Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tips From My Mom #2 - Education

To ensure that your child excels scholastically, always find ways to encourage them to strive to do better.

That sounds like a good one, eh? Well that depends on your version of 'encouragement'. With my mother it was a matter of once again, beat 'em down to encourage. Maybe she was under the impression that reverse psychology would work on me. It doesn't.

I was a god damned brainiac in school. I was reading before I got to kindergarten, and I do have to thank my mother for that. She taught me, with the clever use of comics... and books on religion. OY! But it seems despite my parents unbelievable low expectations of my intelligence (she was going to name me Cassandra but opted for Joy explaining that because my last name was sooooo long and full of many unusual vowel combinations that I would NEVER be smart enough to learn to spell both Cassandra and S*********z which is code for my legal last name and yes, there are a lot of vowels in the middle - in a repeating pattern).

My report cards were a steady stream of Es (in the early grades they used E = Excellent, G = Good, F = Fair, S = Satisfactory and so on) and As (when they moved up to the A, B, C grading system).

I would usually rank a B (or a G) on gym. I just wasn't a 'gym' kid. No clue, and no coordination. I could read at the college level by the 5th/6th grade -- I read Poe in the 2nd fer cryin' out loud, but if you threw a ball in my direction I was more likely to catch it with my face than my hands. It took me years to understand the phrase "heads up". I still have trouble with it....

But those As were there in every other subject - even with being absent more than I was present. I pretty much hated school and experienced a daily mix of terror (I was very shy) and boredom (I was very smart). So school was not good-times for Joy.

The day I got an absolute straight A report card (EVEN GYM! though god knows how that happened... we must have been doing a lot of square dancing that term) I was as proud as I can remember. I handed my mother that pea-green rectangle of oaktag with my perfect As and hoped beyond hope that this would be a time of recognition and cash. See, the other kids in my neighborhood tended not to be overly academic. Their parents rewarded their efforts with money. If you got an A you got $5. I don't remember what happened with other grades, but I do remember that $5 grand prize. I was already fantasizing about hitting a bookstore with my windfall. Why I thought this is beyond me as there was never any such monetary reward in my house. In fact, there was no monetary anything. But I was a dreamer....

My mother looked at the report card and I waited, puffed up like a peacock, so pleased with myself I could have burst.

And then my mother said:

"Why aren't they A-pluses?"

As I said, I was pretty bright back then. I got the point: I was not good enough. Nothing I would do would ever be enough. Nothing I did would ever garner any sort of praise. And so I stopped bothering. In fact by the time I reached the 8th grade I was on a mission to FAIL anything and everything I could. I did manage to fail Algebra once - it's surprisingly harder to get an F than you'd think! I actually brought my best friend to my Algebra teacher and asked him to show her his grade book because she did not believe I had failed. The teacher was somewhat taken aback by my pride in this achievement, but I was thrilled.

It may come as no shock that it was in math classes that I learned the intricacies of creative cheating. Sometimes I'd use the methods I came up with to pass - and sometimes to insure that I'd fail. Yeah. A brilliant criminal mind up to no good. That was me.

Despite my penchant for cutting classes and failing them when possible, I still managed to rank somewhere in the 50s (think it was 56, but don't quote me) of my High School graduating class (which numbered somewhere in the 600s I believe). Scary stats, huh? When I decided, at the last minute, to go to college, I went from failing everything to straight As again. However I did not do this for my parents approval, which let's face it: wasn't gonna happen any way. I did it for me. I graduated magna cum laude (would've been summa if not for that damned Stats class...) and turned down invitations to several Honor's Societies. Fuck 'em I said. I wanted my $5, not some snooty society membership.

Addendum: Tips From My Dad #1 - Education

Always encourage your child to try new things by disparaging their favorite hobbies.

My father to me at any given time I was reading (which was pretty much any given time):

"Are you READING again? You're so STUPID!"

'nuff said.


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Your Mom sounds a bit like mine, just meaner.

"Are you READING again? You're so STUPID!"
Ok, that is just priceless.

Gary said...

Yet another example of the 'similar but different' happenings of your home and mine. Like you it was easy for me to do well in school and get good grades, but unlike you I WAS rewarded for my efforts every so often. The best gift was when I brought home straight A's in JHS and my parents bought me my very own black and white TV for my room. I LOVED that thing. I felt very independent and envisioned myself bringing it with me to my first apartment. I have no idea what happened to it but the message was clear then and it is clear now. My parents were proud of me. However, it was me who was thinking all that time "Why didn't these silly teachers give me an A+?"

Joy Keaton said...

Whim - that priceless statement is a perfect example of the mixed and wacky messages I got ALL the time. *sigh* Ah well. It certainly gave me 'material'. :)

Gary - What a difference it makes to show a little pride in your kids, huh? It doesn't take much - a hug would've done it for me... hell, who'm I kidding? A kind word would've done it for me.

OH well. I'm still here. :)