A/N: After my previous post A Writer at Heart, I started thinking about my relationship with school in general from middle school to high school.
I wouldn’t say this is a secret of mine nor is it something I’m ashamed of.I did very bad in school for a long time. My grades were always in danger of failing and I always made it to the next grade-level by a hair.
For the most part of my school life, I was a “C” “D” average student with the occasional “F”. It would be miraculous if I could achieve a “B” much less an “A”. My grades started looking poor sometime around fourth grade, but they didn’t go downhill until I moved to a new neighborhood in fifth grade. I hear that changing schools is the most common reason why students perform poorly in school so I thought I would adjust and grow out of the funk. Sixth grade comes, no changes, then seventh grade comes. Finally I’m learning that my grades probably aren’t going to pick up. I figured it was hopeless and flat out didn’t care anymore. Failing an exam became a norm to me and I hardly looked at my test scores when they came in. When report cards arrived I would hide when everyone exchanged scores (why do kids do that? As if self esteem isn’t bad enough in middle school).
I now know that the main reason why I did poorly in school was lack of motivation. One reason, I didn’t care to study, or pay attention to class. (note: check out my daydreaming blog post that gives another background with my “spacey head syndrome”) Plus, I didn’t have many people I would call “friends” in middle school. I was either avoided, ignored or bullied a lot.
Nobody really wanted to associate themselves with the weird girl. Still, I would say I was luckier than most bully victims. I had one friend. Which was one more friend than most people have. Especially for a middle school girl. Everyone was always out to knock each other down whenever the opportunity arises. Frankly I think it’s a blessing to have one person you could trust in such a jungle of social hierarchy.
Nevertheless, I succumbed to the mind games the popular kids would throw at me. People found out that I wasn’t smart, so they didn’t prey on me to give them answers to school work. Hence, I was essentially useless for their clique and instead used as fodder for their bullying (too dramatic? I got carried away! ;p). They rarely said it directly to my face, but I knew they saw me as stupid. I believed them. I thought of myself as stupid and saw no point in school work. From then on, it turned into a cycle. Called dumb ->Believes it ->Lacks Motivation -> Does Poorly -> Repeat!
In America, we are required to take what is called a “Constitution Test” twice in our academic lifetimes (once in 7th grade and another sometime in high school). It’s just a simple American history test and it comes with a blue booklet study guide type thing. Anyway, you’re required to pass the test. If you fail, you re-take the test. No surprise there, I failed. I remember the smug looks on the faces of the kids who got A’s on the test. (Maybe it wasn’t smug, but that’s how I remembered it) For some reason, I had a fire in my belly! I didn’t accept that grade, and I chose to fight.
I had to pass this test, so I did the unthinkable. I studied! This time I looked at the booklet and wrote flash cards to everything on the book. I was determined to memorize this book in my sleep. There was nothing on this booklet I would leave out. I had flashcards bigger than my harry potter books combined! Suddenly, this test meant everything to me. I take the test and the next day the results come in. I couldn’t believe it, I thought there was a mistake for a moment. I got an A. If i recall correctly, I think I only got two answers wrong.
This is where my turning point came. This memory has always stuck with me, I won’t ever forget it and these were his exact words. Sometime after my history teacher handed over my test he pulled me aside for a quick chat. When I approach him, he lowers his voice and asks me, “Do you know why you got that ‘A’?” I shrugged and said plainly, “Because I studied?”. My teacher shakes his head and corrects me, “Because you’re a smart cookie.” I was speechless. The only thing I could do was smile at him. He was the first teacher to ever say I was smart. In fact, I was convinced there was something wrong with me for a long time.
(A year before, I had one scarring moment with another history teacher basically pulling me to the side and talking about how bad my scores were in her class. She didn’t offer to help me and somehow wove in that she doesn’t believe I have a mental disability. Maybe I’ll talk more about that memory in another story blog because that is a story that would take too much time)
Ironically, for the first time ever school taught me something valuable. I completely grasped the concept of intelligence. All the popular kids who got A’s on a regular basis didn’t get them because they were prodigies. They got them from hard work (or cheating, lol!). Some of them would probably study as hard as I did on a daily basis. Their lives were consumed with the letter on their tests and that still doesn’t prove if they’re smart.
When my teacher said, “Because you’re a smart cookie” it wasn’t because I opened my book and memorized all the words. Sure that’s what got the A, but that wasn’t what defined me as smart. I was called smart because I didn’t give up at my failing grade. I could have put half the work I did and got the passing C, but instead I chose to push myself to my limit. I chose Albert Einstein as my cover picture for this reason because the measure of intelligence really is the ability to change. I had no clue, but I chose to change my life. It was small, but a change nonetheless. Anyone can get an A. You name the class and I can assure you that everybody has the potential. Perhaps some will work harder than others, but there will always be a chance. The real smart people though are the one’s who can look at where they are and give in to the fire inside that urges them to change.
I failed, lots of times and for the longest part of my life I was a complete idiot. Not because I failed, because I assumed that was my place in life and lost the will to keep moving. The thing is failure is still a regular norm for me. I get pushed down more times than I get up and I’m still unsure about what I want. You would think someone would lose motivation if their failures outweigh their success but what sets me apart from my past self are the choices I make.Little bit of epilogue, since then my grades gradually improved. I got honor roll in high school and get A’s and B’s in college now. Despite my test scores, I deny people when they say I’m smart because they’re only looking at my numbers when they say it. I have hardly reached intelligence. I don’t say that out of modesty or pretentiousness. I can feel that I’ve just barely grazed the border that touches the surface of it. The day I’m willing to completely change myself and figure out where I want to go is the day I can finally…seriously consider putting this denial to rest.