Now That’s Academics!

I graduated in the top ninety-eight percent of my class. That’s what I tell people, because it’s true, and it sounds good. Most people say, “Wow. You must be smart.”

Ninety-eight percent covers all but the lowest two percent of the student body; therefore, it could place me anywhere between the top of the class, and the bottom three percent of the class. I’ll let you make a guess as to where on the scale I landed. Let’s just say that I’m the guy who went to college to become a wit, but only got half-way done.

When employed in the IT department at Delta Technologies, a woman I worked with lamented over her sixteen-year-old son. “He’s going to be a bum,” she said. She explained how poorly he did in school, and that he never applied himself to academics. While I recounted my high school days, her eyes lit up. She was so delighted with my poor performance that she exclaimed, “You don’t know how much hope you’ve given me!”

How exciting! My pathetic school performance had become an inspiration to others! And my high school counselor said I wouldn’t amount to anything.

I had risen to become one of the top performing techs, but the truth is that I did not take academics seriously until my mid-twenties. Unexpected crisis’s jolted me into the reality that I didn’t want to work in a warehouse for the rest of my life. My mid-life crisis began on the first half of my life. I did very well in academics once I realized that there was a goal behind the effort. When I first applied for school, I looked at my high school transcript. I achieved a 1.8 GPA. I felt embarrassed to submit it with my application. I thought back on my high school days and wondered that I even graduated. If you have a son, daughter, or sibling that seems hopeless and destined to become a bum, take a stroll with me down memory lane.

“You can’t write this research paper with less than seventy reference cards,” my teacher stated.

Her name was Mrs. Blackwell, and she was a hard teacher. I counted the reference cards in my hand. Seven. Weeks of research had only produced seven reference cards. A mere tenth of the minimum required to write this paper. Maybe I shouldn’t have played paper football and tic-tac-toe with my friend, Tim. We had the same academic goals. Our mission was to graduate without repeating a grade, while putting forth the least amount of effort. We had several classes together, each with similar results. Reading assignments were things we never considered. I would have read those books if it hadn’t required me to cut into my personal time. The time I spent at school avoiding work is also considered personal time, right?

I thought back to our Mythology class when a teacher gave a one-question-pop-quiz. It counted a full test grade. She assured us that anyone who read the lesson would have no problem with the test. That was like telling a politician, “As long as you cut spending, the deficit will go down.” It’s not going to happen. She might as well have told us to build a bridge over the Grand Canyon.

I don’t remember the story (imagine that), but the assignment was to explain how two people fell in love. My friend and I looked at each other with blank expressions, and he shrugged. I said the only thing that popped into my mind, “It was love at first sight.” We both had a good laugh, and I wrote the answer on my paper.

“You aren’t really going to turn that in, are you?” Tim asked.

I certainly was. After all, it was better than a blank sheet.

We both grabbed our chests when the answer was revealed – It was love at first sight. Yeah! My best score of the class!

Now I needed another miracle. I needed to write a thirty-page research paper, in one night, with seven reference cards. Cards that I created through my personal research. I had spent hours, uh, I mean minutes reading periodicals and books on my subject. It was due tomorrow and the sun was already setting on my world of procrastination. Since my grade hung on this paper, I had no choice but to sacrifice an evening of watching Lavern and Shirley, and Happy Days. I wrote the paper, and the creative juices started to flow. Late into the night, I smiled a sigh of relief, stacked my papers, and went to bed feeling good about my accomplishments. I had stretched each half-naked 3×5 card into just over four pages each, and passed the course. Now that’s academics!

I continued my excellence in academics in my history class. My teacher, Coach Collins, was passionate about this subject and had read every book in the school library, making it impossible to fabricate a book report. I had him at least once in each of my four years of high school, and squeaked by with a D in each class. He always knew what to expect of me, or so he thought.

One day, I was lying on my bedroom floor, bored out of my mind. I rolled over to see my history book. How it managed to get from the school to my house is a mystery to this day. I started flipping through and looking at pictures. A picture caught my attention, and I read the caption. I then did something that was beyond miraculous – I read the chapter. The next day, Coach Collins announced that we were going to have a pop test. Then he did something unusual. As he prepared to call out the questions, he said, “I just want you all to know, that Eddie is the only one I called to let know we are having a pop test today.”

Why he made such a statement, I do not know. Guess what our test was on? Yep. The very chapter I’d read the night before. I didn’t even know what chapter we were studying until the test began. I couldn’t believe it. He was asking questions that I knew! He graded the tests, and the highest score in the class was thirty-percent, except one person. Yes, I scored a hundred-percent. The A students were livid. How could he have called me?

Of course, he didn’t. But to show him that I was a good sport, I stood up and said, “I just want to thank Coach Collins for calling me last night. This is the best score I’ve gotten all year!”

He gave me a sour look and I gave him a knowing smile. It would be our little secret.






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