Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sympathy for autodidacts

So last night after class, we went to a bar and had a couple drinks. Which, you know, is what we usually do. Anyway, there was this guy there who bought our drinks (awesome), and he was a teacher at another school and, well, he started complaining about a student who just wanted to show up for the tests.

"Ugh. That's totally me. I'm sorry, I am so that person. If I could test out of everything I'd be fine- it's the going that kills me." I told him. And then he tried to explain that well, there are things you learn in class that aren't in the book, etc. etc. I told him the story about how I tested out of economics in highschool (not knowing a thing about it beforehand)- with only a day to prepare, by reading my dad's old college textbook in a day- and, uh, I also got the highest score. Not to brag, but I totally did. Then he said "Well, what about the kid who came to my office ten times, tried really hard, came to every class, and maybe still doesn't doesn't score as high on the test, or have as nuanced answers as you do? How do I grade the both of you? It doesn't seem fair to give him a worse grade."

"What am I supposed to do?" I asked. "Pretend like I don't get it when I do? I'm just not a "going through the motions" kind of person."

This, in case you don't know, is why I sucked at elementary school. I remember the first day of third grade, when we once again got our plaid phonics books, the feeling of my face burning up with frustration. I came home, and I said to my mom "Can you believe this? What is this? 'ph' equals 'ffff'! I get it! Let's move on!" Then, the years of nouns and verbs and adverbs and conjunctions and prepositional phrases... it was agony. I pretty much refused to do any of my seatwork or homework, because I didn't really see the point in doing it if I already knew it already.

It's not that I was a child genius, it's just that I had my own way of learning. I like learning. I like knowing things, but I prefer to do it on my own and I don't feel the need to share. They had "Enrichment Class" in school, which I went to for a while- but really, it was pretty much just "Write a paper on Abraham Lincoln!" "Let's do some haikus!" and shit. I didn't find it especially enriching. I just wanted to take the test and have it be over with, so I could go back to learning things that I cared about.

I hid "The Diary of Anne Frank" behind my 'Mr. Fig' reader. "He's magical. He speaks in three word sentences. He talks to animals. Point taken."

I was told for a bunch of years that I had ADD. I knew I didn't. I knew I didn't because when push came to shove, I could read the whole damn book in one night without a break, and get an A on the test without doing any of the homework. I just had no interest in people repeating the same things to me, over and over again, day after day, year after year. I don't have a lot of patience.

The only class I ever really liked in high school was my sophomore global studies class, where the teacher talked a mile a minute, slammed books on the desk if people weren't paying attention, and, to boot, everything he said had a good chance of being on the test, and he never repeated anything the . Your hand would ache by the end of the period. There was no homework, only tests. Perfect.

I hated group projects. Oddly, I hated anything in class where you were supposed to be creative. I didn't want to be creative in class, I had other outlets for that. I just wanted to read the book and get it over with.

So, do I think, in this hypothetical situation that I should be able to just read the book, show up and get an A on the tests, and get a better grade than the kid who comes to every class and tries really hard? Kinda. I don't think it's some giant sin to prefer to learn things on your own. I mean, I could work for 20 years on a painting that would be nowhere near as good as the one someone who happens to be naturally talented in that way did in a couple hours. Should my painting go up in a museum because I tried harder? Probably not. Then again, I'm kind of a pretentious smart ass, so what do I know.

1 comment:

C. Anne said...

I totally completely 100% think one should be able to test out of everything (should one be so inclined).

It's not our fault the others try try try without the same results...