The first school I attended during my illustrious high school career was mostly full of rich kids and guidance counselors that allegedly would gently nudge the bad kids out the door and towards other schools in the city that did not have as high a reputation to maintain. I say allegedly because this was all second hand knowledge to me, but it was a story heard numerous times so that means it’s the truth, as I see it. I saw a counselor once at this school, I believe it was to discuss the option of moving to a different high school, and although I do not remember much from that conversation I am pretty sure it was all fairly placating drivel about choosing what I thought was best for me.
The second high school I attended was much larger than the first and actually had more than two non-white kids in the student body. There were more “bad kids” and more fights, but this school also had an arts program, as well as its own Indie race car that the mechanic class worked on and actually competitively raced at a nearby race track. While I was actually attending this school I never met with a guidance counselor, however as the time to start university approached, and I had been out of high school for almost a year, I suddenly thought to seek the counsel of one.
I had received a letter in the mail stating that the university I had planned to attend in the fall was able to give me an ‘x’ amount of money as a scholarship, however they would increase this amount by $1,000 if my overall high school average went up something like 0.7%. My original plan that early spring morning, as I stepped into the guidance counselor’s office, was to submit myself to one more high school class during that summer and get that extra $1,000. However, when I explained the situation to her she thought me attending summer school would be a waste of time and suggested that I talk to one of my former high school teachers and ask them to raise my grades instead. She suggested I start with OAC English as this was one of the required courses for university at the time and would be counted towards my average no matter what. School was still in session that day so I walked up to my former OAC English classroom and waited for the bell. I was pretty nervous, I mean was this kind of tempering with grades even allowed? Another part of me wondered if this was, in fact, allowed, I really should have thought to simply ask for higher grades the whole time I was in school, no?
The bell rang and I approached the teacher. I never knew how she felt about me exactly. I always got a sort of “you got all this wasted potential” kind of feeling from her as my essays, when turned in would garner high marks, however I also often neglected to write them or show up for class. I especially remember a skipping spree when I was assigned the parts of both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern during our study of Hamlet, which consisted mainly of enduring what, for the most part, seemed like illiterate students stumble and trip while reading Shakespeare out loud. Anyway, the moment had come. Following the pleasantries, during which I had to remind the teacher who I was, I awkwardly asked her if she could raise my grade or perhaps let me write some sort of additional assignment that could contribute to my final grade in her class. She seemed highly suspicious until I told her it was because I was going to university and wanted the higher scholarship. Now I don’t know how many graduates of this high school actually ended up in university, but I can tell you that from the ecstatic look on her face when she heard that I would be attending one, you would have thought I was the first of her students to reach that level of education. She immediately wrote a note for me to give to the guidance counselor that stated, and I kid you not, to raise my grade by whatever percentage needed to guarantee the higher scholarship amount.
Although I thanked that teacher up and down, it was the guidance counselor that really earned my gratitude that day. She not only saved me from another session of summer school (a topic for another Friday), but she also taught me the valuable lesson of how sometimes cheating your way into something is much easier than doing the hard work to get there. And for that, I still thank her.