Monday, June 1, 2009

Roving Eyes Will Be Penalized

© 2009 Leighann Lord

In a recent alumni email I learned that my freshman year high school science teacher, Mr. Doshna, passed away and I was surprised when I got a little misty. I hated that man.

Although I was enthralled with Prep from the first open house, although it was my first choice of high school and although I can still sing the school song, the first half of my Freshman year was difficult. It was a huge adjustment. I went from a small school – graduating class of 28 – to a big school with a freshman class of 735. I went from a predominantly African American student body (there was only one White girl in my class, and we all subconsciously assumed she was only there because her family had fallen on hard times) to a predominantly White school where the students drove better cars than the teachers. There were only two Black students in my home room class counting me, and going by strict alphabetical order we didn’t even get to sit together. I went from being valedictorian to being in a school full of scholars.

They say be careful what you wish for and going to Prep was at the top of my list. Academically, it was one of the best Catholic high schools in the country. It was difficult to get in, accepting only the best and the brightest. It was co-ed; and although the dress code was strict the students didn’t wear uniforms. They had me at "Hello."

Going to Prep meant a lot of firsts for me: first time I took the bus to school, the first time I was around so many kids who were smarter than me, and it was the first time I needed help academically. My rude awakening: Earth Science taught by Mr. Thomas Doshna, Satan’s BFF.

A slim, blond-haired man, Mr. Doshna’s his most striking feature was his penetrating, all seeing ice blue eyes. I felt like he could see straight through me, right into my brain and tell I just wasn’t getting what he was teaching.

I studied hard for the first exam and managed to pull a 65, which would have been great if passing at Prep wasn’t 75. I remember staring anxiously at my test paper thinking, "When the hell did he teach this?" He sat in the front of the room, his attention fixed on the entire class. Every few minutes he’d discourage potential cheaters by intoning, "Roving eyes will be penalized."

Failing a test was devastating. I wasn’t an athletic kid, unless you count jacks and hopscotch. I wasn’t cute or crafty. I was a good student. That’s who I was, at least until Mr. Doshna's Earth Science class.

In tears, I showed the test to my parents and apologized. I told them I was sorry for being a failure, sorry I was wasting their money – Prep wasn’t cheap – and if they wanted to cut their losses and pack me off to public school I’d understand. Quite the melodramatic, elitist wasn’t I?

Naturally Mr. Doshna was the first stop for my Mom and Dad on parent teacher night. I knew they would get to the bottom of this academic debacle. They would see that this man was ruining my GPA and, by extension, my life. But when my parents left the meeting smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Doshna I felt betrayed.

"What a nice man," my Dad said in the car on the way home.

"Nice? Are you kidding me?" I cried.

my Dad said, "I like Mr. Doshna very much. We agreed that with all the trouble you’ve been having, it might help if you got a tutor."

"A WHAT?!?

My scholastic demise was complete. Just a few short months ago I was the pride of my grammar school, a straight A student, the valedictorian. And now I needed a tutor. I could tell from my Dad’s tone, and my continued abysmal showing in Earth Science, that this was not optional.

I walked into student services lost and humble. "Can I help you?" the perky junior at the desk asked. And like a classic sitcom scene I said, "I need a t... I need a tu... I need a..."

"Tutor?" the intuitive junior said.

"Yes," I said thankful not to have the say the word myself out loud. I don’t remember anything about this tutor, not even if they were male or female. I guess it helped since I eventually passed Earth Science and out of Mr. Doshna’s purview. I went on to suffer through Biology and Chemistry, although those teachers were not nearly as memorable as Mr. Doshna. Every test I’ve taken since I can hear him saying, "Roving eyes will be penalized."

I can’t say I ever developed a love for science, unless you count sci-fi. I still have a hard time asking for help but I know that the world won’t come to a catastrophic end if I do. I’ve forgiven my parents for their momentary lack of loyalty. Maybe Mr. Doshna wasn’t out to get me and no I didn’t really hate him, but I’d gotten really comfortable with blaming him for everything. Teenage acne? Mr. Doshna. Global Warming? Mr. Doshna. Sadness at the passing of a good and tough teacher? Mr. Doshna. I trust that teary eyes won’t be penalized.
Thank you for reading Leighann Lord's Comic Perspective

Please feel free to subscribe or visit for news, Leighann's TV ppearances, live stand-up comedy shows or to join the mailing list. You can also follow her on MySpace FaceBook Twitter!

No comments: