The Champs-Elysees. The Eiffel Tower. Berets. Napoleon Bonaparte. King Louis XIV and his palace at Versailles. All of the above, if mentioned randomly, would remind someone of France, of its popularity as the number one tourist spot in the world and of its history. However, for me, these things remind me of my beloved French teacher, Miss Carol Orloff. Out of the five years I took French class, I was fortunate to have Miss Orloff for three years. From her, I learned many life lessons that are more important to me than utilizing the past conditional in French.
Miss Orloff is my foil: she is one of the messiest, most forgetful and chaotically disorganized people I’ve ever met. One day, she teaches how to conjugate the future tense; the next day, she starts the class on reading an existentialist novella, and on the third day, she might quiz over the novella and move back to conjugating the future tense. Her teaching methods are not very straightforward. Her desk area is possibly unsanitary, her cabinets even more so. I once saw the trunk of her car. Imagine a miniature garbage dump, except with fewer odors. Recently, however, Miss Orloff told me that she finally cleaned out the trunk. What motivated her to do this? (I often advised her to clean and organize, whether it was her trunk, desk or teaching materials.) “I had to get to the spare tire,” she said. I laughed, thinking that it would take an emergency for her to clean out her trunk.
I, on the other hand, am organized. My rage for disorder shapes my being organized and also my being a perfectionist. I like objects lined up in 90 degree angles, and I fold my sweater into a square whenever I take it off. If I see a stack of papers that are not lined up neatly one after the other, I will straighten it up. If my grades are not those perfect A’s, I become frustrated.
Miss Orloff’s presence alone makes an impact on me every time I see her. She is a constant reminder that life is not perfect and that no human being is or can achieve absolute perfection. The universal truth is that it is impossible for someone to be perfect in an imperfect world. Miss Orloff’s flaws, mistakes and flakey moments emphasize this truth, which helps me, because striving for perfection is my Achilles’ heel. I must make an A on my next English assignment, I must do everything right the first time, I must get straight A’s as my older sisters did (both of whom did attend the University of Texas at Austin). I have cracked under perfectionist pressure several times, and Miss Orloff has been there for most of them. It’s hard not to let my obsessive-compulsiveness take over, but at the same time, I am a perfectionist. I just need to learn to adjust and having Miss Orloff in my life helps me take one baby step at a time.
From Miss Orloff’s adventurous nature, I now realize that life contains more than the walls of the school building of which I am annoyingly accustomed. She has traveled to nearly all four corners of the world, with so many exotic stories and valuable lessons to share. She encourages her students to travel, to open up their minds and to experience life as foreigners. I realize that I am tired of trying to be perfect and falling short at the expense of my grades. I want to let go of nitty gritty details, become carefree, travel to Europe and have adventures, take whatever life throws at me one adventure at a time. In other words, I want to be a foreigner—see what’s before me and evaluate, compare/contrast and make it my own. If there is chaos, I should take advantage of it. From Miss Orloff, I have learned to love learning for its own sake, rather than for the sake of perfect grades.
Miss Orloff is one of my favorite teachers; I care for her. When she gets sick, I advise her to drink warm water and get lots of rest. When she is stressed and overwhelmed, I envelope her shoulders with a hug. In addition, Miss Orloff is always there for me. If I need to vent or cry, she’ll give me her undivided attention and then comfort me with her wisdom and bear hugs. Miss Orloff is important to me, because she is more than a teacher to me—she is a dear friend who helps me grow as an improving, not as a perfecting, human being.