Mr. Hange Was Right

Mr. Hange’s Advanced American History class was an anomaly for me; while I enjoyed his irreverent teaching style, I performed poorly on projects and tests, and ultimately got a particularly shitty grade. I’m a habitual procrastinator, and my projects and papers reflected that.

The tests were all essay.

Mr. Hange looked for particular concepts and vocabulary to appear in each answer. To his credit, he did tell us in advance what information we should be sure to include, should we be asked about certain things. Hell, I think he even gave us some of the questions in advance, if not all. I was never good at studying for tests, though, and American History was no exception. That was the first class in which I ever attempted to cheat on a test (and believe you me, it’s hard to read your neighbor’s essay test using only your peripheral vision).

He was also very strict about demanding that every essay question had at least a topic sentence written on the page. If a student left any question completely blank, they would get a zero on the entire test. I remember thinking that the rule was a little stupid, considering that my topic sentences would generally be horrendously generic and pedantic restatements of the question.

Fast forward about 15 years: I’m sitting at my desk at work, taking a project that was created in one reporting application and recreating it in another. Some of it should be fairly straightforward, now that I have the logic straight, but I’m not sure how I’m going to solve certain problems I’m having.

Enter the memory of Mr. Hange’s class.

I take the stapled packet of some eight reports and go through each, doing what I can, noting what still needs to be done. It feels so much like going through those stapled sheets, a typewritten challenge heading each one, and writing those topic sentence restatements before going back to finish the real work at hand.

Granted, today’s project involved a lot more than just a cursory topic sentence, but it still reminded me of 11th grade.

So, even though I totally sucked it up in your class, Mr. Hange, I still learned something from your essay tests. Thanks.

(By the way? I also remember the SQRRL method of scan-question-read-reread-learn; and that the war hero usually gets at least the presidential nomination, if not the presidency; and that inauguration addresses really shouldn’t be that long in February; and about how tradition is a hard habit to break; and that Indiana is EAST of Illinois. Among other things.)