A Former Teacher Finds My Blog

How do you describe a blog to someone who hasn’t read one? It’s like a diary&#185.

Forget all this political mumbo jumbo and the (false) promise of blogs as the new journalism. Blogs are diaries. Some might be political, but many more concentrate on Britney Spears or the emotional traumas associated with high school.

This is my blog. It concentrates on what’s important to me, without the controversial stuff that would prompt my boss to ask me to stop.

Here’s where a blog differs from a diary. Diaries are private or only read by a select few. Blogs, on the other hand, are available to anyone, and once indexed by Google, Yahoo, MSN and the rest, become a contextual part of the Internet.

That indexing is very important. Stupid, insipid things written by me and others… relatively unimportant people, can gain weight when they concern an esoteric subject which isn’t often discussed.

Take Junior High School 218 Queens, aka – Harold G. Campbell Junior High School. On the Internet, I’m considered a source for JHS 218Q. But how many people care, or more importantly search for Campbell Junior High? So it was a surprise to read the email I got this morning

I was at the club this morning (Saw Mill River Club in

Mount Kisco, NY. I prefer the Powerhouse Gym on

Francis Lewis Blvd. but it is 39 miles away), working

away on the elliptical when I thought, “Why not go to

a search engine and type in Harold G. Campbell JHS?”

So I did (when I got home).

Your name and the Kennedy assassination article

appeared. I started reading it when I was shocked to

see my name. I then read that the day after,

Saturday, we went to a show. I have no recollection

of that but if you say it, then I must have gone.

Here’s that Google link. My website is the second citation.

The shocked man is my former 8th grade teacher, Harold Friend. He was Mr. Friend then, he is Dr. Friend now. The academic elevation doesn’t surprise me. He was very smart.

Dr. Friend was mentioned when I wrote about the Kennedy assassination. It was his classroom I was in when we got the word from Dallas.

How cool to get this email. How strange for him to search the Internet and find someone talking about him. The indexing power of search engines is a luxury of our times that never existed, or was even contemplated, as recently as 15 years ago.

After reading the email, Helaine said Dr. Friend must be old now. If he was 30 in 1963, that would put him in his early 70s now. Of course he could have been 25, or 45. To me, in the early 1960s, he was old. I was a kid. But, being in his 70s now doesn’t seem to make him as old as it once would have.

The fact that his story begins in his gym means, however old he is, he’s really younger.

Once again I have to ask myself, who reads this… and why. I can tell from my logs that most of my traffic isn’t to my home page, but people going to inside pages – archived material I had written about earlier which is pointed at by the search engines. It just boggles my mind that anything I write has any impact on anyone.

I’m just a guy who likes to write. Like all bloggers, all I bring are my own experiences and insights. It can be read, but that doesn’t make it special.

&#185 – Be careful on the spelling, because it’s certainly not like a dairy.

Blogger’s addendum – It has been established, in further communication, that he doesn’t remember me.

Mme. Gobstein and the Rest of My Educational Life

Back when I was a student at Harold G. Campbell Junior High School (aka JHS 218Q in Flushing, Queens) I took French. We learned using new multimedia course from ALM, often sitting in little booths with headphones. This was the early sixties mind you, multimedia was a word waiting to be invented.

My teacher was Mme. Elaine Gobstein. Mme Gobstein had the unenviable task of trying to motivate my classmates and me into learning French. I freely admit I was less easily motivated than most.

I floated through the first marking period, getting a courtesy passing grade, though I was doing failing work. I kept up the pace into the next report card, this time getting the failing grade I so rightly deserved. It was my first time failing a subject and I was crushed.

I’m not sure who initiated the conversation between Mme Gobstein and me, but we had one. She told me the only way I’d be able to pass was by participating every day and doing well on the final.

So, I did.

I had my hand up for every bit of classroom participation. I’m sure I was a pain in the ass, but I did what she asked. And, when the final came around, I got an incredible mark (considering). My mother remembers it to be in the 90s. I think it was in the high 80s. It makes no difference now, over 40 years later, but when my report card came… I had flunked.

As strange as it may seem, my mother and I have talked about this more than once over the past few years. She says in today’s environment she would have gone to school and pleaded my case. Back then, you accepted the teacher’s decision and my 55 stood… and is probably buried somewhere in the NYC Board of Education archives on a faded Delaney card.

It’s possible Mme. Gobstein thought I had cheated. I had not. Maybe she didn’t think my spurt in the last grading period overcame my earlier work? No sense asking. After hundreds, maybe thousands of students and four decades gone by, she can’t be expected to remember.

It doesn’t really matter, except I thought she had made an offer and I had delivered my end of the bargain.

Like I said, it’s over 40 years later. I harbor no ill will toward Mme. Gobstein, who was probably a good teacher with a recalcitrant student. Still, even now it hurts.

So, what brings this up? Well, I’m rounding the home stretch at Mississippi State University and taking quizzes and tests on a regular basis. From time-to-time there’s a grade I disagree with – but now I make my case.

The latest came today with a test in Synoptic Meteorology II. I was pleased to have gotten 100%… except when the result came, it was an 80%.

If I was back in Mme. Gobstein’s class during the first marking period, I’d have written it off. But now I had vetted all my answers. The problem is the questions!

I know that sounds strange, but here’s what I’ve found out about multiple choice tests (and that’s what these are): They are more difficult for a professor to write than questions for a test answered in sentences or essays. The instructor has to be very diligent, making sure he doesn’t inadvertently say the wrong thing – making an answer correct only if it is not read thoroughly.

In fact, the more you know – the harder you study – the easier it is to find fault in the questions.

My concerns today had to do with a formula which didn’t exactly match the one in the text and a the interpretation of a sentence.

I am confused by a few of the questions in quiz 2:

Which of the following is a description of precision

a. Measurements that produce the same result for a given repeated


b. Hitting the same point every time (“bulls-eye”)

c. Multiple measurements which read the same, but are not accurate

d. All of the above describe precision

You said ‘c’. I answered ‘a’.

From the video outline:

4. Precision

An instrument