I was talking with a friend of mine who will soon start high school in Lynn. I mentioned my former school in passing, and my very smart friend said something like “God no. I mean, I know you went there but.. no. Ugh.” To which I replied “Smart choice..” and something like “do not even get me started..” She asked me to get started… so I thought I would share some of my fond memories in blog form for her.

I loved languages and I liked History; I didn’t care for much else. I always struggled with Math. Freshman year I had Algebra 1 with a really great teacher. We’ll call her JP. For the first time in my life, I understood and even aced Math! Sophomore year, as a result of acing Math the previous year I was put in Honors Geometry. Joke. The teacher was very nice and didn’t seem to care if I showed up or not. I had a friend who sat nearby and at the end of the year, he told me he counted how many times I showed up to class: 7. The whole year I showed up for that class 7 times. I hated Geometry, felt I had better things to do. At the end of each quarter, I would show up to meet with the teacher and get my grade. As you can imagine, having never shown up to class I did not earn good grades. The grades I earned: D or F, each quarter. During this time I usually went to Oregon in the summers and my parents had told me if I brought home any grades lower than a C I couldn’t go. So I relayed this to my teacher, who said “okay, Sweetie, what grade would you like?” Just like that I would have B- in a class I never even attended.

Junior year I had Mrs. Z for Algebra II. Joke. She disliked Bollens due to some cousins who came before me, as I understand it. At any rate, my first day in her class, as she was taking attendance she said to me, “Bollen? Your last name is Bollen? Move your desk to the back, next to mine.” That was that- she hated me and I spent the rest of the year separated from the rest of the kids, sitting by her desk. As I previously mentioned, I suck at Math and I struggled hardcore with her class. Now in my day, every teacher was required to have a “night back”. This meant they chose one night a week to stay after and be available to students who requested help. I knew my parents would kill me if I brought home an F, something I never did -except in this class. I went to her on her ‘night back’ requesting help. She literally laughed at me, stating “I’m not helping you!!”. Seriously. My teacher refused to help me. I didn’t give up… I went to JP – the amazing teacher from Freshman year who miraculously made me understand Algebra I. She was so sweet and agreed to work with me after school and during study periods. I still did very poorly. The thing that most stands out in my mind from my time with Mrs. Z is a parent/teacher night.. My Dad had gone and he came home furious. Apparently Mrs. Z. had told him that the reason I did so poorly in her class is because I “spent class time flirting with the boy I sat next to, rather than paying attention.” Dad was freaking, as you can imagine. Who was this boy? And why wasn’t I paying attention/ even trying in a subject I was known for doing poorly in?! If you remember from above, I did not in fact sit near a boy. I say in the back with Mrs. Z. To this day, I cannot decide what is worse, a teacher blatantly refusing to help a student who actually asked for help and wanted to learn, or making things up about me and getting me in trouble with my parents!! Of course they believed the teacher, not the 15 year old kid who was failing.

Senior year came along and I had already passed all my Math requirements for my diploma so Guidance Counselor put me in Problems & Statistics (rather than the real/ harder stuff like Physics, Calc, Trig, etc). This teacher was very nice too, and had I exerted even a little bit of effort, I likely would’ve done well. As it happened, this class was first period and this was the year that homeroom started before 7 a.m. and 1st period around 7 a.m. I am not a morning person. I would typically sleep in, skip first period and show up for second. At the end of each quarter when we discussed grades, I would tell her “I need at least a B” and she would oblige, even though I never even showed up to class.

That’s my Math experience with this school. One really great teacher who not only made me understand the material, but worked with me on her own time 2 years later. One teacher who seemed to want to see me fail. Two teachers who did not care that I never attended their classes and still gave me honor-roll worthy grades.

Chemistry:

Junior year I had Chemistry last period. I disliked Chemistry and so I would just go home early, rather than attending this class. Mr teacher, Mr. L said “you’re in the TV Club? I like that! What grade do you want?” And that was that. Another class I never attended but could still get my desired grade written into my report card. Sweet!

Languages

I looooved languages. Senior year I had fullfilled my Science requirements. My schedule consisted of the first period Math class I mentioned above (that I never attended), History, English, Latin, Spanish, French and a couple study periods. I took up French starting Junior year. I had the same teacher both Junior and Senior years, the senile Mrs. McW. who had recently come from another school. She should’ve been retired and in assisted living. She did not speak a single word of French. She was very confused, she would walk into French class (late, usually halfway into it), confused and flustered, acting like she didn’t miss half the class, and say, “Okay class take out your Spanish books.” Well I had a Spanish book, since I took every language available. Being a smart ass, I would do as instructed and take out my Spanish book. She did not like this. She would throw things at me. She would proceed to “teach” the class while I read ahead, studied on my own and basically self-taught myself the best I could, since “teacher” didn’t speak the language we were supposed to be learning. [I did alright as when I went to Paris later on, I found myself able to communicate just fine.] 

The first year I had her, she lied to my Mom at a parent/teacher night. I dont think she was actually lying though, I think she was legit senile and didn’t know what she was doing. She gets her grade book and tells my Mom (I witnessed this), “Jessie, Jessie… the problem with Jessie is she doesn’t do any work.. see.. here is my grade book.. all zero’s…” and she proceeds to show my Mom a grade book that is in fact filled with all A’s. Not a single zero. As I was about to murder her, Mom pulls me off her telling me to shut it, while smiling and nodding at the senile old lady, while Brother who for some reason tagged along, proceeds to vandalize her classroom telling me “don’t worry Jessie, I’ll take care of her…”  Does this sound like someone who should be teaching?!

Freshman year I was in Honors Spanish II; Spanish was my favorite subject as I really wanted to come away able to speak the language. I had Mrs. P.. she did not speak a word of Spanish. But here she was, “teaching” Honors Spanish. My friends who were in this class with me will remember -we spent the year learning how to Salsa, Merengue, we would bring in Spanish or Latin dishes, and we played A LOT of Scrabble. In English mostly, but sometimes in Spanish. So as you can imagine, when I got to Honors Spanish III and had a real teacher, I was lost. It was like going from Junior High level Spanish into Honors III; all of us who’d had Mrs. P the previous year struggled. 

Gym…

Certain Gym teachers were cool, others were not. Mostly I would get a game of half court basketball during gym class.. I looooved to play. Certain semesters I had Mr. K who said “Girls can’t play basketball/ it’s a man’s sport!” and would REFUSE to let me use a basketball. Instead I would sit on a weight machine gossiping with the other girls, or walking around the building if weather permitted. This was the ’90’s but ‘Girls couldn’t play Basketball’. Nice.

I could probably go on all day. But those are some of my favorite memories from high school. The bottom line? If I wanted to apply myself and actually take something away -that may or may not matter. It all depended on what teacher I got. There was the French teacher who didn’t speak French. The Spanish teacher who didn’t speak Spanish. The Chemistry, Geometry and Statistics teachers who seriously said “what grade would you like?” despite my NEVER having shown up to their classes. And of course the Math teacher who actually refused to tutor me and lied to my parents about me!

Good stuff. 

I am a good student now, in my undergraduate work; despite having gone to a ‘College Prep’ high school, I do not attribute any of my success in college to my high school experience. My first few classes at Bay Path College, prepared me for college expectations, if anyone did.

There you go Nicole.. 🙂

Reading material for your drive home maybe.

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