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I am not the kind of person that blames someone else for their downfalls. But I have to do it and it’s all your fault, DWWP readers! Because the part of my past I would love to change is fifth grade. Specifically, my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Lattucca, the teacher that taught me how to be lazy.
Ms. Lattucca was a short, brown-haired woman with a round face and even rounder glasses. I wish I could tell you what we learned in fifth grade but, alas, I cannot. Mostly because the only thing i did learn that fateful year was that doing work was optional… to a point.
Ms. Lattucca’s homework philosophy was to put all her faith in the students. Which sounds great but could not have been a bigger mistake. On the first day of class, she gave us every reading, quiz, essay, test, spelling activity, writing assignment and oral exam for the whole year, daring us not to turn any of them in on the last day of the semester. And, as I found out, I don’t shy away from a dare.
Up to this point in my educational career, I had been an exemplary student. Well, maybe not exemplary but I always got an A+ for effort. Mainly because I literally had never realized that anything else was an option. You worked hard or you worked hard. End of list.
Ten-year-old Conor clearly took after Green Bay Packers head coach and Super Bowl trophy namesake Vince Lombardi when it came to his studies… “doing well in school isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” But for some reason, the concept of homework that wasn’t due for five months flipped a switch on in my head. A switch that was labeled, “Fuck it. That’s future Conor’s problem.”
To be fair, there were monthly quotas. Ms. Lattucca would do a spot check the first Monday of the month to make sure we were actually working towards an existent final portfolio. I think this is when I learned how to lie. Ms. Lattucca could be so easily doped, tricked and bamboozled into believing my work “was in my other folder,” “on my desk at home,” or “still needed to be proofread by my parents” that I never felt the need to actually do anything.
This obviously and inevitably caught up to me near the end of the year. Ms. Lattucca, along with my parents, finally realized that I had done almost nothing all year. That was the first time I was grounded. They put me on strict homework schedules and, eventually, I was able to turn in a final portfolio with all of the necessary homework assignments in it. But the damage was done. That year, school turned into an obstacle to be avoided. I learned despite my best efforts rather than in favor of them. School was no longer about getting an education; it was about getting a grade.
Let’s be honest though; I probably would’ve come to this conclusion at some point on my own. I’m in no way suggesting that Ms. Lattucca was the seed that grew into my academic apathy. She had a uniquely interesting and selectively beneficial method of educating us that let kids grow academically while giving them responsibility. But she definitely contributed some water to that seed by not taking more of an interest.
If this academic apathy was inevitable, I probably would’ve liked to have put it off a little longer than fifth grade. As an eleven-year-old, I needed more guidance than, “Just do it and we’ll check it later.” Who knows what I might have accomplished with a couple extra years of that “win or go home” intensity when it came to my academic prowess.
But you know what? I’m happy. Changing something from your past carries with it a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things ended up. While there will always be things I regret and things that I wish I did differently, I still like the way it’s all turned out so far. I met some of my best friends in Ms. Lattucca’s class. Friends that I’m still in contact with today. And if I had to become a life-long C+ student to meet them, I’m cool with that.