Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Seven Bazillion Times I Got In Trouble In School

by Jeffrey Savage

So Sariah’s comments got me thinking about the things I got in trouble for in school. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t cover that list with less than seven or eight blogs. It’s not that I was a BAD kid per se—I just didn’t usually color within the lines. In elementary school, our principal used a long paddle and I was well acquainted with both the principal and the paddle. But never for things like fighting; It was usually for looking out the window instead of studying, or looking for fossils instead of coming in from recess.

A sixth grade teacher of mine once stood me up in front of the class and said, “Jeffrey, you remind me of a man sitting in the seat of a steam shovel, sound asleep, while a little boy with a spade digs a bigger hole.”

I thought about his comment for a minute before answering, “Maybe the man in the tractor doesn’t want to dig.”

That didn’t endear me to Mr. Abegg. Of course it didn’t help that I dropped a handful of waxy paperless crayons in his coffee a couple of weeks later.

I guess I must have kept up pretty much the same all through high school. The things I loved, I devoured—I read every book I could get my hands on, and ran out of colors my first year in the SRA program, I loved drama, and took every creative writing class my high school had. On the other hand, I flunked US History because all we did was memorize facts, I loved programming computers, but hated math. Go figure.

One of my favorite teachers was an English teacher named Mrs. Carlson. Mrs Carlson was a terror to most students, but she and I shared a really bizarre sense of humor. Once I cut another class, picked a handful of weeds that were nearly as tall as I was, and slipped into the back of her class in camouflage. All the students, who were taking a test, looked up to see what she’d do. She looked up from her desk, smiled, and went back to what she was doing. Even when I sneaked around and whispered fake answers to the other students, she didn’t look up.

It wasn’t until I started to go through the door of an adjoining classroom that she looked up and softly said, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you.” Turns out it was an ESL class and she was right.

She once took me aside and said, “Jeff, I don’t know what to make of you. I love having you in my class, but you are barely pulling a D. You are the only student I’ve ever had who never brings his book to class or does his homework, but got a perfect score on the English section of the PSAT.”

Am I proud of the fact that I spent more time driving my beat-up MG to the beach than I did in class, or that I once got early morning seminary canceled by taping a sign on the door of the seminary building that said closed for heater repairs? Absolutely not. (Hear that kids! Not a good idea.)

But I did learn the value of writing before I finally graduated by the skin of my teeth. My senior year in high school, my psychology teacher held me after class. “You are currently failing this class,” he warned. “And if you fail this class, you will not graduate. The only hope you have of passing is if you get at least a B+ on your psychology project.”

Let me say here that the senior psychology project was HUGE at my school. Kids spent months on it. It was like a combination of science project, film festival, and public debate. Everyone went all out.

Which means that the night before the project was due, I was going, “Hmmm, wonder what I should do for my project?” Never mind the fact that graduation was less than a week away and my grandparents were coming down for it.

Well if necessity is the major of invention, desperation is the father. That night at about 11:00 I started writing a paper. It was titled “Pavlov’s Dog; A Doggone Good Biography.” It was about twelve pages of constant dog and psychology puns. I guess in any other world, I would have gone down in a ball of flames. I would have been the black sheep of the family (Instead of saving that for my youngest brother. Love you Mark!)

But in this particular world my two psych teachers had great senses of humor.

I still have that paper, complete with my first real positive review of a piece of fiction I wrote. It still bears the red comments, “Very Punny! I loved it!” and the A+ I earned. Maybe that’s why I’m still spending my spare time writing stories.


At 5/21/2007 10:16 PM, Blogger Jon said...

I only got in trouble once during high school - for being in the halls in between lunch and my next class. (Dumb rule!)

And I've only been paddled once, too, in 2nd grade, for reasons that are difficult to put into print. (No, wait, very easy: I was foolish.)

I'm almost salivating at the thought of reading your "tail" of Pavlov's dog. I don't suppose you'd consider posting it to your website? How about if I sit up and beg? ;)

I wrote a 20 page short story in my senior year of high school that I still have. It's pretty awful. If you're familiar with the spy-spoofiness of the dad on Foxtrot, mine is pretty similar. (As in, similarly bad.) I'd like to think that like fine wine, I've improved with age. (Not that I'd know about the wine...)


At 5/21/2007 11:24 PM, Anonymous Michele Holmes said...

You make me laugh and give me great hope for our son---who is SO like you were. Clever, funny, devious, and slightly demented in his thinking. He doesn't believe in turning in homework---and yep, he pulled that same perfect score on the PSAT. If we can just survive high school . . . He may end up with a national book contract before I ever do.

At 5/22/2007 12:10 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


I could probably be talked into it.

At 5/22/2007 10:36 AM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Gee, I'm so surprised. Jeff Savage was a mischievous little devil child. So unlike the reasonable, mature adult we know today. Yah.

I always got Ds in Conduct, bar none. The best day of my life was when they quit having that as a graded category.

At 5/22/2007 11:32 AM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...


Feel free to use me as either a hope for the future or a cautionary tale for your son.


I always knew you looked up to me.

At 5/22/2007 12:39 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Jeff, you rebel, you!! I always knew there was another side of you, lurking not so far below the surface.


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