Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blood lines

While I'm thinking about school experiences... I have a story to tell. Partly because I know you're reading this, Allen.

I took biology in 10th grade. Liked it, really, although I'm pretty sure the teacher didn't know that. I wasn't, exactly, the best student she had ever had. Didn't always pay attention in class. Had what I'm sure now was a really, really annoying habit of writing song lyrics in the margins of the tests while I was waiting for the rest of the class to finish the exam. I got decent grades in the class- I always got good grades, school wasn't difficult for me- but I was, by then, disenchanted with the whole school experience, and, quite frankly, bored. I didn't cause trouble, but I'm sure I was one of the forgettable students, who didn't "work up to potential."

For what it's worth, she was one of those teachers who seemed tired of the job, who was what I felt was unnecessarily strict in class with rules for the sake of showing who was boss, who didn't seem to like the students, and I didn't understand why she was even there. Until one day when I had to stay after school, and, in that environment, with just a few students, rather than an entire room, her love for the subject came through, and I had a completely different opinion of her from that point on. Too bad that happened in May, rather than in September.


One of the things we had to do in that class was blood typing.
Someone had the brilliant idea to do something that would never, ever, happen in a public school now.

We were expected to type our own blood. Lancets were handed out, and glass slides, and such, and we were told to get a blood sample.

No way.
NOT happening.
There was no way in hell that I was going to STAB MYSELF to get a blood sample for a freakin' biology class.
I was of the firm belief that my blood belonged inside my body, thank you very much.

While most of the boys in the class were jabbing themselves repeatedly and making little blood fountains come out of their fingers, I steadfastly refused.

After a brief period of... difficulty... the student teacher in the class volunteered to let me type his blood instead, provided that I get the right answer.

Fast forward a few years.
Okay, quite a few years.

I have told this story more than once over the years, to a variety of different audiences.

One day, during a break in one of the fencing classes I taught, the subject came up about my knowing many of the teachers in the school district because not only had I grown up here, but my mother worked in the schools for many years. One of the students in the class, a man who had fenced off and on for several years, and whose children also took classes, mentioned that he had been a student teacher at the high school years ago.

Oh? I hadn't known that. What subject?

Wait for it.


And yeah. No kidding. He was that very same student teacher who had offered his blood to me.
Small world.

Very small.

For what it's worth, the high school no longer has students do this exercise, and it stopped not because of the HIV scare. I heard that they stopped when there was a controversy when a student typed his blood and came up with a blood type that was not possible for a child of his parents...

Fast forward a couple of years again, to a few weeks ago, when I was in the lab class where we were taught to start IVs.

We were told that we could practice on each other. The one condition was that in order to practice on someone, I had to allow someone to practice on me.

No refusal this time.
At all.
We had a great time.

It wasn't ever about the blood, or about the needle. It was about being told I HAD to do something with my body that no one had the right to tell me I had to do.

And Allen? I owe you one.


Lori Skoog said...

Hilinda...caught up with some of your posts. As a retired teacher, I want you to know that I did realize the amount of power I had...enough to destroy someone....particularly little ones. I have taught art from pre school to the college level and now teach at the farm (my favorite). Kids are so innocent...your two examples when you were in school as a child are very sad. Children need advocates.
You are a great writer and I appreciate you sharing your experiences. Do you teach fencing now?

hilinda said...

Yes, Lori, I do. Getting set to start some new classes this coming week. An exciting time of year.