The Future of Miss Powers - Cover

The Future of Miss Powers

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 11

With Danny spending more time in classes and actually learning something, Mrs. Holmsteader was seeing less of him than in the past. To be honest, she missed their discussions. Talking with him reminded her of her days in college where she would sit around and talk with other students about the ideas being put forth by their professors. It was impossible to predict what subject would be the topic of discussion.

She smiled when he entered the library. He walked over to the chair by her desk and sat down. He said, “Hello, Mrs. Holmsteader.”

“Hi, Danny. How are you doing?”

Danny exhaled loudly and then said, “F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, ‘there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.’ I’m one of those busy and tired.”

She laughed and said, “I’ve noticed that you haven’t had much time to stop by.”

“I know. I miss talking with you.”

“That’s a very nice thing for you to say. I miss our conversations, too.”

Danny cocked his head and said, “Don’t take this wrong, but I thought that talking with students was kind of a job thing rather than something of pleasure. Students are kind of boring. Their interests are somewhat limited.”

“That’s true for a lot of students, but you are a challenge. I enjoy challenges.”

“That’s very nice,” Danny said.

“I saw Ms. Herd today.”

“She’s a nice lady,” Danny said.

“She was crying,” Mrs. Holmsteader said.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I hope everything is okay.”

“She wasn’t sad or hurt.”

“That’s good. Why was she crying?”

“Jim Ryun once said, ‘Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.’ For a lot of teachers, that is a fact of life. You go into the profession hoping to inspire young minds to expand and grow. You hope to spark an interest in some topic that is near and dear to your heart. The motivation is great. Then after a while, teaching becomes a habit. You go into the classroom, give today’s lecture, and then head home to grade homework. It is a wearing tiring job with few rewards.”

“I’ve never heard anyone describe teaching that way before. I guess I should be a little more understanding when I don’t see eye to eye with a teacher,” Danny said.

“Ms. Herd goes into her classroom five times a day. She attempts to teach thirty bored students to see art as something more than an easy class with no homework. She grades drawings of people that more closely resemble trolls than humans; paintings of flowers that have no resemblance to any living plant; and sculptures that ... well ... let’s just say that the cube of clay that she hands out has greater artistic value than the results produced by students.”

“Oh, that’s harsh,” Danny said with a grimace.

“It just saps the motivation.”

“I guess it would,” Danny said.

“Then one day, she’s asked to give up her free period to coddle the ‘school genius.’”

“I take it that’s me.”

“Yes. So she agrees in the hope that the genius will exceed her expectations. She assigns you a simple project. You do it and the results are ... not inspired. In fact, they were kind of insipid.”


“They weren’t bad ... they just weren’t great.”


“It was more like the good pictures were accidents rather than intentions.”

Danny was quiet while thinking it over. He realized he hadn’t known what made some pictures better than others. He had recognized a difference in quality, but why there was a difference had been beyond him. Ms. Herd’s comments were very informative.

“I guess that’s an accurate assessment. I tried, but I didn’t know anything.”

“I pointed that out to her. So she gave you a detailed critique of your photographs. She pointed out the good and the bad. She explained the difference. She then went on to discuss the ‘soul’ of art with you and ended the time feeling like she had accomplished nothing.”

“To be honest, I had very little idea what she was trying to tell me.”

“Then later that night she opens her email and there was your picture. Everything she had said to you had been distilled and purified into that one image. Youth and age; beauty and ugliness; indomitable spirit versus unimaginable burden; and movement in a still image.”

“Wow. I’m glad she liked it.”

“She said that it was the photograph of a lifetime.”

“I thought it was pretty good,” Danny said smiling.

“And that’s when, in telling me the story, she started crying.”

“You just lost me.”

“If an experienced photographer with a professional quality camera had taken that picture, it would win awards.”

“Really? I could win an award?”

“Danny ... How do I say this ... You aren’t experienced and ... well ... a cell phone isn’t a professional quality camera.”

“Oh,” Danny said deflating a bit.

“Right. She was upset that you had taken a once in a lifetime picture before you had been adequately trained to take the picture of a lifetime.”

“I guess I should be sad, but I’m not. I knew when I took that picture that the subject was special. I’m smart enough to know that you can rise above the quality of your tools, but there are limits to how far you can take it. James Huneker said, ‘Great art is an instant arrested in eternity.’ I would say that the quality of the image is secondary to recognizing that moment which needed to be arrested in eternity.”

“That is a very mature statement.”


Mrs. Holmsteader said, “Then I talked to Mr. Peters.”

