Okay—enough catching up, and back to what happened that first day of school after the football loss to Ingol High. But maybe you can understand now why Harriet was so upset after that game. My own mood didn’t improve as the day went along, but it didn’t worsen, either—I even managed to get through a couple of classes with Gil, ignoring him completely. I mean, I ignored him so totally that I don’t even know if he was trying to catch my attention.
And then came science, last period of the day. My favorite subject, my worst teacher. By the time I was in seventh grade, I considered myself a scientist. A real one. In my own laboratory in the basement of our house, I conducted experiments far more complicated and sophisticated than any we ever had to do in school. Many of my classmates still had trouble lighting a Bunsen burner, or exclaimed “Euuuuwwwww, gross!” when they had to dissect an earthworm.
For me, these science-class experiments were valuable for one reason only: I could practice my techniques. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but sitting in those classes, doing those activities, was a little like telling a college basketball star to play on a 7th grade team.
Of course, no one knew about my skills and knowledge. Since that episode with the drawing back in kindergarten, I’d never let anyone know—not anyone, not even Harriet—how good I was.[i] It just wasn’t worth all the trouble.
Our teacher in seventh grade this year was ridiculous. His name was Mr. Gisborne,[ii] he was about twenty-three years old, and the school had hired him to be the assistant football coach at the high school. He must have had a teaching certificate from the state, but Ohio must have been desperate for science teachers that day, because he knew nothing about science. Nothing. All we did in his class was take turns reading aloud from our book; then, out of the teachers’ guide, he would read the questions to us, call on us, one after the other, up and down each row, comparing what we said to what was in the answer key he kept on his desk. Day after day, week after week—the same routine.
His classroom walls and shelves were pretty bare, although he did bring in some posters of professional football players and put them on the back wall so he would have something interesting to look at while he was listening to us read. I guess it prevented him from falling asleep.
Also, our science books were pretty old and out of date in many ways. Nothing about space shuttles or the chicken pox vaccine, or sickle-cell research.[iii] I mean, anyone who paid attention to the news had to know about these things. But not Mr. Gisborne. From what I could tell, he watched only the sports news and read only the sports page and sports magazines. In the few minutes each day when he would talk to us like a person, sports was all he ever really spoke about. Oh … and the murder trial of O. J. Simpson. A former football player.[iv] He was really interested in that. Sometimes we even watched the trial on TV in his class. Or watched old videos of Simpson running down the field toward gridiron glory.
[i] Vickie had done a horrifying Halloween drawing of her classmates—an event she writes about in I Discover Who I Am.
[ii] Vickie has borrowed another name from the Shelley story: Maria Gisborne was a friend of both Mary Shelley and Mary’s father, William Godwin.
[iii] All of these were actually in the news in 1995.
[iv] One of the biggest news stories of 1995. O. J. Simpson, former college and professional football star, was acquitted in October of the murder of his wife and her friend. The trial was on TV every day, in the newspaper every day, and because Simpson is African American, the jury’s verdict divided the country along racial lines.