Sunday, August 12, 2012

Being a Lousy Student

I was a lousy student in high school. Sure, I was pretty good in the subjects that I cared about (history and music theory), but the subjects that didn't interest me remain a blur. I went to an excellent high school, and I got away with lousy studenthood because my teachers saw me as being on a path that had nothing to do with academics. I am particularly embarrassed about an English class I took my sophomore year (for us high school began in the tenth grade). We were supposed to have read Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and somehow I managed to pass the class without reading it at all. I can't remember what else I didn't read that year, but I know that I didn't fail the class.

What I do remember was that the teacher was also the German teacher, and I kind of wished I could take German, but after being such a lousy student in his English class, I didn't think it was a good idea. All I remember doing during English class was writing duets with my percussionist friend, who was also in the class. He would write a percussion part, and I would write a flute part, and then we would pass our completed half-duets to one another, and finish our little masterpieces (if the teacher thought that we were passing notes, he would actually have been correct). After class we would play them through. I can't remember if they were any good, but I imagine they must have been kind of similar to the Ingolf Dahl duet we spent much of the year practicing together.

Several years after graduating high school (a year early--how I managed to do that is still a mystery), I ran into that teacher (I'm not naming names) on the trolley in Boston (the "T" to all you youngsters and non-old-time-Bostonians), and told him that I graduated from Juilliard and could now speak German. He seemed unimpressed. My memory of him as a cold and detached person was unchanged, but perhaps his memory of me as a lousy student who only cared about music was also unchanged.

Perhaps I should give Tess of the d'Urbervilles a try.


Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

I was an English major the first time around, and loved to lose myself in novels, but Thomas Hardy was always tough sledding for me. The prose never flowed and the mood always seemed dark and foreboding. I'd suggest just spending the time composing ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Tess of the Durbervilles is a miserable book. As Lyle puts it, "tough sledding". I read it because (a) I was conscientious and (b) I was at a high school where I couldn't have gotten away with not reading it. But I had way more fun reading our other set texts that year: Othello, Pride and Prejudice, Equus, and (best of all) John Donne poems.

Anonymous said...

"I was a lousy student in high school"

I find that hard to believe.

"After being such a lousy student in his English class"

But you write so well on your blog.

Elaine Fine said...

That's easy to answer. I married an English professor!

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, an English professor who has learned only today of these untoward events.

See me at once.

Elaine Fine said...

Just don't make me read Tess and discuss it with you!

Susan Scheid said...

Well, I love that the notes you were passing were parts for pieces of music you were writing. Following your bliss is such a good thing, and it's so easy to be derailed!