After Hearing the Professor Say, “She’s Just An Average Student.”

In a week where those of us who care deeply about the experiences and values found in our schools have been ignored, shaken, set aside like an old blackboard, I send this poem. During my years with students I watched the damages when standards usurped education and were deemed more important than each person, when accomplishment diminished giving students the richness they deserved to have as a central part of the rest of their lives.

After Hearing the Professor Say, “She’s Just An Average Student.”

How great never to be that bully
excellent. Not even the bland
and shy acolyte good. Average,
simply average like all the robins,

jays, junkos, chickadees. Even
wood ducks, those charmingly
helmeted harlequins who never
arrive without floating a surprise

over any creek or pond, are average
when it comes to wood ducks.
Elephants unless they rival the heft
and height of Jumbo are, well, average

elephants. Experts, of course, determine
what is above average, whether elephant
or student, while trillium, sweet woodruff,
owls, moles, golden rod, and thyme hold

to the way they became. They cannot rise
to the rigor of demand or slough off into
a lower caste. Those who know say
wedding veil is indeed an excellent vine,

argue its worth over, say, honeysuckle.
But wedding veil is always wedding veil.
Wisteria is wisteria just as, let’s say kudzu
is kudzu, the former cascading its blossoms

down and through a pergola, the latter climbing
and twisting its way around a tree’s trunk
and on into its branches. So, for all I know,
I am an average coffee drinker spending

an average early morning watching
an average squirrel searching for
average acorns in our average yard,
readying for yet another average winter.

–Jack Ridl

First published in The Chariton Review

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12 thoughts on “After Hearing the Professor Say, “She’s Just An Average Student.”

  1. Hi Jack, upon initial reading…Takes me back to seminary, and a professor, Dr. (Damn, can’t remember his name), told me he had Robert Short, author of Gospel According to Peanuts as a student at one time…Said, “He wasn’t much of a student, but he was very clever…” Don’t profs say the darndest things? Blessings, bill h

    • Thank ye! I never understood the need for saying a C was “average”
      even “competent” would have made more sense to my way of taking things.

  2. This poem, my friend, I have forwarded to several of my teaching friends. It is FABULOUS!!! Yet another favorite!

    I ran the beach of Sanibel Island this morning—watching the first of the pelicans diving and splashing with such rigor it is a wonder they don’t get headaches! Rubin picked up yet another cup of shells. It is another, anything-but-average-day!!! Mary

    >

    • Mary, you are one of the great advocates for treating one another as who we are
      and not be categories. It’s a gift to so many. And thank you for sending it to
      your teacher friends. AND YOU ARE RUNNING!!!!!! YAYYYY!!!!

  3. I’d say, on average, profs tend to say such things; I know I’VE been average on that measure but am working hard to come in below average by class-evals time. Thanks for the reminder. drj

  4. Professor Ridl, as I watch my son love reading yet struggle with writing (like his Dad) this poem reminds me (this is the part where I get stuck).

    Let me just say I really enjoyed your poem and my time as a below average student in your writing class!

    • Good Sir, you were by far the finest student I ever had named Thomas Riekse.
      I know this for sure: your son has a most wonderful father.

      Thank you for your kind words, very kind words. Know that you have helped
      yer ole prof believe he done good after all. It matters.

      Wishing you all that can be good always,
      Jack

  5. Thanks for the poem, Jack. Scary time for public education. Still miss teaching.
    Remembering the seventies and soaking up all I could from an above average professor.

    • So good to hear from you!!!! It sure is one scary time. Aren’t you glad that we got
      to teach when we got to be teachers and got to care about those entrusted to us.
      And I sure remember with you those times got to have learning together.
      I miss see you!!!
      Wishing you kindness in your every day,
      Jack

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