History and French: the Best and Worst

My single most positive experience as a student came out of an essay I wrote for my grade eleven history class.  I received a mark of 76% – the lowest mark I’ve ever been given on an essay.  I was deeply hurt and ashamed of that mark.  I was a high-achieving students, and up until that point every teacher I’d ever had loved my work inside and out.  As far as I was concerned, I was sixteen years old and the model of academic perfection, people.  Teachers did not criticize me.

…But this history teacher did.  I hated him for it, at first.  My next essay, I worked my butt off just to spite him, and was given a grudging 82%.  Again, unacceptable – and again, I could do nothing but work even harder.  My next mark? 87%.  It was by no means the best mark I’d ever had in a class, but I was flying on that 87%.  I’d never had a teacher push me so hard before.  I spent most of that year and the next wishing I could have him as an English teacher – or, better yet, Creative Writing – so that he could beat the rest of my writing into shape, as well.  I craved the kind of teacher who expected absolutely nothing less than my very best.  Knowing that I’d succeeded in giving him that was the best feeling in the world.

My worst experience as a student came a couple of years before that, in my grade nine French class.  My teacher in that class…well, she hated teaching.  And I mean hated it, to the depths of her soul.  One day we were doing an exercise where we were given a sentence with a blank space and we had to fill it in with the appropriate French word.  We were going around the class reading out our answers to what career we wanted when we grew up.  A girl sitting two seats behind me answered, “I want to be a teacher.” (In French, of course…but that was five years ago.  I don’t remember much of anything from that class.)

Our teacher just stood there at the front of the classroom for a moment, her face suffused with shock and disgust, before saying, “WHY?” like the idea left a bad taste in her mouth.

My classmate did not answer.  None of us said anything.  I was a little scared.  I thought her head might explode, or else she would start to spit venom.  The girl two seats behind me sank down in her seat a little and we continued with the worksheet.

Now, not everyone is suited to teaching.  Miss French Teacher had clearly just gotten to the end of her rope, which I cannot really be upset with her for.  The fact remains, however, that that was the most miserable year of French classes I had ever had.

How about you people?  Give it a shot: tell us all what your best and worst experiences as a student were.

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