Sunday, May 6, 2012

Too School For Cool

I can't stop thinking about this piece.  I really appreciate her honesty, especially considering that she is incredibly successful and has a large online following.  It's a good reminder that we all are human and suffer from our own perceived inadequacies, whatever they might be, and it ties in nicely with my post about motherhood a few days ago.

Her story reminded me of my own experiences in high school, a time I haven't thought about in many years.  I was always really smart and really shy, and hid amongst the fringes of the Advanced Placement kids at school.  I was a good writer, and my teachers would sometimes read my essays (anonymously, thank goodness) to the class, but other than that, I didn't really stand out.

I always struggled a bit with math, but could usually do well if I applied myself.  When registering for senior-year classes, I had the choice between Pre-Calculus, which most of my peers were taking, if they weren't among the cream of the crop in AP Calculus, or the more practical, but embarrassing, Math of Money, which focused on real-life skills like interest rates, mortgage, stocks, car payments, budgets, etc. Too proud to admit that I probably wasn't cut out for Pre-Calculus, I signed up for it and muddled through the first weeks and months.  I already knew that I wanted to be an English teacher, and I knew that I would never need the skills I was supposed to learn in this math class.

When I was in fourth grade, we were supposed to memorize all of the states and their capitals so we could label them on a blank map of the United States, and I remember thinking, as a nine-year-old, what a complete waste of time this was, since, if I ever needed to locate a state or its capital, I could just pull out a map and look at it.  So, when everyone else was studying for the test, I was playing outside.  Of course, I failed, and I didn't even care.  My grades were good enough to pull me through, and, as I predicted, it has never really mattered that I can't identify New Hampshire on a map.

That was definitely my attitude when it came to Pre-Cal, so I wasn't really surprised when I failed the third six weeks.  This was my senior year of high school, though, and nothing like this had ever happened in my academic career before.  I was pretty devastated, and since I was academically ineligible to participate in extracurricular events, I had to miss one of my beloved speech tournaments, which meant everyone (or, the five people in my speech class) discovered my huge mistake.

What's hilarious about this story is that, not only did I immediately switch to Math of Money, where I sat among gang members and learned real-world skills, like how to balance a checkbook, but I also spent the entire rest of the year praying that none of my fellow AP students found out which math class I was actually taking.  Also ironic is the fact that I was already dating Ryan, who was in the AP Calculus class, and who would have been an amazing tutor, if only I had asked.  Pride definitely comes before a fall, and I learned that lesson the hard way.

Then today, I read this story, and it reminded me again of my old high school days.  I also, much to my own surprise, really enjoyed dissection in Freshman Biology.  At the end of the year, we dissected a fetal pig, which is supposed to look very much like a human body on the inside, and it was absolutely fascinating.  Our teacher asked us to remove the entire small intestine and stretch it out to its full length, and since my group's pig had the longest intestine, well over six feet, we won a bag of candy!  Talk about cool.

And, much like the girl in the story, a female student at my school also removed the head of her poor, dissected pig, stuck it on a ruler, and paraded it around the classroom, Lord of the Flies style.  And who says teenagers have no imagination?

Later, as we sat in our class labeling the parts of the pig on a diagram, the cute boy in front of me turned and asked if I could help figure out a body part he forgot to label on his pig.  I looked down at my diagram, took a deep breath, gathered my courage, and said, "That's the vagina," because it was, and I decided not to be embarrassed about something as basic as a body part in Biology class.


I also read that Shaquille O'Neal earned his doctorate in education yesterday, and that impressed me very much.  It seems he's been hard at work since he retired from the NBA, and as someone who struggled to write my master's thesis, I have nothing but respect for anyone who completes a doctoral program.  It is a long and arduous task, one I realized I am not equipped to tackle, and they usually give you seven years to complete it.  I'm also partial to Shaq because he went to high school in my hometown of San Antonio.  Congratulations, Dr. O'Neal!