Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Do as I say, not as I did
I heard a statistic on the radio today that said that high school students take either the SAT or ACT an average of 3 times, improving their score each time. I found this a little disheartening since I took each test exactly 1 time and was pleased as punch with my scores. I was able to get into the school I wanted, so I didn't see any need to take them again. Also, hours spent coloring in bubbles on a Saturday morning, not my idea of fun. My scores and grades were good enough to get into the school I wanted to go to, so what more was needed? In fact, unlike a lot of my friends, I only applied to two schools. Once I found out I had been accepted at my first choice school, I didn't even bother completing the applications for all my back up schools. Maybe I just know what I want and go after it with laser like precision, or, and probably more accurately, I am/was a lazy student. I have always been able to test well, but my grades never seemed to reflect what the testing showed. And by testing, I mean standardized, no prep required, go in with your #2s and fill in circles kind of testing. I know my mom is reading this right now laughing her head off because she knows it is true and knows that she has likely cursed me by saying, "I hope you have one just like you". Since probably preschool, teachers have told my parents that I didn't work up to my potential, that I didn't manage my time well. Now, looking back, I can see why they would have thought that. Take Latin for example. When my family moved to Tennessee before my sophomore year of high school, I decided Latin would be good language for me to take. Coming from a high school that offered your choice of either French or Spanish to a school that had not only those, but German, Latin and one year, Russian, it seemed like a waste not to. Once I got into the class however, I realized there was some actual work involved in learning a new language, even a dead one. So I befriended a boy in the class who came to do most of my translations. Fortunately, no one actually speaks Latin, so words on paper were enough. As an aside, he seems to have done pretty well with all this Latin knowledge as he is now a pediatrician. So, for all the extra translation practice that I am sure came in handy while in medical school, you are welcome. When I started college I was able to test for placement in language classes so I took the Latin exam. By some strange miracle (see also, tests well) I tested out of the first quarter of Latin and was able to move straight into the second and final required quarter. Did I take advantage of this? No, I was done with Latin and thought I would try something "easier" like Spanish. I waited until my senior year to fulfill my language requirement and promptly failed Spanish. The most embarrassing part of failing the class was that at the time I was living with a first generation Cuban American who spoke fluent Spanish. I blamed it on not being able to hear and missing the "nuances" of the language. I even promised the professor that I would never travel to a Spanish speaking country and let on that I had taken classes from him. For some reason my advisor bought all of this and allowed me to sign up for Sign Language in order to fulfill my language requirement. Lazy student, expert manipulator? I was all for that (I had also been all for Latin and Spanish and you see where that got me), but the class was canceled because not enough people signed up. Somehow I managed to talk my way into Classical Literature as a language fulfillment. Since I was an English major, this was right up my alley. I think I ended up in the English Dept. mostly because you don't really have to "know" anything. Except how to read. Check. Even if you never finish a reading assignment, you can generally talk your way around it enough to seem like you know what you are talking about. Please don't all the English majors, teachers and professors comment about how much you know and how smart you are...I am talking only about me here. In the English Department at my school, one of the requirements for graduation was sitting for and pass three "comps". These are basically three compositions written on materials given at the beginning of the year. There were six genres and various examples within each genre that you were to read in preparation. I had decided to write on Romantic poets (poems are easy to read), the American short story (hello, short) and Shakespeare (it was meant to be heard, not read). Lazy. Others in the department started their reading right away and some sat for multiple comps before passing all three. I started reading about a month before the last sitting offered for the year, took all three at once and passed all three. I am not telling you this to show how smart I am, but to say that I probably could have had a more illustrious academic career had I been willing to work a little harder (shut up, Daddy). And maybe I could have had a medal to wear with my cap and gown. I do sometimes regret having not worked harder, but I think all in all, I have a pretty illustrious life anyway.