Insights from Morton High

Persistence and Perseverance

Mr. McGregor was my chemistry teacher. I hated his class at the time. He was unreasonable and demanding. He was also brilliant and forced us to think. Mr. McGregor had certain minimum requirements that had to be met. We not only took tests over a variety of areas each grading period, but we had to pass those same tests with increasing proficiency each time. By the last grading period several of the exams required 100% mastery - and that was just to pass his class!

Our lab drawers were graded with an accuracy which defied description. He actually measured the distance from pipette to right angle and took off points if we did not conform to his standards. I imagine that a 'right-brained' person like me was a thorn in Mr. McGregor's side. I spent $30.00 on lab glassware and probably 30 hours of his afternoons trying to produce a stirring rod to meet his standards. In the end I had 60 stirring rods (all of which looked rather like elephant feet on the stirring end). He had never allowed anyone a passing grade who had not succeeded in completing the project to his exacting standard. At 5:30 p.m. on the last day to complete the assignment I was still working in the lab. He announced that because of my determination he was suspending his principles and giving me a D-! I was never happier over any grade!

Another treasured memory is the vision of Mr. McGregor running with a fire extinguisher in hand toward a flaming excelsior projectile from one of my failed experiments. It provided one of the few moments of levity in his class.

Along with being a stickler for science, he was also a stickler for behavior. He considered a sideways glance to be a form of communication, and he took points off for it. I survived Mr. McGregor and he survived me. Looking back, now, I am grateful that I experienced this unique teacher. I don't remember much Chemistry from his class (though I can still recite the activity series in 10 seconds). But more important than the chemistry was the lesson I learned about myself. I learned a great deal about how to learn and about the self-discipline it required. I also found that sometimes you can respect someone you don't really like. I told this story to the young man sitting at the computer in the library who was angry and frustrated with a demanding teacher. You see, in a sense, I wish for every student at Morton High the opportunities presented by a Mr. McGregor.

Return to Karen's Columns

Return to Karen's Homepage