When long-term substitute Mr. Smith (not his real name even though he’s gone now) handed Ellen a detention for having the wrong kind of late pass, she knew that like any other student, there was nothing she could do about it. Rules are rules, and just because he had informally relaxed them for the last sixty days straight, that didn’t mean he couldn’t suddenly start enforcing them to the letter. Nobody’s above the law, Ellen realized. Guess this is just the way it is.
Yeah. Not so much. A couple hours later she blasted open the door to the office, clicked her cheek and pointed at the receptionist as she rocked on by her, and darkened the Vice Principal’s doorway. I’m pretty sure he sighed heavily before looking up and saying, “Yes, Ellen?”
Then she put on a little Power Point presentation about the various types of late passes, where and how they are issued, who is authorized to issue them, and to what degree the relevant rules on the subject had been enforced thus far.
Somewhere unspoken in the air between them was her academic standing, something perhaps best described as “freakish.” She doesn’t merely have all A’s, she has straight A+’s. Hilarious three-digit numbers in some cases like 112%.
And in Math – which is the class with the long-term sub who hadn’t really stopped to consider exactly who the bleep he was writing a detention for – she has a solid 100%. And that’s because there is no extra credit in that class. Not a single extra point.
So let’s all stop in mid-blog here and reflect on that. A 100% in a class with no extra credit means exactly what it sounds like it means. The girl has not missed a single question the entire quarter, and yes, she’s a little cocky about it.
“You might describe a grade like that,” she points out. “As perfect. Mightn’t you?”
Yes. And since she rarely requires any academic supervision at all – in fact she’s tutoring three other students, taking one of them from a solid F to an A in just a month – it’s really easy to just let her handle everything at school however she wants to handle it.
In this case, she broke me off a text as she was leaving the office. “He’s waiving the detention, but he says he needs something to put in the file. Pretty much anything. Can you write a note when I get home if I tell you what it needs to say?”
Absolutely. Can it be around 800 words?
No, she says. You’re just going to point out that being late is your fault.
Aha. Gotcha. No problem – what do I care? Just tell me what you need the piece of paper to say, there, Ferris Buehler.
So I write the note and it’s difficult, because what I want to say is, listen, I’ve been dropping my honor student off at the same time every single day. I don’t know if Mr. Smith is upset about his long-term gig ending, or what, but this really is coming out of the clear blue sky. If she’s late today, why wasn’t she late for the last three months?
You’re missing the point, she tells me. It’s all over, detention waived. The guy needs something to drop in a file, not a blog post. Just settle down and tell him you’ll bring me to school earlier.
Fine. Dear Sir. I’ll bring my honor student to school earlier. Love, Future Tom.
And that’s it. I don’t think I ever got away with going over any teachers’ heads when I was in school, but this tiny little blonde-haired genius I’ve got here – I’m not surprised she gets straight A’s. You give her anything else, and all that means is she’ll be haunting your desk all day battling over each individual point.
You want to quit being so picky, or you want to stand around all day watching my daughter’s Power Point presentations?
All right then. She brings home a report card – zero detentions, and nothing below a clearly marked A+. There’s not much you can say to that except, “Damn. I don’t really have any questions for you, little sister.”
So anyway, from then on, I start getting her to school earlier. Say, Dad, can we roll through Starbucks for a Caramel Frappuccino with extra Caramel? Yes, I think we can do that. They know her name there – Whattup, Ellen? And then they upsize her for free and give her a comical amount of caramel and sprinkles. How is she a regular at the coffee shop?
The day after the soon-to-be-expunged detention Ellen passes Mr. Smith on the way into school. What’s up, Mr. Smith? Then on into the office where she smacks down her letter and cracks a few jokes with the administrators, and then when Mr. Smith arrives in his own classroom, there’s Ellen. The first one there, sitting in the darkened room.
Hello, Mr. Smith, she says flatly, like a secret agent waiting in your hotel room. This early enough for you, Stretch? You think you can live with this, or do you think the Three Digit Percentage Girl needs a detention for coming in too early?
Hello, Ellen, he says, and then one day later, he’s gone.
Makes you wonder if Ellen went down to the office and pulled some strings. Flipped some paperwork around. Oh, Mr. Smith got re-assigned all the way across town! Bye, Mr. Smith!
Listen, folks, we’re trying to be as reasonable as we can be here, but Ellen’s getting straight A’s. Like it or not, one way or the other, hard or easy. Straight A’s, or you’re just going to make her angry.
Who knows what could happen then? It’s a crazy, dangerous world out there.