The one big win.


The aftermath of my father passing away inevitably involved my mom selling their house and moving into a smaller place of her own.  This process led to the often reluctant clearing out of old items from every nook and cranny in that house (60 years of marriage leads to the accumulation of a lot of stuff), and the eventual discovery of the box of every assignment, story, art project, report card, and school-related everything.  Most of it ended up getting tossed because I'm not that sentimental about school things but my 8th grade science fair medal went on the small keep pile and I'll tell you why. 

My 8th grade science teacher was a jerk, the sort of guy who didn't just yell or discipline his students, but would outright bully them. He hated the project my partner and I made (something about growing plants through hyrdroponics in the absence of usable topsoil) - and not even on the basis of the actual information; mostly just that our stupid posterboard wasn't neat enough or something.  He made us stand there after we finished and proceeded to belittle our us and project in front of the whole class, and then actively encouraged our classmates to make fun of us verbally and in their written comments (one of them literally said nothing other then "Your shirt is dumb and so is your haircut," which the teacher enjoyed).  Finally, he gave us a D.  Science was our last class of the day and we walked home humiliated and feeling about 6 inches tall.

We went into the schoolwide science fair the next night a little discouraged, to say the least.  We stuck it out, though, explained our project to all the students, parents, and judges that walked by... and were completely gobsmacked at the end of the evening when they announced we won 2nd place in the life sciences category (1st place went to a kid who demonstrated the circulatory system using an actual cow's heart... a little gross but, you know, valid decision there, can't fault that).

This was a big win for me.  Not just because we got a medal or anything, but middle school was... a tough time.  Three long, awkward, terrible years, and victories were pretty much non-existent.  Overcoming the mockery of not just students, but a teacher(!), who really should have known and acted better not just on that day but every day, that was huge.  If I was only going to get one moment to shine in that entire period of my life, that was a hell of a moment to have.

The next day, we went into science class, put our shiny new 2nd place medals on that teacher's desk and said "we'd like to renegotiate our grade." 

He looked humbled, to say the least, but still tried to argue that second place merited a B. 

We held out until he relented and gave us an A-, because fuck that guy.