Cathedral Building

Another Teaching Blog

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While looking through one of those Inappropriate Test Answers articles —

which is sometimes horrifying and not remotely funny, sometimes just crude, sometimes puts me into hysterical laughter whether I want to laugh or not, and can occasionally be funnier due to the teachers’ responses than the kids’ answers themselves —

I realized that I didn’t know if I had ever told a story about my King-of-Senioritis honors student classmate.  One of the entries in particular reminded me of this one so I figured I would share either to give some of the high school teachers nightmares or see what they’d do in this situation.

Let’s call this classmate Greg.  By senior year Greg was one of the top students in the school, and part of a cluster of boys that outpaced other students in math and science.  I think there may have been one girl in the group.  I was part of their larger overachiever cluster, but lost most of my “cred” when they ended up in AP Physics and AP Calculus and I was sent back a step in math and opted for a Science Research course without pushing to end up at Intel.  These gents were brilliant and they knew it — and they frequently took advantage of it at every turn.

Greg, in particular, made a pledge: he was not going to read any of his textbooks senior year, though I have no idea if this stuck in the maths or sciences. It was either an experiment or a challenge.  But even the year before this he had starting testing out this theory that he was smart enough to pass without doing any readings.  We called it “early senioritis,” but maybe he was actually prepping for college more realistically than most of his classmates.

Our AP history course involved weekly, sometimes daily quizzes to see if we’d done the readings, ranging from brief multiple choice tests to surprise collection of reading notes to short answer questions.  One day the teacher was collecting the short answer question for the day, and they stopped at Greg’s desk.  And when the teacher stopped at Greg’s desk you watched, because it generally played out like a bad sitcom.

"What is this?"

"It’s my answer."

"It’s a drawing of a [carnivorous animal] eating a [large famous store]."

"Yes."

"This is your answer."

"The [animal] represents the trust busters and the [store] represents big corporations."

The teacher didn’t even argue.  They just walked on by, collecting more quizzes.  At that point in the year they didn’t even bother.

At the time, sometimes it felt like it was impossible not to laugh later on, because it was so absurd.  Now I just feel guilty, thinking about what hell he put these teachers through, though some of them had an almost malicious sense of humor regarding taking none of his BS that made us far more gleeful than his actual antics themselves.  In fact, I think that the reason we laughed hardest at this particular incident — when Greg couldn’t hear and we weren’t encouraging him — was because the teacher handled it with a total deadpan, an almost lack of reaction.  It was like a triumph. (Of course, having worked in a classroom since, I have to wonder if they just broke down later.  Wow do things change when you switch sides of the classroom.)

Greg, among in that group, went on one of those high school trivia shows, at which point people taped it to see his on-air, unabashed amusement at his own lack of preparation.  It seemed to please him; we’re all fairly sure he was doing it on purpose — or else was high, which was another thing that seemed to happen frequently. 

Now it seems he has some kind of high-powered financial job.

So what would you do when faced with a student like that — a student who already has everything lined up, who “knows” they don’t need to put in any more effort, who makes everything a game?  What would you do when they were pushing your buttons?  Have you had this happen before?  I’ve always been curious (and much admiring of our teachers for never overturning his desk with him in it) and will likely never teach high school, so I put this out to you all.

Filed under education high school

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