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This week I’ve been infuriated by certain teachers’ failure to keep track of their students’ assignments, then blaming me for not doing my assignment and being about to fail me unless I can somehow get my assignment to them (again) by the end of the day. When they’re on the complete other side of the city.

I’m not used to failing subjects and I was furious when I found out I was about to fail this one. Everyone else was astonished, except the senior school coordinator, who was simply furious with me for not doing my assignment (even though I had). I got to break the news to one of my History classmates: “Congratulations! You’re the only one not failing Revolutions right now.”

“Oh my God, I’m not failing? Awesome! But wait — how are you??

I’d only ever failed one subject before, as an innocent year eight who hadn’t done her Materials assignment. This Materials assignment was technically a work requirement, but it wasn’t really a work requirement because no one else failed for not doing it. Only me. Perhaps I failed because at the very end of the semester I lost patience with the teacher and refused to do any more metalworking. I’m not sure. At any rate, I failed.

My then-coordinator decided to emphasise my failure by calling a special year level meeting for all of the year eights. Each class had to sit in a column. 8A was to my left, 8C to my right, and I sat in the column for my class, the accelerated class, 8B. My coordinator had a list of people who’d passed all ten of their subjects, and read out this list to our year level. If your name was called out, you had to stand at the front of the room to be applauded by your peers for your dedication to your studies. Something like that.

About half of 8A had passed all their subjects, so they went up and stood at the front of the room. Then she read out the list of those in 8B who’d passed everything. She read out seventeen names, when there were eighteen in the class. I was the only one left sitting on the floor.

People who’d failed didn’t have to stand up, but I was very noticeable sitting all alone right in the centre of the room. Everyone around me was gaping in amazement. “You failed a subject? You?” they asked. “What did you fail?”

“Materials,” I replied.

“Oh, what? I thought you failed a real subject. It doesn’t count as failing if you only fail Materials!”

At the end of the year, of course, it didn’t matter at all. Year 8 is the only year I’ve ever failed a subject, and it’s also the only year I’ve ever topped the year level.

VCE is a little different to year 8, of course, and I doubt the consequences would have been so favourable after failing Revolutions. Luckily, in the end, I didn’t end up failing. My coordinator (unlike the senior school coordinator) sympathised with me because she remembered mailing off my assignment, so knew the problem was at their end. Furthermore, the truly wonderful thing about this day and age is, such things exist as fax machines. She asked me to print out another copy of my assignment, and then she faxed it, and then she mailed off the original. If they somehow failed to receive both of those assignments, they truly were incompetent.

Then the next day, my coordinator located me in the corridor. She said, “Oh Jess, I’ve just been on the phone with your History teacher. You’re not failing, she got the fax. But better yet, she found your original assignment. Do you know where it was? Right on the top of her desk! She just didn’t see it! Isn’t it funny the way things work out?”

Yeah, well, it wouldn’t have been nearly so funny if I’d failed.

Later I relayed the whole story to my classmates, plus my old History teacher because he happened to be sitting with us. “Maaaaan,” said one of my classmates. “I think you are owed an apology.”

“I know! I think I’m owed a big apology. I was really stressed out thinking I was about to fail.”

I haven’t yet received an apology. And I’m not getting my hopes up, either.

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