I’m not sure I learned very much in high school, but that’s not the fault of Cordelia Johnson, Phyllis Deming or Violet Murphy, or any of my other teachers, who included but were not limited to Mr. Kilgariff, Mr. Bates, Mr. Goodrow, Mr. Frost, Mr. Spieler, Mr. Kaminski, Mr. Vater, Mr. Delisle, Mr. Merlino, Mr. Balinskas, Mr. Sangeloty, Mr. Innes, and Miss Zorski.
(Please note that grades 7 through 12 were all herded together under the same roof at Berlin High School in those primitive times, so I think of “high school” as the whole six-year ordeal. Also, “Ms.” had yet to be invented.)
Anyway, the problem seems to have been that I hated biology (cutting up frogs), chemistry (watching nothing happen over a Bunsen burner), and physics (watching nothing happen in a ripple tank); I loved history and could listen to lectures about the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties until the medieval cows came home; I liked math — even algebra, even what back then was called “the calculus” — but I liked it more in theory than in practice, and wasn’t much good at it; and English was OK, partly because it helped sharpen my BS skills when I’d neglected to do the reading.
We also had a dean of girls, whose job it was to use a yardstick to determine that a girl’s skirt was too short, then to make her cry so she could hand her a Kleenex; and Mr. Landry, the assistant principal in charge of slamming boys up against lockers to show them who’s boss.
He had a sort of holding cell outside his office, for bad boys, and somehow or other I wound up in there one day after school. But I’m sure it was my brother who was in trouble, not me.
Anyway, the one and only lesson from my entire high school career that I remember vividly, to this day, is this, from Mr. Landry: “Always expect the worst, and you’ll never be disappointed.”
Some would consider that piece of advice to be cynical, but I prefer to think of it as sensible and realistic
He was preparing us for the real world.
And since the real world will begin another bright new year tomorrow, I am prepared for the worst but expecting something a bit better.
A few predictions:
In other words, things could always be worse.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.