Wednesday, November 21, 2007

George #4 -- Still Stubborn

When my mom died a couple of years ago, it fell to me and the kids to clean out the house my brother and I grew up in. Although my brother lives in the same town, it wasn't practical for him to do it for two reasons: he has a full-time paying job, and he's just as much of a pack rat as Mom was. I was not at all surprised to find (along with the 37 plastic butter tubs and 53 containers from McDonalds' sweet-and-sour sauce for nuggets) all my report cards from way back when. My mom was just like that -- she saved everything. I deliberately chose to be different, and have not saved any report cards at all, even the "perfect" ones. In George's case, this is probably a good thing.

Despite George's great year in Mr. P's class, he had
not had a miraculous turn-around in his approach to school. His grades "flickered" along with his interest and motivation (which were not always the same thing.) In tenth grade World History -- a class his sisters had proclaimed "cake" -- his grades were barely passing for most of the year. A major portion of the grade for any marking period included "map work", coloring various maps in various ways with colored pencils. George saw no reason to bother. George didn't do it. George's second semester grade for classwork and tests was an E. HOWEVER. George missed exactly four questions on the final exam, thereby getting an A for the exam, bringing his average to a D, and hence passing the class. He had learned the material. He just saw no point in doing what he considered pointless busywork.

Most of George's secondary school grades were like that. His dad and I were frustrated beyond belief! We
knew he was smart and could do the work. And we knew that he wasn't a total goof off; his band teacher loved him (and gave him A's), as did his employers at his part-time job. Sometimes we wondered if they were talking about the same kid. "So helpful, so diligent, does more than he's asked, works hard." Huh??

There were two things that George remained clearly excited about. One of them was Quiz Bowl, the same academic "sport" that Arwen and Maggie loved. His poor grades his junior year caused him to lose eligibility, which was a blessing in disguise. It made him work harder his senior year so that he could play -- and graduate. The other thing that held his attention was the Coast Guard. He had been involved in the Naval Sea Cadets until his sinking grades made us force him to quit. And one of the best times of his life had been a week he spent at a nearby Coast Guard station accumulating training credit for the Sea Cadets.

The idea of enlisting in the Coast Guard was one George played with most of his life. Before his mediocre grades made it clearly impossible, he had talked about trying for an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy. So when, in the fall of his senior year, he called the recruiter and talked about enlisting, we were pleased. This was clearly something he was motivated to do. The recruiter said he'd get back to George to start setting things up, and then. . . nothing happened. After several months, George called the recruiter again, and was told "They've changed the rules. I can't even talk to you until you have you high school diploma in hand."

My husband and I were a little upset by this. George had never taken disappointment well, and we were afraid this would put an end to his interest in the Guard. And what would he do then? But we shouldn't have worried. George scraped by, got his diploma, went to the local "senior all-night party", came home, fell into bed, got up at noon and called the recruiter. He knew what he wanted, and was stubborn enough to pursue it!

I want to add here that although my husband and I were often frustrated by George's approach to academics, in other ways we were always very proud of him. As I said before, he held a long-term part-time job where they couldn't say enough good things about him. And it was always clear that he had a strong moral sense. This was demonstrated on one particular occasion by an absolute refusal to even be in the company of people he felt were "stupid." Arwen's in-laws have a lovely in-ground swimming pool which they rarely use, and to which we have a standing invitation in the summer, even when they're out of town. One such weekend we were planning on an afternoon of swimming, but when we pulled into the driveway, we could see that there were already people in the pool. George quickly identified "Sonia" (the daughter of the in-law's next door neighbors and his high school classmate) and some friends of hers. "Let's leave!" he said. "Nobody should spend any time with people like that." So we went to another friend's house on the lake. I never did get quite clear what Sonia's friends were into, but knowing George, it probably had something to do with illegal drugs or alcohol.

I'll finish up George's story on Friday. Since most of the family will be here tomorrow, you'll get a holiday post, but it'll be short. Have a happy Thanksgiving!


Jen said...

I hated coloring the maps in high school too. Never saw the point. Still don't.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, thanks for writing all the long posts about your family. I am really enjoying them. I don't know any of you, except through Arwen's blog, but I love reading.

Lindsay said...

I second what Jen said. :o)

Meika said...

George's academic route sounds a lot like my own - drove my parents batty, too! They even set up an elaborate reimbursement system to motivate me to get good grades. I think I got a quarter... and my brother cleaned up, netting himself about $20. I don't think they tried that again. If it's not worth doing, it's just not worth doing! :)