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Friday, May 25, 2012

Nuggets from High School: Career Guidance?

     “Why did you tell my parents that they would be wasting their money to send me to university?” I was not as indignant as my mother at this news, but it was, certainly, a shock. I was a member of the National Honor Society, as well as involved in the school’s extracurricular activities. Teachers liked me, as did the students who had voted me in as the President of the Pep Club, the largest organization in the school. Why did the Guidance Counselor think I would fail university classes?

     “Sojourner, you and I both know that your interest is more along the line of extracurricular activities than academic studies. I have no doubt that, out from under the watchful eye of your parents, your studies would take a backseat to everything else. I think they would be wasting their money, and I told them so.” Give me a break; what adolescent doesn’t prefer extracurricular activities to studying?

     In truth, I felt that his opinion was more along the thread of what I experienced my first day of school, 12 years ago: “Oh, you’re Donna’s sister? We’ll be expecting a lot from you then.” My older sister was an outstanding student throughout primary and secondary school years but now, as I neared the end of my own public school education, I would have thought that this bias would have been put to rest. No, I was not going to be the Salutatorian of my class, as she was; but, on the other hand, I had more than just passing grades. What’s the deal?

     “Were my test scores so low that there was some question I could qualify for admission?” We had recently taken the tests all high school students are subjected to but I had not learned my results at this point. Maybe this was his way of sparing my parents the truth that I had received such a low score that I couldn’t get in anyway?

     “No, you did just fine. Too fine, in fact, so I’m sure there’s a mistake somewhere. Or, you found a way to cheat.” I was dumbfounded at his accusation. Cheat! Why ever would he think that? The Guidance Counselor turned his back to grab a sheet of paper off his filing cabinet. “I have it right here. There is no way you could ever have earned a 97% in Math; we both know that, don’t we?” He fairly spat out his opinion.

     “Wow, 97%! What were the rest of the grades like?” Clearly, he was not happy with my response, as his stern frown bore into my surprised visage.

     “That’s my point. They were all in that range so I know there’s something wrong with those results. You couldn’t even work the most basic of Advanced Algebra story problems, or don’t you remember?” His sneer hurt me more than the memory of my two tutoring sessions in his office at the beginning of the previous school year. Story problems in any Math course had always been a struggle for me. It didn’t really take two sessions to convince me that he couldn’t help me learn how to do them but his insistence on a second try put me back in that office.

     “I don’t know if there was some computation error or not, but I do know that I didn’t cheat on that test.” My face was burning so, no doubt, it was also a glaring red. My embarrassment quickly turned to anger and, forgetting I was the kid and he was the adult in authority over me, I shouted back at him, “Fortunately, most classes, including Math, are not exclusively made up of story problems and I can do the rest just fine! How dare you tell my parents they would be wasting their money to send me to university!” I whipped around and started for the door.

     “Come back here. You don’t talk to me that way and then just leave my office.” I did not stop or turn around. I said nothing and, fortunately for me, the nurse’s office was nearly directly across from the Guidance Counselor’s office so I stepped through that door. By now tears were pouring down my face like Niagara Falls; the nurse reached around and closed her door behind me.

     To this day, I don’t know what the problem was with this Guidance Counselor’s opinion of me. I had no trouble with university classes, Math or otherwise. Truthfully, while I had really enjoyed the activities of high school, I wasn’t interested in getting involved in much more than classes once I started university. I worked hard studying and spent hours doing lab experiments. I also held down a work-study job as a server for the breakfast meal, beginning at 6:30 AM my first year. I wasn’t messing around as the Guidance Counselor had expected.

     My mother took great delight sending this fellow an invitation to each of my three university graduations, adding my Grade Point Average and degree earned in a note with each one. Her only disappointment when I finished my Master of Nursing Science (MSN) degree from the University of Virginia, with outstanding grades and awards, was that the dear man had died before she could send the announcement/invitation.

     Dear Reader, perhaps you have also had such a story in your own past. The adults in our lives can so easily crush our adolescent spirit as we struggle to gain our independence. Often, as I believe was the case in the above story, it is not intentional. They just see things differently than teens. They often speak, or give advice, without even really knowing the individual well enough to make such a judgment. However, there is One Who does know you well; He created you! Your loving Father God knows you, your potential and your desires. He has a perfect plan for your life… no matter how old you are when you ask Him to show you His plan!

     One of my favorite verses in Scripture is part of a letter the young prophet, Jeremiah, wrote to the exiles in Babylon… at the Lord’s inspiration. God did not think him too young for such an important job and God never sees us as too old to step into His plan for our lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a NIV)

****Have a terrific weekend!

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