Sunday, August 02, 2009

School (Daze)

I had an epiphany last night -- while doing some filing, I ran across a folder containing all my school records.

Fifteen years ago or more, I took all the original report cards that my mother had saved and transcribed them onto a word processor. Then I printed it. Everything from kindergarten through 12th grade -- actual subjects, then such measures as "makes good effort," "plays well with others," etc. How many absences I had, and so forth. I also saved most of my grades from the two colleges I attended between 1976 and 1986 (one full-time, the other evenings).

Grades in math and related subjects were consistently soft, around a C or a 75 in most cases (we used letter grades in elementary school, then switched to numerical in 7th grade). That was the pattern that persisted all the way through college. Of course, in college, I had a dandy little safety valve called an "incomplete," and I took a lot of those before managing to pass statistics. I have one D throughout my entire academic career, and no F's.

The math didn't surprise me, but here and there I would run into a 75 in science, or even social studies. And last night, as I sat there looking at these things, I found myself thinking such thoughts as "That's unacceptable." Bottom line is, those C grades showed where I just didn't make the effort and didn't push myself, because I could have done better.

The surprise was my disapproval of these grades. At some previous time, I would have shrugged and said "Oh well...I ended up with a final grade of B," or "There was probably something going on in my life that I don't remember now," or some other excuse for mediocre performance. But I've noticed that during the last 6 years or so, my approach has shifted from doing what was required to attain a minimum standard and keep people off my back, to setting the standards myself. I think those low grades in science and social studies bother me because I KNOW I had it in me to pull A's and B's.

All of this matters because I'm planning to go back to school and get that damn Bachelor's degree once my finances have stabilized a bit. I've gotten information on several schools, both local and online, and am starting to visualize what the process will entail. I no longer want to "just get the piece of paper," as I've been saying for so long. I want to get the piece of paper after having turned in a good performance to earn it.

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