The Art of Compromise

Mr. Engber, my high school chemistry teacher, asked me to meet him after school, on the last day of class.

His rule was: if you miss 3 homework assignments for the year, you automatically fail. I’d missed 180, as I hadn’t done a single one. “You know,” he said “I can’t pass you. “Robert” I replied, “you know you can’t FAIL me.”

“Did…did you just call me Robert?” he asked incredulously. “Bobby. Whatever,” I said. “I know you can’t give me the 95 I deserve. Of 400 students, I’ve got the second highest test average in the grade.”

“You didn’t meet the curriculum criteria,” he correctly said. “Bobby,” I asked “what do you accomplish by failing me? You did your job; I LEARNED, as my test scores prove. It’s not your fault or mine that I am 17, lazy, hormonal, and there is an ALL-GIRL CATHOLIC SCHOOL around the corner.

“You fail me, I’m right back here next semester, as you’re the only Chem teacher. I’m not going to learn anything new, because you did SUCH a good job of teaching me the first time. If I’m not learning, I’ll be bored and disruptive, and then other kids won’t learn.”

‘Are you THREATENING me?” He asked, his face turning as red as his hair. “I’m offering a compromise,” I said. “Give me my 65, and let me slide.”

I passed.