Come to think of it, many people don’t take me seriously NOW…
At least when I first say something.
I’m known to be a bit of a comedian. In high school, I was a class clown.
And I didn’t really mind…because I liked to laugh and have fun…
I still do.
There was one teacher on whom I had to work really hard for her to take me seriously.
Her name was Alice Lauterbur. We not-so-kindly referred to her as “Mad Alice” and she was my Composition and Grammar teacher.
Unfortunately, Miss Lauterbur was the butt of jokes and pranks by many students throughout her teaching career. By the time she was my teacher, she was probably in her late 60’s, and she had been teaching English since before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (I had classmates whose PARENTS had taken Mad Alice for English when they were in high school).
Miss Lauterbur required all of her “Comp and Grammar” students to write a term paper about a famous person. She called it “Aspirations Under Glass” (which makes NO sense…I mean, I get the “Aspirations” part…but “Under Glass?” What the heck is THAT?!?!?)
Anyway, there were a few specific guidelines for this term paper. First of all, we had to have 3-5 different reference sources. Then we had to document each reference quote on a 3×5 card and keep all of them in some specific order in a little brown accordion portfolio holder thingy (I think that was the technical name for it). And finally, we could not write about anyone that any of her previous students had ever written on…
I’m not kidding. Miss Lauterbur gave us a 3-page list of names of people that we could not write on…living, dead, or anywhere in between…if a student had written about someone 40 years prior, we were not allowed to write about the same person.
This led to a lot of grumbling among my friends…
But not me.
I knew exactly who I wanted to write about.
This was 1981. I was a huge baseball fan…and one of the hottest rookies in recent memory had just broken into the major leagues in a big way.
Miss Lauterbur told me I could not write about him. She said that my writing skills were too good to be wasted on (insert disdainful tone here) “a baseball player”.
I begged…I pleaded…I nagged…I promised Miss Lauterbur that I would write a great paper that she would be proud of. Eventually, she relented…I think it was because she didn’t think I would take the project seriously if she forced me to write about someone else.
She was right.
I didn’t take much seriously in high school…
But I took that paper seriously.
I wish I still had that paper to look back on…
But I don’t.
I didn’t lose it…Miss Lauterbur didn’t give it back to me.
Or, to be more accurate, she didn’t let me keep it after she handed it back. I got to look at it. I got to read her comments, written in spidery red ink. But she didn’t let me keep it.
She asked me if SHE could keep it so that she could make copies of it to show generations of future students how to write a really excellent term paper.
I was shocked…
I don’t know how many “generations of future students” were left in her teaching career…
But I was pleased to let her keep it.
I received more than an A+ on that paper.
You see, being the class clown can be a great way to hide from expectations-not only from others but also from yourself. And that’s what I had been doing for years…expecting very little of myself and achieving exactly that…very little.
I saw Miss Lauterbur recently. She is in her 90’s now. She volunteers at a local hospital as a front desk attendant. And she remembered me…30 years after she was my teacher.
It was fun to chat with her for a few moments.
But it was also great to be reminded of a time when I learned that I could make an impact with words.
I don’t know how many people read that term paper…
But I hope that someone else found the writing to be inspiring.
Because I know that I did…