I was 16, first in my class, routinely getting A’s in every subject–even Chemistry, where everyone else struggled. I blazed through it with near-perfect scores, earning the resentment of my classmates, since the teacher graded on a curve. I didn’t care. My grades were my ticket to college and I was unstoppable.
Then one day my Algebra teacher gave an exam. I turned it in, incomplete. I still don’t know why I did it, and I can’t explain my surprise when Mr. Sherman returned our papers the next day and mine had a big red “F” on it.
My teacher was clever: He had seen at once that I’d blown it, but he let me think all was well. He didn’t even comment when he laid my paper face down on my desk. He just let me stew, mourning my perfect record and kicking myself.
Two days later, he kept me after class to deliver a fiery lecture that matched the red of his hair. He gave me a chance to complete the test–and a lesson in humility that I never forgot.