Mrs Hornbacher Gives Billy an F

Dear William

I do appreciate the apparent time and effort you have put into the class’s Thanksgiving vacation homework assignment: A book review of Jack London’s Call of the Wild in 500 words due no later than January 15! Since your homework completion rate in the past has been, to put it mildly, sporadic, I interpret this current work as a step in the right direction. Congratulations!

Be that as it may, I received your “book review” on February 1st, two weeks later than the date required for you to have received a passing grade. You have explained this tardiness as the fault of your father for not helping you correct and print out your assignment on time.

That’s not a valid excuse, William. Even if we here at Jefferson High encourage parents to be involved in their children’s schooling, at the end of the day, your homework assignments are yours and yours alone and can never be dependent upon other people’s participation. Real education is learning how to do things ourselves, utilizing our own thoughts, honing our own skills.

Furthermore, even if you had turned in your “book review” on time, I still would have had no choice but to give you an F since you elected to write about a subject so far removed from that assigned to you.

You claim you couldn’t read Call of the Wild despite repeated attempts. Instead, you chose to devote your study time to watching a YouTube clip of a Bulgarian woman playing her guitar. This is unacceptable, William. You are not illiterate. You are not mentally challenged. Jack London’s classic story is well within your comprehension span. The fate of the magnificent dog, Buck, has captivated readers of all ages for many generations, yet you just “couldn’t get past the first few pages”.

The word for that is laziness, young man. You will eventually learn that life entails a long succession of tasks that require effort, most of them much more demanding than reading a good book. One day, after leaving the sheltered existence of your parent’s home, you will discover that for most of our lives we must do what we have to in order to do what we want to in those brief moments that are left over.

I for one – though this might come as a surprise to you – given a free choice would not spend my weekdays in the company of a pack of unmotivated, ill behaved, slovenly teenagers. Given a free choice, William, I would rather be on a Caribbean cruise ship, or playing tennis, or dancing in nightclubs or any one of a hundred activities more enjoyable than having, for example, a wastebasket thrown at me while I’m conjugating verbs on the blackboard for couldn’t-care-less ignoramuses.

(I am not claiming that you were the culprit, but your typical behavior in class makes you a prime suspect, so be warned.)
While on the subject of abnormal behavior, even though I am not qualified to judge if this Bulgarian woman, whose performance you purport to have watched over a thousand times, is as gifted a musician as you maintain, your obsession with her does strike me as alarming. Internet-induced excessiveness of this nature is, in my opinion, unwholesome and potentially dangerous. I suggest you discuss this affliction with Nurse Peterson here at school or perhaps have a man-to-man talk with your father.

It is apparent that your extracurricular activities are having a negative impact on your schoolwork. Two days ago the class was asked to write down the past tense of any ten irregular verbs. You could only come up with one – artichoke – which you misspelled in two places, and, for your information, is neither irregular nor any other sort of verb at all. What’s more, I believe you copied this ersatz verb from your seat neighbor, Holly Newman. A bad choice, William, as Ms Newman is, if anything, even less interested in bettering herself through education than you are.

The Bottom Line

If you wish to remain in my class for the remainder of the term I want to see on my desk by next Friday an essay in 500 words or more elaborating on the Seven Golden Rules of Teenage Hygiene to be written in your own hand in the school library, after class, under the supervision of Ms Yossarian. In this essay you will utilize and underline at least five irregular verbs.

Good Luck, William!

Sincerely Yours,

Lilliane Hornbacher

PS. I am encouraged to see that you understand the importance of citing the sources for your “facts”, even if the source, in your case, is exclusively Wikipedia, which I must remind you is seldom free from error, subjectivism, and self-promotion. Even then, I must question how carefully you carried out your research.

You write, for example, that according to Wikipedia there are 237 muscles in the human face when actually there are only 43. Either you made your number up and attributed it to Wikipedia or you were very sloppy in copying it. You can do better, William!

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