I almost dropped the class. I absolutely had to get an A in order to maintain a 4.0, as a perfect GPA was my ticket into the seriously impacted nursing program at our local state university. In other classes I could track my progress through test scores and graded papers all semester long, studying and working harder when necessary, coasting when I could in one class to focus on another. I raised my concerns in a phone call to my instructor, revealing my type A personality, and asking for some feedback regarding my writing. Cryptic as ever, she told me not to worry. So I wrote, and rewrote, and hoped she considered my writing worthy of an A.
I hadn't though about that class for years, but it came to mind last Sunday as I sat poolside and watched more than fifty synchronized swimming championship routines (that's a lot of time for a mind to wander). The swimmers had been practicing their routines several hours a day for over two months, and their success hinged on their final performance. All that work, distilled into three or four minutes, judged by 7 parent volunteers, and no way of predicting their final grade until the results were tallied and announced at the end of the day. The swimmers were completely at the mercy of the judges, just as I had once been at the mercy of my English instructor.
Our team did not do so well. After all the ribbons were handed out and rankings were announced, I turned to the man sitting next to me, the grandfather of a swimmer, and said, "Well, the biggest room is the room for improvement."
"What kind of positive bullshit is that? You must be a goddamned school teacher," he replied.
Yes. He really said all that.
Fifth place out of five teams is nothing to celebrate. Fortunately, there were only a few tears shed, and the championship results won't keep anybody out of college. We're just a recreation league after all. Perhaps next year we'll rise like a phoenix from this season's ashes.
My final grade on my English portfolio? An A+. But there's always room for improvement, so I keep on writing and rewriting. I'm no g**d****ed school teacher; I'm just a hopeful student who has finally learned that life doesn't hinge on final grades.