53 to 32: Your #2 Pencil Won't Save You Here.

So this is how school fucked me up, or at least contributed.

I loved to read when I was a kid. I picked up the skill pretty quickly, and devoured books as fast as Icould get them. Also, I read them. My earliest memory of a favourite series of books were the Charlie Brown Encyclopedias. Do you remember those? They were awesome. Educational and fun, and easy to get into, like sex with a librarian.

By the time I got to the first grade, my reading and comprehension was at an advanced level, and somehow, so was my understanding of math. I don’t know why, I’ve never really had a love of numbers or anything, but math was always quite easy for me.

In light of my super-geniousity, it was decided that I would take grades 1 and 2 in the same year, and effectively skip into grade 3 the next. Apparently the whole skipping grades thing isn’t done so much anymore, but then again, failing kids isn’t done anymore either, so I guess it all evens out.

Looking back, I’m not sure if skipping grade two was a good thing or not. It set me up for a lot of high expectations from myself and my family, took me away from the friends I’d made that were my own age, dropping me into a third grade class full of kids I didn’t know the next year (which was terrifying, I still remember that first day. They all seemed five years older than me). It also probably contributed to my becoming a (mostly self-imposed) social reject in high school.

But at the time, I was just excited. I was getting all this attention. I was “special”, but not in the way that the guy with the hockey helmet who drove around the school looking for sticks to store in the back of his giant tricycle was “special”. I was fucking smart, yo, and being recognized and praised by all these adults for my brilliance.
And all because I liked to read. Not because I tried really hard.

In Elementary school, there never really was an emphasis on homework. As long as you could pass the standardised test for your grade, and showed up, that’s all the government really worried about. Just give the little fuckers enough of a basis so that they aren’t a total waste when they hit high school. Thusly, I was a straight A student all through those grades. I had perfect attendance, and I learned all the stuff the exams required me to learn. Done.

I didn’t start getting lower grades until grade 9, because, all of a sudden, this ‘homework’ shit was actually a significant part of your final grade. “What? Why? If I learn it in the hour it takes the teacher to teach it, what’s the point of spending another hour regurgitating it repetatively? That’s redundant, and a waste of my time.”  So I hardly bothered with homework. I would do the mandatory assignments, papers, etc, and always got great marks on them, and exams were easy, but I became a B student because I refused to waste my time on things I already knew.

My report cards always sang the same refrain. “Chris has a solid grasp on -insert subject here-, is very bright and contributes well to class discussion, but just needs to put more attention into his homework assignments to achieve that better grade”

But my stubborn, spoiled, too smart for its own good brain refused to buy into that. School is about learning, and I was learning perfectly well without having to solve thirty slightly different algebra equations every damn night. It was worth that 10-15% of my mark to basically be lazy. And why not, when you continue to be successful and praised and rewarded and pass all the exams.

Here’s why not, and it’s only recently hit me this simply:

There are no exams in the real world. Nobody cares about what you’ve learned, as much as they care about how hard you work to apply what you know.

Damnit, why didn’t anyone stress that in school? Well, chances are they did, and I was too full of my own awesomeness to pay attention.

So there I was at 17, the youngest in my graduating class, a life full of beliefs that work is for suckers, and that I can do just fine by being smart and a quick learner, reinforced by teachers and parents and the system, only to get dumped into a reality that is somewhere in between where I come from and where someone like my father, the hardworking just to scrape by, old-school work ethic, comes from.

-Uh… shit. What do I do now?


2 Responses to “53 to 32: Your #2 Pencil Won't Save You Here.”

  • Kelley says:

    Wow, this was sounding a lot like me until you got to the homework part. I was such a super-nerd, I did all my homework like immediately. I think I’m like the model student. Sigh!

    But you’re so right. There aren’t any exams in the real world. There are projects, and group projects, and lots of busy work, though. Lame.

    Anyway, so hey, hi. It’s been a while since we’ve talked. I feel like a jerk. :(

  • Wink says:

    My mom skipped a grade. My sister skipped a grade. When the school made the offer to my parents that I also skip a grade, they thoughtfully declined. Alas, this did not save me from Dorkhood. Like you, I quickly caught on to whatever the teacher was talking about. I did well on tests, I did the most mandatory of assignments, I skipped a lot of homework. I also never studied. Not rarely, but never. THAT is something that has come back to bite me in the ass as an adult. Note taking skills? Outlining skills? Don’t have ’em. And I suspect they’d come in handy.

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