Thursday, January 11, 2007

...High School Redux

I’ve had this fantasy lately about getting the chance to do high school all over again.

I was one of those classic underachievers: The type of student who had the intelligence to prosper in the classroom, but due to a complete lack of interest in homework or studying, consistently found myself on the brink of failure. I exasperated my parents and an infinite number of teachers over the years, all of who could see I had the potential to thrive in school if only I would put forth the effort.

Part of me wants to blame it on the school system which, as designed, seems set up to kill any desire anyone could possibly have in learning. Seriously, who in their right mind decided it was logical to expect teenagers to spend 7 hours a day stuck in a classroom, only to be told to then spend several *more* hours at home working on the same material?

The hole in that theory, of course, is that there are many students who do just fine in a traditional school setting, which points the finger back in my direction.

Part of my problem, and this is something I still struggle with, was that I had the bad habit of being a “pleasure first, responsibility later” type. Regardless of how much homework I came home with or whether or not a big test was coming up, if a new issue of “Pro Wrestling Illustrated” came in the mail or a good episode of “Three’s Company” was on, that came first. If there was time left over for schoolwork, so be it, but it was never my top priority.

It also took me a long time (well after high school) to understand that challenging myself, doing something that was difficult for me and overcoming the obstacle, could be a pleasurable experience. Instead of buckling down and putting extra effort into the classes I struggled with like math and science, I instead focused my energy on the subjects that came naturally to me, like English. If I sat down to work on my math homework and didn’t understand how to do the problems at first glance, I just wouldn’t do them, period. It never occurred to me that if I just persisted and didn’t give up I would eventually get the concept.

Then there were the normal teenage issues that distracted me from my schoolwork. Namely, obsessing over when I would finally get to see a girl naked somewhere other than Cinemax at Night.

It just seems like I completely wasted my high school years by not putting forth the effort I was capable of. I suppose things turned out ok for me anyway, but it would have been nice to have been in the position of choosing between a variety of prestigious colleges to attend instead of having my choice limited to the few where I barely met the minimum entrance requirements.

Part of the reason I’ve been consumed with this is because my company focuses heavily on the K-12 education market, meaning I often find myself on sales calls at various high school campuses, which always seems to serve as a reminder of my own high school failures.

I wish I had the chance to give high school another shot with the maturity and diligence I’ve developed as an adult. I’m convinced I could be an “A” –student, even in the subject that are tough for me like science and math, if I put forth the effort, stayed focused and remained persistent.

Or I could just be deluding myself.

A couple days ago I arrived early for an appointment with a math teacher at a local high school. Seeing me outside, this teacher was kind enough to invite me in while he finished teaching his class.

I thought it might be fun to try to follow along with his lesson. The problem he had written on the screen didn’t look so hard at first glance, but in short order I was totally confused by the numerous variables, a graph with lines I couldn’t comprehend, positive and negative numbers being subtracted and added to each other according to rules I didn’t understand.

I didn’t feel too bad though, because I knew this instructor taught classes of varying levels of difficulty. I figured I must have wondered in during an advanced class like Trigonometry or Calculus. To confirm, I inquired after the bell rang what class I had just witnessed.

“Those were my freshman. That was Algebra I.”
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