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

School has begun–again.

It won’t be long until the words “average student” will be applied to many a student, whether that student loves to learn or could care less. Is there any way to banish this misapplied word? What really does it mean? Was Buddha an average Buddha? Jesus an average Christ? Let’s help Nancy be Nancy and help Carl be Carl.

As Dr. George Bleasby, my beloved novels prof, would instruct us: “Love the stuff.”
In my college there is–or was–a three-by-five card for each of its English major graduates. Mine read, “Among the finest writer/reflectors we’ve had, and by far the worst objective test taker we’ve ever seen.”   That’s A and an F, which averages to C, which means average.
I don’t know what that means. But I know plenty who do.
The title of the following poem is something that will be muttered in schools all year long. Sigh.

I know I offered it before. Well, here it is again–

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

  1. Average writing and reflection in an average Ridl poem and, per usual, though by far, the worst objectivity. Here’s to the new, most average school year ever!

    • There is no such thing as objectivity. Well, a stone is objective.

      Here’s to school the way you create it!!!!

      Averageingly yours,

  2. You are more than enough for me and that isn’t average. You also need to add Readers World to your list of places to buy your books in West Michigan.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Now ya went and made me blush. In high school, in the yearbook, I
      received the citation “cutest blush.” : )

      Yep, adding Reader’s World. Thanks for letting us know.

    • And for you on your birthday, my Friend.
      Thank ye. So much for the joy and the smile that
      the use of that word brings in light of this week’s poem!
      On we go !

  3. My students are all surprised to discover, completing the work and turning it in “on time” (“How dare you of all people ever set a dead line,” says the average little demon on my shoulder.) passes the class with the averagest of C’s. When they make the work their own, life in the art room becomes delicious, daring, and dubious.
    Decidedly different from draconian, average lays down with a pillow, walks the street unthreatened and unthreatening. It fills my days, allows my nights to progress uninterrupted. I can celebrate its peace and quiet.
    No, average is not my enemy. My conflict is with “just”.

  4. I love your “average” poem, which is actually at the top of “excellent.” As a retired public high school teacher, I have always hated the poorly-thought-out, seemingly-arbitrary classifications of students, which did more harm than good, killing confidence, stifling the desire to learn, causing classroom boredom or even nervous breakdowns, instilling the “I-hate-school” opinions (…justified more often than not). Less time spent on student classification would leave more time to create interesting, meaningful learning activities. School shouldn’t be a chore, sometimes frightening. School should be a great reason to get up in the morning.

    • Oh Carol, I am still shivering after shivering my time
      with what you wrote here. It’s stunning. Thank you so much.
      And it certainly reveals what a gift you were to your students.
      I’m so glad you are in my world!

  5. Thank you so much! I’ve been holding the hands of my dear students all day it seems. New is hard. Special is good or bad -or transparent. There is no comfort in the adjustment period. We are trying so hard to overcome the self doubts!! They are such precious people. And did you know I got an A in Statistics theory and an F on the application of the theory to practice problems at Hope? Prof called me in and said he’d never seen that before, but he gave me a C and we called it good.

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Think what a gift of comfort you are to each of those souls.
      And oh my, that story of A and F equaling C. Cosmically connected!!

  6. As you continue to demonstrate (…and this is a repeat from me), you remain a gifted poet, a lovely person and a kind man. I’m not sure what that averages out to be, perhaps a ‘keeper’?

    • Ya gotta stop making me blush! To deny what you say would be
      an insult to you. To accept is leads me into a wellspring of
      shy gratitude.
      Love to you dear ones

    • I just now stopped laughing enough to respond! You might’ve been below
      something or other, but I sure don’t know what it would be, and
      certainly not below average, whatever the hell that word could
      possibly mean. I say that it means absolutely nothing.
      Jack, who was ever grateful that he got to be with you

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