Independent Study.

Source: Reddit

A friend shared this social media post of an essay and I thought it was hilarious. He didn’t tell me where it was from so I assumed it was recent, and because I was inspired to write about it I decided to go looking for the original source—specifically seeing if I could find Mr. Pereira. That’s when I found that (1) it’s almost three years old (February 10th, 2020, and don’t get me started on how far away that feels, was the 80th anniversary of Tom and Jerry) and (2) the whole thing was a joke. Alexis Pereira is a comedian and actor and somehow I missed that, at the time he posted it, the “essay” went viral and he got bombarded with responses, mostly from people who thought it was real. That’s got to be a blow to any performer’s ego to tell a joke and even other comedians take it seriously. And here I am three years later just rubbing salt in the wound. Granted I thought it might not be real but I wasn’t sure, at least partly because I really wanted it to be real. I want to believe there are still teachers who will take a printed copy of a student’s paper and write corrections all over it with a red pen. And who gives enough points for creativity and sheer moxie that a completely off-topic paper still gets by with a passing grade.

I had a high school English teacher like that, Coach Peters. Maybe not exactly like that—I don’t think he would have allowed something like this to pass even though he would have found it funny as hell. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time but he really challenged us to think about what we were reading. Up to that point most of my English classes had focused on “reading comprehension”—meaning we’d read something and then have to fill in the blanks or answer multiple choice questions about specific events. Maybe we’d have to identify the simile. When Coach Peters gave us a test on A Separate Peace the first question was, “Is the sunrise on the beach foreshadowing or symbolic of something else?”

I wasn’t prepared to offer an opinion and I had trouble adjusting to his teaching style until he read an essay that a student in another class had written. Coach Peters assigned the other class to write about “What’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?” The student filled at least three single-spaced pages with the influence of numerous factors on the sale of tea, bringing in “What’s that got to do with the price of eggs in China?” and how chicken guano was used to fertilize tea fields, all of it made up, of course.

That’s when it really clicked for me what Coach Peters was really trying to do: he wasn’t interested in making us memorize and repeat facts. He wanted us to consider the implications of what we were reading and to use our imaginations. He was the best kind of teacher.

At least that’s what I think.

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  1. M.L James

    That’s hysterical and just what I needed to brighten my day, Chris! Truly made me think, which makes you a really awesome teacher! Mona
    M.L James recently posted…In a Philosophical Mood: Face TimeMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Sometimes I think I should have been a teacher instead of what I’m doing now. I do enjoy sharing what I know with coworkers, giving demonstrations, training, things like that. Being a teacher would offer more creative opportunities, but, wow, I know how much more difficult it would be too.

  2. mydangblog

    When I was teaching, I once asked my students to write an additional scene for King Lear, just for fun. One kid submitted the most porn-y thing I could imagine, at least coming from a 17 year old–it was hilarious!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That is hilarious. I hope that student got a good grade. Creativity deserves to be rewarded, as does courage, and I know it would take a lot of courage for me to turn in something like that.

  3. Anonymous

    You’re the best kind of teacher, Chris.
    recently posted…Day 4051: HarbingersMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I know you’re a good teacher too, Ann–and an excellent therapist.


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