Back in my freshman year of college

(and I say back, because lately when I consider that era of my life it seems almost as if it happened to someone else, it was so long ago - which is to say avoid getting old through any means possible, but is definitely something to include in some other node than this one... maybe in aging?)

it was required to take English composition. No big deal. While I certainly was (am) no Shakespeare, I could (can) string a collection of words together in a coherent (semi-coherent) thought. In classic form, in the first or second session the professor (who's name sadly has vanished from whatever brain cell I had stored it in. It probably used to lay where I now store all the parameters and attributes for <table> tags...) outlined for us the major requirements for the class including what items we would get graded on - weekly papers, a midterm, and a final.

Good enough.

The class proceeded in a perfectly reasonable fashion for many weeks. We would read essays and works, and then be required to write summaries, reviews, etc. regularly. These were graded. We had opportunity for rewrites to improve the resutling grade... and so forth. I distinctly remember being challenged by the class, and working quite hard to achieve my regular supply of B's.


The midterm came. I sat down, I started the exam... and went into shock. The questions were tough, and I scribbled like a madman for the entire time to get out anything resembling the information she requested. Several of us stopped together afterwards and muttered things like "What did you think?", "Man.", "That was harder than I thought it would be."

I was not particularly looking forward to getting my grade back. (This is significant, because as certain of my companion may certainly attest - consider the fine gentleman Rook - I would confound my compatriots regularly with only passing interest in the details of my professor assigned results).

But the fateful day came. We filed into the room, sat down, and she proceeded to pass out our tests. There were roughly 22 of us in the class. The moans, sighs, and gasps as the papers reached people ahead of me did not bode well... but did not prepare me for the D that came to rest before me.

I do not remember exactly (not to belabor the fuzzy holes in my head) the alphabetic demographic of the room but it seems that there was 1 A, 2 B's, 3-4 C's, a few F's, and the rest all a big fat D. (I took some small solace in having fit in with most.)

You could feel the shock in the room. (Whenever I read things like "...the tension was palpable" I always think of that moment.)

So there we sat, our grades in hand, all of us struggling to find a way to recover the semester grade from this moment (or wondering who the hell got that A), when the professor spoke...

"There is no midterm in this class."

Stunned silence. We all had the results in our hands, and she said they didn't exist...

She went on to explain that the results did not count, we could throw it away, or keep it as a reminder... Her "midterm" was an exercise for her freshman. She intentionally made it difficult and grades it harshly to make us become aware of just how difficult college could be. To make us think of being prepared for classes as much as possible in the future.

There was relief, shock, and some measurable anger in the room after that.

I did learn a lot from her. That I will grant her.

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