St. Vincent High School has a maximum capacity of about 400 students. It was common for people to end up in the same classes together. I took study hall every year except for my freshman year, and I needed it. I had gymnastics practice every day after school for three hours, and so my study hall gave me a chance to crank through some homework during the day.
On my first day of senior year, I walked into my study hall and saw that the class was bigger than my previous study halls and it was full of the closest thing St. Vincent had to dumb jocks and obnoxious cheerleaders. I thought, “Oh no, this is not going to work.” While I sat through class, I recalled that Mr. DeShazer had a teacher’s assistant when I was in sophomore biology. At the end of class, I made a beeline to his classroom and said, “Please tell me you need a TA for seventh period.” I was so grateful when he said, “Yes.”
So instead of spending my senior year study hall fuming in a loud library, I had the quiet science lab to myself. I graded Mr. D.’s sophomore biology tests and their labs, I got my homework done, and I took advantage of having huge white boards to work on. As a bonus, I got quality time with Mr. D. I don’t remember much about what we talked about, but I remember he was a sounding board for whatever was on my mind.
Mr. D. struggled with his sophomores while I was his TA. Many of them did not seem to care enough to study, and thus, they had very low test scores. I began to understand Mr. D.’s passion for teaching and his frustration when his usual tactics did not work. Biology was a challenging class, but he made it as entertaining and accessible as possible. He even put his old tests on the bulletin board outside his room so students could see what they had to learn. Even when Mr. D. gave his students the easiest versions of the tests he had (i.e., all multiple choice or matching questions), some of them still struggled and were at risk of not passing the course. I watched him in anguish, trying to think of what more he could do to help these students learn biology. I remember that I didn’t care what students got on their tests; it was just my job to grade them. But Mr. D. cared deeply that his students did well, not because it was a reflection on him, but because it was important to him that they learned about things that actually would be useful to know later on in life.
At the end of my senior year, I was very touched by a gift Mr. D. gave me as a thank you for being his diligent TA for the year – a Cross pen that he engraved himself. I remember my jaw dropped when I saw how much time he had to have taken to carefully carve the letters into the pen. I still have it and use it when I have something important to sign.
Click here for Part 5 of the Ruth-Mr. D Story, the last blog dedicated to the Ruth-Mr. D story.
Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsors are Darvin and Jane DeShazer. For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.