I always did well in school because I knew how to play the games, and because I bought into the rhetoric. I mean, teachers are still people, right? And they want the same type of accolades everyone else does. So, it was easy to be that good kid. You know the one, the one who the other students call the teacher’s pet, the one who sits near the front of the class and likes to answer questions.
Well, I’ll tell you a secret. I didn’t like to answer questions, but when the teacher knew she could use me to “bail her out” when no one else would admit to knowing an answer, that can certainly come back into her mind come time to grade a test, or an essay, or a research project.
Now, that’s not to say I’m not book smart, because I am, but you know as well as I do that it’s not always the smartest people who get ahead. It’s most times the people who can see advantageous situations and put themselves smack dab in the middle of them. In school, that was me. Straight A’s throughout elementary and middle school, and mostly A’s (when I felt like it) in high school. I had a pleasant attitude. More teachers were nice to me than students, and the work itself was easy.
Maybe in the end that was the biggest problem, though. If I had ever had to actually work hard for grades maybe I would have appreciated the exercise of education more after the fact. As it was, I was able to play the games, to get the grades, and to be pleased with myself, but only because I bought into the rhetoric that schools sell, the rhetoric that says school is an important building block for life.
Yet, when looking at it objectively, there are so many people who didn’t even graduate from high school who are doing fantastic things in life, who are healthy, happy, and successful by most yardsticks’ lengths. And don’t even get me started on the number of people who have gone on to higher education only to find out that the job market is saturated with people who already have the same degree they are so proud of obtaining.
So they apply to numerous jobs every single day, to no avail, and they lament the fact that they have a mountain of school loans they must pay back even when they don’t have a job with which to pay those massive loans. Yes, that rhetoric looks really good then, right? Playing those games was smart enough to get them those accolades while in the system, but once on their own what do they have left to hang their hats on?
I find myself in one of these categories right now, and it has certainly made me reflective. So where does that leave me when it comes to the rhetoric now? Do I still buy into it as full force as I did when I was younger? When my daughter brings home a 100 with a smiley face plastered across the top of the page, do I feel as fulfilled, as proud of her as I did of myself in similar situations? Yes, of course I do, but I take the rhetoric with a bit of salt now.
Honestly, if Lexi told me she wanted to be an artist and didn’t want to go the “traditional” route, instead getting a mindless job just to pay the bills while apprenticing with an artist, I would be overjoyed just the same as I would be if she went to school to be a lawyer, or a dentist, or any other profession she wanted. I’m not jaded by the system. My eyes are just opened to what it can and cannot do.
It’s all about motivation. I was motivated to do well within the system, so I did, but being inside the system is nowhere near the same as emerging from the system and having to face the real world. I wore sweatpants to pick up my youngest daughter from school today, those and a t-shirt that says “Griswold Family Christmas.” And that’s okay. I’m not trying to impress anyone. I’m just trying to be comfortable when I can. And I think that’s the attitude you need to have (not wearing whatever whenever, but trying to be comfortable in your own skin), finding what makes you comfortable as a human being, what makes you happy, what makes you feel fulfilled.
What can you live with and not want to strangle yourself or someone else every day? I want that sense of fulfillment in the real world for my children, and for myself. I don’t want regrets because I did what I felt was expected of me, but wasn’t what I knew would give me fulfillment, and I don’t want that for them either. That’s why the foundation is so important.
As a teacher myself I know I could never stand it when parents would come in and ask me what was wrong with their child. Why wasn’t their child performing as well as they knew he/she could? And all I’m thinking is that “it starts at home.” I take that to heart. I know that when my home life wasn’t the best, I played the games less. I couldn’t focus on school and on buying into that rhetoric.
I know that kids these days are in many ways just the same, but for them it’s not about the games or the rhetoric. So many of them don’t buy into either, but what they do want is money, so they do what it takes to get that money they crave. For them that’s the credo they live by, and they do whatever they have to so they can “get by” in school so they can get out and make that money in whatever way they see fit.
I’m not knocking it either. It’s their own form of fulfillment, or at least a holding pattern that will hopefully sustain them until they figure out just how they’re going to be truly successful in their lives, whatever that means to them. That’s the real key. If children are empowered by their parents to be able to make solid decisions for themselves, and supported by their teachers in the same way, they have a leg up on whatever the world can throw them, because they have that solid support system with them at all times, in their minds, motivating them. No games. No rhetoric. Just real life, the real world, and real support that will stead them well in whatever they decide to do with their lives.