Second Thoughts.

When I was in elementary school I was a pretty strong student, hitting the honor roll on a regular basis. Presented with the opportunity to take a test or a pop quiz or the “Iowa Tests”, which were a standardized battery of tests given near the end of the school year, I generally finished any of these tests first and would silently wait for everyone else to finish. I wasn’t one to check my work; I either knew it or I didn’t and over 90% of the time I knew the answer and hence ended up on the honor roll.

This all changed in sixth grade. My sixth grade teacher, a man in his early 30s that all the girls went gaga over (I liked his mustache but that was about it; I was still bitter about my much more “enrichment” teacher being let go at the end of the previous school year), he would have us put our tests or quizzes on his desk when we were done and then we’d sit down watching everyone else do the same thing. As usual I was always first and my grades would show it, usually 88 to 92. That’s what I did. A few weeks into the school year he pulled me aside to tell me a few things. First of all, I had to stop making my penmanship “too pretty”. I wasn’t putting hearts or stars over the “I”s and “j”s or anything, I just had a little bit of a loopy flair to the way I wrote and I didn’t see any harm in it. The second thing he mentioned was that I was racing through my tests way too fast and I should slow down and recheck all my work before handing it in.

This started my tendency to second guess myself.

My grades on exams went down a bit and being as literally minded as I can be, I didn’t blame it on going against my nature of just “I know it or I don’t” but rather, I was doing something else wrong and if I just kept checking my work I’d be fine. I took his words to heart and for the rest of my school career I slowed my natural thought processes down and became a merit roll student. I clearly remember watching students take their tests up before me and counting them so I wouldn’t be in the top three or top five, and I would change answers that I second guessed so he could see I was checking my work. I don’t blame the teacher with the mustache for the drop in grades, he thought he was urging me to slow down and check my work like every other student, but that just didn’t work for me. This is what I get for growing up in the tail end of the “one student is like every other student” era. It would have been easier to go metric.

And my penmanship can still be a little loopy but no hearts or stars for the dots.