D is for...

  Last week I stumbled on my college transcript, and double checked to make sure it was still there.
Time blurs things, and I remember graduating with a "A-B" average, but not much else. It was a llifetime ago and I was working most of the time.
  When I unfolded the grades I was drawn to the only "D" on the page. After a little mental exertion I remembered that "D" pretty vividly.
  The class was "Portraiture" which should tell you something about the instructor. I also had him for 4 other classes where I got straight "A"s, in spite of our creative differences. We all thought he was pretty square when school started. But when I was hired as the department lab manager, he was my supervisor, and signed my time card. He was a straight arrow for sure, but he occasionally signed my sheet early so I could sneak out on a holiday or weekend. I routinely skipped his lectures to work in the lab or studio, His commercial lighting class was avoided almost entirely. I just handed in my assignments and too the tests, and he didn't like it...but I still got an "A".
  He even helped me graduate and saved me a chunk of money by writing off some requirement to "Experience in the Field" and the Dean signed it without a 2nd glance. My mouth dropped open 'cause I had a whole discourse rehearsed to deliver to them both and I was left with nothing to say but "Thank you"
So why did he give me the "D"? He had once had a portrait studio of his own in Colorado, before moving to Madison. He knew how to take studio portraits, but the school only had 2 kinda ugly painted backdrops.       We were all shooting for our portfolios, and I didn't want mine to look like every one else's. Plus I tried it his way and didn't like the results so I "modified" his rules for more pleasing results. I used barn boards and the studio window, for backdrops. I even took my subjects out of the studio, into the hallway and stairwell for brighter light and diverse backgrounds. I used fashion lighting for the hair and makeup on my subjects to make them look glamorous. He didn't like that at all, but when I waited until everyone was done shooting before swapping in a black background and heavy hair and halo lights, most of the class stayed to watch.
  They eyed my Polaroid test shots and a few of them brought their subjects back in to re-shoot on my setup. Honestly I don't think that registered with me, but I probably felt a certain arrogant pride that my classmates saw things my way.
  Since I had't considered my teacher's perspective up until then, I'm sure I never even thought about what that might have felt like for him. I was half his age, doing things "My Way" and undermining his authority. When he wanted to wait a week for someone to come from outside and replace a pump, that he already had, I ignored him and took the old one out, swapped the new one in and fired up the processor...during his lecture.
  He just chewed his lip and delivered his class lecture, I tried to keep the noise down and listen with one ear. We needed the machine and I didn't really need to sit still to hear him talk. So I got away with it and the school saved a couple hundred bucks.  
  The Dean had given me a private tour before I started the college, and he hired me as Lab Manager halfway into my 1st semester. Before too long other tenured professors filed a complaint that I had better access to the Dean's office than any of the faculty members.
  When they complained, the Dean, and my professors, including Don, stood up on record saying that everything I had done was good for the department. They read out all  the things I had repaired, organized and installed. They told the other teachers that I had shown initiative and intelligence that made them proud that I joined their school.
   He defended me until I rubbed his nose in it. And even then he didn't give me an "F" just a "D" to send the message that I didn't know everything. He took such a classy path, and I didn't fully get it then. I was a snotty know-it-all kid, kinda oblivious to the big picture.
  A few years after graduation, I wound up working for another commercial lab. That's when I first heard about the fight they had. 3 different guys told me the story of Skip and Harold, who had both been openly supportive, saying that I was always supervised and was experienced with wiring and plumbing, so what was the problem?
  It was Don who played the "shame" card, letting the rest of the room know that he believed I showed all of the qualities that they were trying to pond into their classes. Even though I had bowled past him time and time again, he told them I was an asset to the entire department.
  "He called you very professional" My boss added in his version. He was an adviser, so he was at that meeting. The other 2 guys were the ones who would have gotten paid to install that pump, and other stuff I did myself.
  So when they tore down that old school, I saved a brick from the place  I had spent so much time. And I looked at the "D" on my record and decided to accept that "D" was for Don, and he had taught me more, so much more than I paid for.