Of Apples and Trees


My dad recently sent me an heirloom: A handwritten note from one of my elementary school teachers, written in the early ’80s. The content of her note can be summarized in the phrase “We need to talk.” My dad also included his handwritten notes from the phone conversation.

Here are the highlights, in case they’re hard to read:

  • Gives dumb answers to get a laugh
  • Not embarrassed by his [inappropriate] actions
  • Sloppy attitude
  • Mondays are the worst
  • Goofing off
  • Hiding under the table [to impress] a girl
  • Going to the office
  • Pushed a kid into the mud

And so on…

I can’t say I remember any of this, but I have absolutely no doubt my teacher was pinpoint-accurate in her assessment of my disruption of her classroom. If I were able, I would sincerely apologize to her for it. As a parent, I can relate. A few of these items could have been written about my kids – except for going to the office, since we’ve cleverly taken that out of the equation by homeschooling. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you might say.

Truth be told, they’re much better than I was. When my twelve-year-old read the notes, he looked at me with wide, perplexed eyes and seemed to feel almost betrayed. “Dad, really? That’s not very good,” he said. They’re great kids, but now we have quantifiable, scientific evidence of their genetic predisposition for snarkiness and it’s mainly my fault — though their mom also speaks fluent snark, so we should’ve known from the beginning it would be hopeless. She also gets credit for their math skills and zero tolerance for excuses.

Need further proof? Let me offer up exhibit (B).

Below you will find excerpts from the self-assessment section of my most recent employee review:

Facility Safety
Comments by Vince: It’s safe, sure, but maybe not 100% safe, more like 80% safe. Not for mice though, it’s probably something like 15% safe for them.

Managing Performance
Comments by Vince: In the beginning, there was respectful delivery of positive feedback in a timely manner, and it was good. Then they said, “Let there be participation in the performance review process,” and he complied, and it was good. Then began an explanation of his employee’s behavior, and of safe work practices … let us call this The Fall.

Comments by Vince: Meh

Member Service
Comments by Vince: I make appropriate eye contact with the mirror every day; smile and floss so as not to make things awkward for members, like if I had something stuck in my teeth.

Comments by Vince: I’m always poised for action in case someone jumps over the counter ninja-style. I almost always show up for work, unless a bridge collapses; then I stay home and drink coffee.

Comments by Vince: Oh I’m very thorou

Career Goals
Comments by Vince: Work toward my ultimate dream of our employees being able to proudly and comfortably wear hoodies, no longer a second-class apparel choice.

Plan to Achieve Goal
Comments by Vince:  Engage, educate, assimilate

It would be prudent at this point for me to apologize to a number of individuals who have been on the receiving end of my, er, creativity over the years. To my friends on Ricochet, teachers, employers, friends, telemarketers, customers, mailmen, internet form submission recipients, door knocking political candidates, former girlfriends, waiters, policemen, strangers on Facebook, salespeople, drive-through cashiers, former supervisors/managers and crew chiefs, and my wife…I’d like to say:

I’m sorry (sort of).

While my teacher’s note was chock full of exasperated condemnation – and no doubt my dad held me accountable – she also felt the need to mention this:

It reads: Writes beautifully.

So there’s always hope.

There are 9 comments.

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  1. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    Hilarious! What a great way to start the week laughing!  My favorites on the teacher’s notes – “Mondays are the worst” – “hides under desk to impress a girl” – did that ever work? “Pushing a kid into the mud” – you little delinquent!  The performance review is also very funny – I love the number of days you’ve been on the job.  It says give or take?  I guess if they’ve put up with you this long, you’re good to go.  Can’t wait to see Hoodie Fridays at Costco! :-)

    • #1
  2. Songwriter Member

    Assuming that “writes beautifully” was not referring to your penmanship, I think that particular comment is the key to understanding the rest of the behavioral stuff. A certain amount of cleverness is required to write well at a young age. Inevitably that cleverness is going to seep out into other parts of a kid’s world.

    Edited to add this PS:  By the way, seeing as how you have been with Costco so long, maybe you could use some of that cleverness to persuade the Powers That Be to open a Costco in Waco, TX.  Preferably on the west side of town.  I have to drive to either Dallas, Ft. Worth, or Austin to get my Costco fix.

    • #2
  3. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    Can’t wait to see Hoodie Fridays at Costco! :-)

    It will never happen. They have an irrational hatred of hoodies at the management level. I used to joke there must have been a water boarding initiation involving hoodies when they got their promotion. It’s the only way to explain their rage. 

    • #3
  4. TBA Coolidge

    Some people work every day because they want a paycheck. Other people come in to work because they want to see what happens next. 

    You keep those people coming in to work. 

    • #4
  5. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret

    I thorou liked this. A lot.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy secretly Member
    Misthiocracy secretly

    My issue with teacher comments in elementary school was how often the comments they provided to my parents did not match the comments they provided to me in class.

    To my parents: [Misthiocracy] is always cracking us up in class.

    To me: Nobody likes a class clown.

    To my parents: [Misthiocracy] is very creative.

    To me: Just stick to the assignment.

    To my parents: [Misthiocracy] has a very analytical mind.

    To me: You have an answer for everything, don’t you?

    This sort of mixed messaging happened all the time.

    • #6
  7. B. W. Wooster Member
    B. W. Wooster

    More of this please.  

    • #7
  8. Repmodad Coolidge

    In matters of courtship, there is no better glimpse into the clueless minds of grade-school boys (of which I was one) than the thought process that goes, “No matter what I do, Penelope doesn’t seem to give me a second thought. But if I crawl under my desk, she will probably come around.”

    • #8
  9. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male

    Two things come to mind.  One is a joke, one is a true story.

    The joke:

    Little Johnny’s first quarter report card isn’t very good.  Lot’s of C’s and D’s.  But the teachers comment at the bottom of the report card says “Trying”, so his parents feel okay about it.  Then the second quarter report card comes out.  Same grades, but this time the teacher’s comment is “Very trying”.

    The True Story.

    My mom was cleaning out “memorabilia” and returning it to me and my siblings, including saved schoolwork from our grade school years.  My brother is looking through his  with his early-teenage children.  He notices that much of his graded homework has “C’s” on it, and comments that this surprises him, because he would have expected mom to have saved only his best work.  To which his oldest daughter deadpans “Maybe she did”.

    • #9

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