I don’t remember my mom ever meeting any of my teachers in high school. I don’t think she ever went to a conference, ever asked if I had homework, I don’t think she even knew what classes I was in.
In her defense, she had two small children at home. I was a smart girl, I received mostly A’s in middle school and the beginning of ninth grade – why should she have been worried?
She should have worried because I was way too young to be my own cheerleader. I was way to naïve to understand that I should have cared about my education. My grandpa was the only person who ever pushed the importance of education on me – but by then it seemed to me that he had me mistaken for someone else. Someone with “potential.” In all actuality, there was no money for me to go to school. Everyone knew it, so nobody pushed the issue.
In the tenth grade, I came out of my shell a bit and started meeting new people. People who didn’t get A’s. People who didn’t even go to school much. In fact, my boyfriend had dropped out a couple years before. He would pick up my brother and me and we’d go get high before he dropped us off at school. Then I would head to first hour – Psychology – a class that I was really excited for when I’d signed up for it in 9th grade. And there, I would sleep off my high. It was no surprise when I failed that class. It wasn’t a surprise when I failed health, either. After all, it was during third hour – that was lunch hour. Who wants to learn about STD’s when you can hang out with your friends for 85 minutes?
My high school years got progressively worse. I was constantly in In-School-Suspension for skipping and for getting caught coming in from cigarette breaks. I was flunking out of classes that should have been easy for me.
And nobody ever said anything to me. Nobody said, “Amy, how did you go from all A’s to just ONE?? Why aren’t you passing these classes?” Had someone stepped in when it started getting bad, maybe I would have changed my ways. Maybe I would have quit using drugs. Maybe my life would have taken a different direction. Maybe.
Halfway through my senior year, I decided I’d had enough. I was living with my friend PM – working almost full time for $5.75/hr trying to pay my rent and car insurance. My dean was really great to me through it all. She let me call myself in sick – she expected me to make good decisions. After all, she was one of my 9th grade teachers – she knew I was smart and capable. When she told me that I would be a credit short of graduating, I decided to just quit.
PM convinced me that if we went to an alternative school, we’d only have to go three hours a day and we’d be able to work ahead to graduate on time. It seemed like a smart idea at the time.
When we told our dean, she never said a word to PM, she was pregnant and the deans tried to usher the pregnant girls out the door as soon as they could. She looked at ME and said, “Don’t do this, Amy. You don’t have to do this! There’s only half a year left – you can walk with your class and take a summer class, you can take night classes, and everything will be okay.”
But I did it anyway. Like fucking fools, we walked from class to class with our yellow discharge slips collecting our things. I’m so embarrassed when I look back at that now. How could I think I was ‘so cool’ because I was dropping out????
When we started at the alternative school a week later, I realized I had made a mistake. These kids were fuck-ups. And a lot of them were just plain stupid. Our homework was to read articles – any kind! – then write a paragraph about them. All of the work was this lame and un-educational. We got a point for each and once you had enough points, you were done with school.
One would think that with it being so easy, I just breezed through it. But I didn’t. I felt like I was insulting my intelligence every time I walked through the door. It wasn’t long before I was ditching out early to get to Burger King before they stopped serving breakfast. Not much longer after that, they asked me to stop coming so they could use the space for someone who wanted to be there.
PM ended up graduating with the class. It seems the hours she spent in front of the TV blurbing articles from the paper really paid off for her.
I ended up trying online school and another alternative school (twice!) before I earned my diploma two years late.
Everyone asks themselves at one point or another, “If I could change _____, would I?” There aren’t a lot of things I’d say “yes” to. My experiences have made me who I am. They led me to have the family I have today. I could never willingly give that up. But staying in school is the one thing I would change. Dropping out is the number one regret I have in life. Because I will never know where life would have taken me had I given myself those opportunities.
This all comes to mind because of the troubles we are having with Ninja Boy. He is at an age where he really controls what he’d like to. If he doesn’t want to bring his homework home, he doesn’t have to. And we’re none-the-wiser.
I have pleaded, fought and screamed. I talk to his teachers via phone and email whenever I can. We’ve developed several plans to avoid the excuses – but no matter what we do, he finds a way out of it. “Forgetting” papers, a mysteriously destroyed assignment books, anything he can to get out of doing his homework.
As we are struggling through this, the only thing in my head is “Don’t give up on him.” As frustrated as I get with the whole situation, I know that if we just give up, his education won’t mean anything to him. I know from my own personal experience how important it is to have someone CARE about what you are doing. And how easy it is to give it all up when you realize that no one does.
What was your education experience like? Were you an ignored slacker or did your parents try to prep you for Ivy League? If you have kids, how do you keep them interested in school/learning?
**The title makes me laugh so hard – some girl left that comment on my little brother’s Bebo page one day. And these children are who will be running our country in twenty years – sorry – our “cntry.”