl and would say, ““Studentsss, today we will have a quizzzzz on chapterssss ssssixxxxx and ssssseven,” and I’d be sound asleep before he could get halfway through that sentence, which usually took him about twenty minutes.

Of course quizzes, tests, and even exams have always been trouble for me, even when there was no pressure. I remember my fourth-grade teacher telling my mother, “I’ve tried to get him into a more advanced class just doesn’t test well,” which explained why there were a few times I was pulled off the playground and taken into a room with a nice lady who asked me questions like, “Can you define ‘brave’?” and of course I could in any other setting but as soon as I realized I was being tested all I could do was break out in a cold sweat and tremble and say, “I SWEAR I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THREE MILE ISLAND!” before jumping out the window.

And at the time I didn’t even know what I was being tested for.

It’s not that I’m completely hopeless. The fact is I really excel in situations where there’s no pressure, no one’s watching me, nothing depends on the outcome, and I’m not being asked to do anything.

So I’m going to take the final exam, if only to prove to myself that I have learned something, and also because I really have enjoyed going back to school, even to take just one class, so maybe if I fail the test badly enough I’ll be able to take it again.

 

9 Comments

  1. Red

    I have two nephews graduating this year. Otherwise I might not notice the end of a school year.

    The only class I’m taking is Mandarin, and not for school. It took me a while to get used to tests that are simply to show me what I know and don’t know – no grade involved! I want that % score!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      An actual score, a number, seems to me to be the only real way to be sure I’m learning. Otherwise what am I taking a class for? Oh yeah, I’m taking a class for fun and for self-edification, and because I realize that I retain something I’ve read better when I’m placed in a situation where I discuss it with others. Still I like having a score.

      Reply
  2. Ann Koplow

    You may not test well, Chris, but you blog exceedingly well.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If there were a test on blogging I suspect we’d both pass with flying colors. If only.

      Reply
  3. Rakkelle

    I am trying to comment on some of your posts and I can’t. WordPress is not allowing my comments to go through. Any idea why?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It looks like I had something unchecked and also a plugin was interfering with things. Fortunately it seems to be fixed now. Hooray!

      Reply
  4. Rakkelle

    Did you just randomly pick that meme or do you know that I am in love with Chris Hemsworth? 😂😂😂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It was a random pick but if I thought about it I’d guess you were in love with Chris Hemsworth. Hey, isn’t everyone?

      Reply
      1. Rakkelle

        Indeed. He’s my celebrity crush. I can’t wait to meet him. 🙂

        Reply

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