“I bet he was crying too,” Danny said looking a little embarrassed.


“I really thought playing that flute would be easy. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do. I think that I’ve managed to make noises with that instrument that no human being has ever before managed to produce.”

“Believe it or not, Mr. Peters said the same thing.”

“I believe it,” Danny said.

“What are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you going to quit it?”

Danny said, “No. Martha Beck said, ‘From quitting smoking to skiing, we succeed to the degree we try, fail, and learn. Studies show that people who worry about mistakes shut down, but those who are relaxed about doing badly soon learn to do well. Success is built on failure.’ I don’t worry about making mistakes. I don’t fear mistakes. I learn from them. I don’t like failure, but I recognize its necessity. I will succeed in learning to play the flute, as soon as I figure out what I’m doing wrong.”

“Once again I am amazed by your maturity.”


“How’s your drama class?”

“I’m still doing King Lear.”

“What do you think of it?”

“I kind of agree with Max von Sydow.”

“I’m not familiar with what he said about King Lear.”

“‘I would like to do King Lear. But I would like to do it in Swedish.’”

“That’s funny. If you can do King Lear convincingly, you can do anything.”

“That’s what Mrs. Shapiro says.”

“Speaking of Mrs. Shapiro, how’s the dancing going?”

Danny said, “Weird.”


“It’s like a B grade romance movie. Val is trying to wrap herself around Steve like an octopus around a clam shell. Steve is making moon eyes at Stephanie. Stephanie keeps staring at the door as if she’s planning some great escape.”

“You do have an interesting way with words. So, what are you doing while all this is going on?”

“I’m trying to learn how to dance.”

“Is there anyone you want to dance with?”

“No, but I’ve come to recognize that it will be important in the future.”

“There’s no young woman who has grabbed your attention?”

“No. There are a lot of attractive girls here at school who I wouldn’t mind doing the bunny hop with, but beyond that ... none of them have any depth.”

“The bunny hop?”

“You know what I mean.”

“I know what you mean. I’ve just never heard it called that,” Mrs. Holmsteader said giving him an amused smile.

“It was the most polite way I knew of expressing it,” Danny said with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Danny, are you happier with the changes that we’ve made over the past couple of weeks?”

“You mean, the classes and stuff?”


“Yes, I am. We both know that I’m not going to graduate from here. There’s no way that I can sit through the classes required for graduation and the policy against testing out of too many classes doesn’t help.”

Mrs. Holmsteader said, “I know. We live in an age of conformity, although there are many who delude themselves that it isn’t so. John F. Kennedy said, ‘Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.’ He was right.

“I wonder at times if conformity isn’t a natural tendency on the part of people. David Icke said, ‘The human race is a herd. Here we are, unique, eternal aspects of consciousness with an infinity of potential, and we have allowed ourselves to become an unthinking, unquestioning blob of conformity and uniformity. A herd. Once we concede to the herd mentality, we can be controlled and directed by a tiny few. And we are.’

“It’s easy to confuse conformity with equality. Barry Goldwater said, ‘Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.’

Mrs. Holmsteader said, “I blame ‘participation awards.’ They are a manifestation of the wrong understanding of equality. They award mediocrity while downplaying excellence. They impose an equality of outcome, rather than rejoicing in an equality of opportunity. We can’t award you a first place ribbon because you play the game to win rather than just showing up.”

Danny said, “I take comfort in the words of Thomas J. Watson.”

“What are they?”

“‘If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: a man flattened by an opponent can get up again, a man flattened by conformity stays down for good.’”

“I can see where you would find comfort in that.”

Danny said, “I’m not going the route of the conformist. I will put my time here until the law says that I can quit. In the mean time I will learn what I can here, while also going to college. So while others are running in the high school track meet for a ‘participation award,’ I’ll be at the Olympics running for Gold.”

“You have a much more positive attitude than I have.”

“I’m not sure if it is positive attitude or not. Like Paul Stanley said, ‘Youth is incredible because you really do feel invincible.’ Feelings of invincibility are easily confused with confidence and vice versa.”

“Does it matter if it is confidence or feelings of invincibility? Norman Vincent Peale said, ‘Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. It is hard to feel confident when you feel vulnerable.’”

Danny was about to comment when the bell rang signaling the change in classes. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was time to go to his next class. With his relaxed schedule, he didn’t have to attend classes every hour or the same classes every day. He rose from his chair and said, “It is time for me to torture all creatures, great and small ... at least those who possess ears.”

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