In the Spring 2013 semester, I had an econ class. It was actually just a random choice of one of the remaining classes needed to fulfill an associate’s degree. What made this class special was how unexpectedly and completely I obliterated it.
In the start of the class, we got seated in rows of four people, who would be our semester groups, and we were told to pick a leader. The leader’s job was to lead and speak for the group when the group was asked a question. As a reward, the leader would automatically get 5% of their course grade extra credit at the end of the semester. The leader of the group that got the most questions right would get even more. I planned to sit back and let one of the “show off assholes” that always take over these things step up in my group. I was surprised when the other three guys in my group were similarly withheld.
“Does anyone actually want to do it?” The guy sitting in the middle of the row asked.
“Que the brianiac-” I thought, now expecting someone to step up, but once again, the other three were silent. I wondered if the others were expecting one of us to be the showoff as well. For some reason, my confidence steadily rose for each moment of silence.
“I’ll do it,” I suggested, drawing the group’s gaze, “if no one else wants to, that is.” I was trying to downplay myself so I wouldn’t look like ‘that guy.’
“Really?” They asked, seeming actually exited that someone was going to take the responsibility away from them.
Over the next couple of classes, the teacher requested three volunteers for class jobs. Each of these jobs, similar to the group leader, would get 5% of their course grade extra credit. The first job was someone who took good notes to remind the teacher where they left off each day.
“That’ll be the overachieving nerd in the front…” I thought.
Next was someone who could pass around and review the attendance sheet, making sure the seats matched up with the names.
“…and that’ll be the popular idiot who knows everyone’s name…”
Last was a technical assistant, to shut down the computer after each class, and fix any problems with the computer or projector.
“…and that one is going to be the guy who builds computers in his garage while blindfolded.”
“You can volunteer now, or come and talk to me after class.” The teacher explained.
Some surfer looking dude in the front volunteered to be the technical assistant, but then promptly changed his mind, on account of not wanting any additional responsibility. The teacher explained to him that it wouldn’t be much, but he was solid.
A few more days passed, and the teacher explained “no one has volunteered to be the tech assist yet, does no one want to be it?”
Everyone was silent. If no one was going to do it, I decided that I would definitely be better than nothing, no matter how bad of a job I did. I came up to him after class.
“If you still need a tech assist, I can be the one.”
“Excellent,” he seemed pleased, “just write your name down here on this paper.”
I got my first taste of recognition when I represented my group during one of the Q&A sessions at the start of a class. Usually the teacher would ask a group a question with many parts, and the group would understand the gist of it, but the teacher would have to direct the group’s leader on to a more accurate wording, or other parts of an answer. Our question was about comparing the standard of living between two countries.
I conferred with my team, a formality; I was already well read in all the steps, (because I was one of the few people who actually read the textbook). I confidently recited all the steps: gross domestic product, real GDP, real net national product, real net national product per capita with adjustment for purchasing power parity…
I went on and on, and in the end, the teacher was speechless. For once, he didn’t have anything else to add. I sat down like a king that day.
When the first mid-term rolled around, my teacher made it clear that although the tests were supposed to be very hard, and meant for graduate level students, he was going to implement a generous curve, so we shouldn’t worry. To me, the test felt pretty easy. When choosing an essay question, I purposely picked the hardest one, because I wanted to show off.
When the results came back, the teacher asked the class “where is… Robert Steiminger?”
I stood up. “You received the top score in the class,” he remarked. My recognition was climbing higher.
On the second midterm, something even greater happened. This one was all multiple choice, and was supposed to be even harder. I got the top score again, getting a perfect 100%. Since there still had to be a generous curve for everyone else, my score actually soared high above 100%. As it turned out, I was actually the very first one in my professor’s entire career that ever got a 100% on the midterm. Just in case anyone would suspect I cheated, this was also the first year that he’d used the most updated version of the test.
As time went by, I found more and more that I was the only one attempting to answer hard questions, and when I did, the class would often snicker behind me… I liked the sound. One time in particular, we were asked something about price level and the ratchet effect. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I called something out from the side of the room.
The teacher looked concerned for a second and asked “who said that? Who was that?”
I raised my hand.
“Very good.” He remarked proudly.
I heard someone sitting behind me exhale forcefully, as if he hoped that I had gotten something wrong for once.
At one point, when we nearing the end of the semester, the girl in front of me, (also considered to be pretty savvy in the class), said in all seriousness that I should just answer every single question, to make the class go faster.
By the end of the semester, I don’t even know how far above 100% my grade was, but I was told that I had more extra points than a person was even allowed to have.
My instructor personally recommended me to be an economics tutor for the college the next semester. It was so crazy because I was in no way majoring or specializing in econ; in fact, it was just a class I took to fulfill an associate’s requirement. After a little bit of thought, I decided to take the job. Unfortunately, when we were getting everything squared away, I discovered that it would interfere with my scheduled classes the next semester, so it didn’t end up happening. Still, that is one semester that I will never forget.