Monday, May 26, 2008

Dreams of My Children, Part 9

I spent about 18 years in school, and for the most part, it was a struggle. I was very much the scholastic also-ran, the kid who had to scramble to reach the lofty level of the Average Student. Sometimes, I didn't make it that far.

When I started college, I had this crazy idea that I was bright, perhaps brilliant, enough so that I didn't have to study at all. Reality soon hit me like a stack of biology textbooks, and I spent the next four years running in slow motion through an academic nightmare.

I awoke in a cold sweat just in time to receive a degree, marry and produce children who, quite fortunately, do much better than I did in school. Still, they often come home with report cards that don't accurately reflect their potential.
I tell them, just as my father used to tell me: "Please, all I ask is for you to do your very best, to try your very hardest. If you work as hard as you can, I don't care what your grades are."

Invariably, they don't try as hard as they can, and I do care what grades they get.
"You can do better than this!" I insist. What follows from them are those tired excuses that all parents know – shabby alibis I once used myself. Her are my favorites, my Top 20:

1. "Honest, nobody got a good grade this time."
2. "We only had two tests, and one I couldn't study for because I left my book at school, and the other one I didn't know about because I was sick the day before."
3. "But Mom, C is average."
4. "I did better than Jennifer."
5. "We don't know what the teacher wants and she won't tell us."
6. "If I didn't have to spend so much time practicing piano, I'd do better."
7. "Really, Dad, the telephone and television do not take up too much of my time."
8. "You can't study for that kind of test."
9. "It's not like the final grade of my whole life or anything."
10. "OK, OK, so I'm stupid!"
11. "The teacher a) doesn't like me; b) doesn't understand me; c) is too hard; d) grades on a curve; or e) doesn't grade on a curve.
12. "I didn't do so hot last grading period, but I got a 98 on a quiz today."
13. "Next grading period I will do better because we're going to be studying the really important stuff."
14. "I did try my very hardest. Well, almost."
15. "Report card? Oh, shoot, I left it in my locker."
16. "This is better than the grade I thought I was going to get."
17. "The teacher said this won't count much against our final grade for the year."
18. "Well, it's not perfect, but I'm satisfied with it."
19. (In explaining a dive from all A's and B's to all B's and C's) – "I went down in three grades and stayed even in three."
20. "The teacher made a mistake."

Sound familiar? I thought so.
There is, however, one excuse I never used. I never had the gall to use it, nor have
my children. I think we all realize that a thousand excuses aren't worth a single, honest explanation.
The one excuse we never used: "I tried my very best, and that's the best I can do."
- May 1991

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't say that I tried extremely hard in high school. I did OK in subjects that interested me and very well in English and history, , but after 4 years I graduated 180th in a class of about 360. I liked college, but fooled around and eventually was suspended. Although I went back twice to finish college, I never did -- life got in the way. Still, I survived.

My son graduated from high school a year ago. He went off to college and promptly quit going to class. He withdrew in January and now is working part-time in retail. I tried to encourage him, telling him that it's OK, and maybe he will find out that college was better than working. He countered with, "I loathe learning."

Anyone have a snappy comeback?