Nina Spencer

Settling for less than perfect

My grade 9 history teacher taught me an important and even profound life lesson, all those years ago, about appreciating what you have right now. I'd received a mark of 29 out of 30 on a term test. While debriefing the test with is class, my teacher explained, question-by-question, how he awarded marks. From that, I was convinced I'd been short-changed and should have, in fact, received a perfect 30/30. Once the bell rang and the class had cleared, I somewhat cockily and self-assuredly approached Mr. K to point out that, in my opinion (based on what he explained in class that day), he'd made a mistake and should have awarded me that one sweet, additional mark, granting me the perfection I deserved. As an adult, I can so clearly now see his perspective but, as a 14 year old, I could not.

This is what happened next: Mr. K gave me a good stare. It was hard to read his face. He took the paper from my hand, had a long re-read of my answers (which I interpreted as a good sign) and then declared, "Ha! Look here, Nina, I shouldn't have given you a mark right here, for this question, at all! What was I thinking?" He promptly took out his red pen, scratched out the 29/30 mark at the top of my page and replaced it with a 28! What was a skinny little nine-r to do? He then punctuated his point by saying, "You'd better get out of here now, before I find another mark to deduct!" Touché -- I don't think I knew that French expression back in 1971, but I certainly felt its sentiment. I scooted out of that classroom with wings on my feet and never looked back...and also never again asked Mr. K, nor any other teacher, for that matter, for a one-mark-better grade, when I'd already been awarded one of which to be proud!

At work, just as at school, sometimes you've just got to know when to, "take the money and run"...to say, "I'll stick, thank-you very much!"...and be sincerely happy with what you've got! J

Mr. K has recently passed away and, although he wasn't one of my absolute favourite teachers, he was one that taught me a terrific life lesson. Perhaps he was one of my best teachers, after all.