Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When I Was in Oz

We used to move around a bit when I was growing up. Because of that, there's pretty much one non-family person that I semi-often see in life that ever even knew me as a child. I had a chance to see and talk to her the other day. We reminisced a little bit about the times we had played together as children, and it kind of put a bunch of my old memories on the brain. I've been feeling like recording some of those stories, so I hope you enjoy this trip down my memory lane.

Time: 1990
Place: Illinois
The Reason: Jr High (6th grade)

For one of our school trimesters the teachers announced that we would be working on a huge project that would constitute a major portion of our grade for that whole trimester. It would affect all of our grades in our core classes: English, Reading, Math, and World History. We would each be assigned a different country and do a project on that country. I was in my English class at the time, and my teacher, The Wicked Witch of the West,

had some kind of hat with a bunch of countries in there. I was one of the last people that got to choose a country (which was actually handed to me out of the hat), if not the last. When I looked at it, doo-doo-doo-dooooo... I got Vatican City.

Some other students were displeased with their chosen countries and wanted to trade, so, with The Wicked Witch's permission, they were able to switch countries. Not being particularly pleased with my choice (I had wanted France or Switzerland or something like that), I asked The Wicked Witch if I could switch. "NO!" she cackled.

"How peculiar," I thought, "that The Wicked Witch of the West won't let me trade when she let the others trade." But, being a rather passive-aggressive 11 year old, I just sat at my desk confused as to her exceeding niceness to the other munchkins and her snappiness towards me. I also mused over the chances that in a junior high with 90% catholic attendees (and with The Wicked Witch of the West, who was also catholic if you didn't know), I, The Mormon, would be the one to get Vatican City as my country and not be allowed to switch. I certainly was not in Kansas anymore.

It turned out that everyone got to be in groups with the other students who shared their similar country assignments. There were no other students assigned to the same country that I had, so I was thrown into the miscellaneous group with Monaco, Lichtenstein, and Luxembourg. We had to come up with a group presentation, and we chose to present Jeopardy!-style. That went okay. As a part of it we also were supposed to write a multiple page paper about the country. I made my way to the library in search of information about my country.

Since our school had only opened a couple of months earlier, there weren't very many options (as you can see) for reference. I searched the card catalog and found nothing relating to Vatican City. I enlisted the help of the librarian, but she basically told me they would have nothing, except for what I would be able to find in an encyclopedia. So, I found the encyclopedia. There was one paragraph about Vatican City. I decided to cross-reference pope names to see if there would possibly be anything else about Vatican City in there. Nope. I talked to the other munchkins who were mostly catholic to see what they could tell me about Vatican City. Not much, actually.

I went home and checked our encyclopedias with a similar result: a paltry amount of information. So, that's what I got: basically nothing. Now, I can be good at creating filler to extend the length of papers (as you can tell by the length of this blog entry), but this task was way beyond my abilities. I wasn't even sure what else I could write about that would be about the country and not the individual people who lived there. So, I gave up. I thought to myself, "Self, they assigned you a country, didn't let you switch, and have abysmal resources to help you accomplish this assignment. Why work on it?" And so, I didn't do anything. I figured that handing in a paper short of the required number of pages (we had also been threatened to fail if we handed in anything less than what was required) would be pointless, so I just quit. Why spend time on something that won't pass, anyway? Also, I should mention here that I like learning and hate homework, so my motivation to work on the assignment wasn't very big in the first place, seeing as how this project seemed to me to be more work than learning.

So, on the day that we were to turn in our reports, I handed in nothing. And The Wicked Witch of the West made a scene. Quite the scene.

I was told that my parents would be contacted. My mother, The Good Witch of the North, had a little talk with me after school.

I told her the story of my experiences, and she ... well, she abandoned the Good Witch of the North attitude and became a bit of the Wicked Witch of the West. I can't remember if she called and talked to my teacher or if she actually went to the school to talk to the teacher, but when she came back to talk to me, she had clearly come to know that my teacher was actually The Wicked Witch of the West in disguise.

So what happened next? The Good Witch of the North helped me complete my assignment that night. She took out some of her old photo albums of when she had visited Vatican City, and we created a paper with photos of her visit to Vatican City. Based on my report card and the fact that I always got straight A's, I think I still got an F on the entire assignment. I still can't figure out why that project affected my math grades. There wasn't really any part of our assignment that used pre-algebra. Ah well. All in all what I learned most from that experience was that The Wicked Witch of the West really just wanted her ruby slippers.

The End.


Mellissa said...

I never had quite the experience like that, but I did have a teacher who was The Wicked Witch. 4th grade. Scary. Scary. Scary.

julie said...

What a story! It's good to know that this project didn't ruin your future scholastic achievements. Even though I was a child of the pre-internet era, it's still hard for me to think about not having it as a resource when doing research...especially on a subject that is under-covered by "conventional" means.

Jill said...

I thought my 1st grade teacher in Illinois was the Wicked Witch of the West! My 6th grade teacher, well she was some other kind of abomination... the best I can equate her to is Kathy Bates' character in Misery.

rosann said...

I totally had a Wicked Witch teacher (in elementary)too - Miss Vandewegh - she scared me to death!! Although I never had a crazy project like that... what a great story! :)

dub said...

I was talking to the Good Witch of the North just a few weeks ago about this very incident. She is still pretty upset about it 20 years after the fact. She is convinced that your teacher was intentionally making your life miserable because you were a Mormon. Do you think that was the case?

Nowadays that would totally be a lawsuit.

I hope things like this don't ever happen to Catholic school children in 90% Mormon areas.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Bravo!

I think you should have thrown water.

Anonymous said...

What I meant by "bravo" was - great story, Cardine. Very entertaining.

I am, of course, sorry that it happened to you.

Cash said...

I was indignant on your behalf for years after the fact because this little episode was the reason you couldn't go with the Honor Society to Wet 'n' Wild in Las Vegas in eighth grade. Remember?

Cardine said...

Mellissa - Sorry you had a wicked witch, too. :(

Julie - Yeah, now I look back and wonder how I ever did it without the internet.

Jill - Sometimes I forget that you lived in Illinois, too! A wicked witch in 1st grade probably would have affected me for life.

Rosann - Too many wicked witches!!!

Dub - I wonder sometimes if she made my life miserable because of my being a Mormon. The evidence seemed to point in that direction; however, ultimately, I think she was just a wicked witch sometimes. I think she had emotional problems. I hope that things like that don't happen in 90% Mormon areas, too, but they probably do. People are imperfect and weird sometimes.

Sarah - Yes. I should have thrown water, but I was actually too scared to talk to her and approach her. I never knew what her reaction would be.

Cash - Yes, I do remember that. I was just frustrated because if I had been in your grade they would have let me go since your year had a different 6th grade school. It made "sence" to me that if they weren't counting 6th grade the very next year due to it being a different school, then they should do the same for me. Makes sense, right? The advisor didn't see it that way. :(

Fortunately I was able to go to Wet 'n' Wild eventually.

Also, Honor Society in middle school = party time. The only things that I remember doing were going to Wet 'n' Wild, the movies, skiing, Snow Canyon sand dunes. I don't remember doing anything else.

KieraAnne said...

Wow that would have made me so mad and frustrated when I was eleven. Was there not a public library you could have used? That's crazy to think how easily that problem could be solved today with the internet. I'm glad I never had a teacher like that.

tearese said...

missy- I think you were in my fourth grade class. And she totally looked like the wicked witch, and there was a broom stuck on the roof that everyone said was hers.
cardine- I definitely think it sounds like she was picking on you because of religion, but you never know. My sixth grade report was on Ireland. I remember how hard it was to do reports with only encyclopedias as references; so many things are just NOT covered therein.
I remember one report I didn't do any work on. It was in 5th grade, and we had partners. I would have happily done the work, but my partner (whom several of your readers are friends with) treated me like I was an idiot and insisted on doing the whole report herself. It was an oral report on elevators. I didn't mind letting her do it all, until the teacher insisted I start the report while she got the visual aid ready. I shared the ONE fact I knew, then grinned sheepishly..I think the jig was up.

Ryan and Sara said...

This is a very sad tale. I would've protected you if I had the chance. BTW-how are you? PS: I added your blog to that alright? :)

Dana Cheryl said...

She sounds mentally unstable. I think she purposely handed you Vatican City with the hopes of enlightening you. She had probably been eagerly awaiting your paper and then lost her fragile grip on reality when you didn't turn one in on time. Honestly, how can a report on Vatican City have anything to do with math? Sorry ya had such a negative experience at school. My friend's daughter just experienced something similar. She's such a timid little girl and this situation has greatly shaken her confidence. I hope she can focus on her love of learning like you did and come through stronger on the other side.

sar said...

Fabulous story. It made me want to laugh, maybe cry, hmm well some sort of catharsis anyway.