Let’s Take a Look at My 11th Grade Report Card

On a recent cleaning binge, my mom found my 11th grade report card stuffed in a file box along with old writings, homework assignments and a certificate announcing that I had passed Drivers Education class in August of 1997.

I’m 37 years old, and a high school teacher now, and everyday I witness the enormous pressures that 11th graders (and their parents) place on their still-rounding shoulders.

High school mythology decrees that 11th grade is the Acropolis. It’s the most important 10 months of your life. The make or break year. The one that demands academic greatness. The 11th grade transcript is the one colleges scrutinize and consider the most when deciding to accept or decline your admission. According to legend,11th grade is the year where your destiny is formed and fated.

Below you will find my 11th grade year end report card.

It’s apparent that at 16 years old I wasn’t overly concerned with achieving academic greatness. To be honest, my main concern was scoring a date with the pretty girl in Spanish class. Spoiler alert….9 years later I would marry that senorita… muy suave!

My Class Ranking

If my 11th grade report card is an approximation of my destiny, I’m destined to be stunningly average.

I ranked 168 out of 337 students in the 11th grade class. If you do the math (because, clearly, my algebra grade indicates I don’t math) 337/2 = 168.5

Analysis: In high school I was absolutely, fantastically, beautifully average.

Religion 3

Final Grade: 87

Analysis: Religion was my second highest grade in my report card. I believe the grade is slightly underwhelming given the fact this was my 11th year of Catholic education.

But like a true B+ Catholic, I knew the basics of the Bible, received the required sacraments and was a semi-annual church goer (Christmas & Easter) who pretended to go every Sunday.

English 3

Final Grade: 85

Analysis: This was a massive blow to my current (and slightly bloated) ego.

I have presented at writing workshops for college professors.

 My article, “It’s called The Alchemist and you should read it”was recently retweeted by International Bestselling Author Paulo Coehlo.

I will be featured on an upcoming episode of the television show, Classroom Close-up, NJ to highlight writeonfighton.org and the writing events I host for my students.

Yet, in spite of all that, an unimpressive B in 11th grade English will forever be etched in the annals of time.

American History 3

Final Grade: 89

Analysis: Everything I know about American History I learned from watching Forrest Gump.

Algebra 2

Final Grade: 74

Analysis: In high school I clearly did not understand algebra which, interestingly was the very last time in my life I was forced to multiply numbers by letters.

Environmental Science

Final Grade: 84

Analysis: According to my teacher, Mr. Krier, I was “one of the top one of the students in the class.” I earned an 84. Either he was just being nice or I was, in fact, the one star in a constellation of street lamps.

Spanish 3

Final Grade: 77

Analysis: I blame Cindy for this one. I spent the entire year distracted by her legs and perfecting such romantic expressions as “Coma estas, chica?” and “Muy caliente” in a deep, seductive inflection.

Gym

Final Grade:99

Analysis: One of my students once told me that he was going to be an accountant because in 11th grade he did well in accounting class. If 11th grade grades are indicators of future professions I clearly should have been a professional athlete.

Conduct

Final Grade: 97

Analysis: Minus a shirttail infraction, which was sheer blasphemy in a Catholic school, I was absolute saintly.

It’s time to be serious.

I didn’t learn much in high school.

It’s nothing against my teachers but, aside from meeting Cindy and a group of friends I’m still close with, the educational experience was uninspiring.

In fact, I can’t name one high school teacher who inspired me to become a teacher.

So why did I become a high school teacher if my experience in high school was incredibly forgettable?

It’s a question I’ve tussled with lately.

Selflessly, I want to spend my days talking and teaching about reading and writing. But I also think I’m attempting to vindicate my own stale high school experience.

Work is a tricky thing. Immersing yourself in work for only a paycheck is a soul-sucking existence. Working for personal fulfillment is righteous but doesn’t pay the electric bill.

Maybe, if we look hard enough, we find work that fills a previous void.

Maybe, teaching is my attempt to provide students with experiences I never had. And maybe, selfishly, I stand and deliver in the classroom everyday attempting to fall in favor with the teacher, earn some extra credit and improve that 85.

Be well,

Jay

My Advice to Young Adults about Work (or Why I Want to Pee My Pants )

It’s graduation season.

And every June, I get asked by soon-to-be high school graduates big questions about work.

“How do you know your doing the right work?”

“How do you find work you’re passionate about?”

“How do you avoid unhappiness and complacency?”

Though I don’t consider myself a beacon of wisdom on such matters (I’m still learning myself), I’m always flattered and (always) a bit stunned by the demands of these questions.

And despite having graduated high school almost 20 years ago and am now 20 years older than most of my students, I’m still wrestling down a response.

But here’s my latest attempt to explain what I know about work.

Bladder Problems

Dylan, my 3 year old son, is stretched on the living room floor playing with his trucks, pushing them across the carpet, parking them next to a row of couch pillows.

He makes truck sounds. Honks and beeps and low rumbling growls. He is lost in his little world, playing and imaging, when his eyes snap suddenly wide.

He jumps to his feet, holds himself and launches into some full-body toddler tribal dance.

“I have to go potty, I have to go potty!

“Well go Dylan!”

Still holding himself, Dylan turns, runs across the living room, breaks out beyond sight as the patter of his little rushing feet trails away to the bathroom.

Parents of young children bare witness to the sudden need-to-pee-pneumonia all the time.

Children get so lost in play, so focused on the present that the pangs erupting from their bladder are ignored until the very last moment.

This moment fascinates me — that a mind can be so enraptured, so focused that it’s ignorant to what is going on in the body.

They might have a bumbling vocabulary and their nose always drippy but children possess the stuff of Buddhist monks.

When I reach the bathroom, Dylan is standing at the front of the toilet with his Paw Patrol underwear lassoed around his ankles. He’s head bowed, his eyes studying the tile.

“Dylan, did you go potty?”

He flinches. His shoulders inch closer to his ears. His eyes refuse to look.

Dylan did you go potty?

He slowly, sheepishly looks up , his eyes ache with tears, “No. I peed myself.”

Why More Adults Should Pee Themselves

Sure, it’s hyperbolic, but stay with me.

I love watching my children lost in absolute play, seemingly ignorant to both the outside and inside world. It’s amazing that children can become so invested in play that they will ignore their screaming bladder. ( I hate to brag but a few months ago Dylan’s efforts earned him a tract infection.)

From what I’ve seen, most adults are bored. They find no wonder in their work. So they fill that void with frivolous things, destructive behavior and unnecessary drama.

As adults, we pine to find good work. Work so curious and engaging that we become constructively lost. Work that we joyously return to again and again.

Listen, my analogy may sound sophomoric (and clearly I’m not advocating bladder infections) but it’s absolutely critical for young adults to find good work that inspires deep contemplation, deep play — the kind of work that is hard to walk away from, not because of the money or convenience or ease, but because you simply the love the essence of it.

My advice for all those who will be turning the tassel and contemplating their future profession — if you find work that is the igniter of imagination, the destroyer of clocks, the antagonist of bladders, work that reminds you of what it was like to be lost on the living room floor, congratulations — you found your work.

Be well,

Jay


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