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I’m afraid to admit a couple of things about myself.  However, this isn’t my flaw post, nor an extension of it.  I’m afraid to admit my obsessiveness when it comes to school.  In fifth grade, a light-switch flicked on in my head, and I largely wish it hadn’t.   Before then, a 95 and 100 where the same things to me.  Grades. Numbers.  A sensation I would later write off as cluelessness, but now wish I had never let go of.  It’s true that the child is the father of the man.  1o-year old Marley knew way more about me than I ever cared to admit.

A few weeks ago I asked my mom if she knew if I was smart at a young age.  She replied yes, citing that I was speaking in full sentences by the crisp age of 8 months.  I then proceeded to ask her if she had any doubts when I pulled Bs and the occasional C in Elementary school.  She said “no, I knew you’d figure it out eventually.”

I did figure it out.  And I now fully comprehend what she means by “figure it out.”  It’s all just a game.  A meaningless fight to gain and accomplish some intangible rank, prize, grade, score.  I’ve become pretty decent at it too.  But I’m beginning to realize that the more I play the game, the less “intelligent” and “aware” and “perceptive” I’ve actually become.  The more I play it, the more obsessive I become.  And it took me until this very moment, this very blog post to realize it.  Ranks come back next week.  And I’ll see if my rank climbed or fell in the last semester.  This gentle reminder by one of my close friends set off a reaction in my head.  Ranks. Grades. Last semester.  What were my grades last semester? I instantly began rummaging through piles and piles of old mail to try to find my final report card for sophomore year.  HEY I FOUND AN UNOPENED CARD WITH 20 DOLLARS!!!!!  That wasn’t what I wanted though.  Disregarding my grandmother’s sweet Valentine’s day wishes, I proceeded on.  “Where is it?”, I thought to myself.  “Where is that darn report card so I can calculate my GPA?”

Wow.  It took me putting that in writing to realize how ridiculous I’ve become.  Why?  Because as I was doing this my mother reminded me that my sister is visiting us from college, and that I should watch T.V. with them.  I’ve become shallow as heck.  I’ve become a robot that is starting to care LESS about what is meaningful for the meaningless pursuit of just a bunch of numbers.  Last year I prided myself with saying that grades don’t motivate me, and that I really do enjoy school.  And I do.  But I’m starting to think less about what I’m learning and more about how my grades affect my GPA.

But there is an inherent flaw in this drive.  I have no real goal I’m striving towards.  No, I don’t want to go to Stanford or Yale or Rice. I foresee a continuation of the academic competition that has held me captive in high school; I don’t want that.

Yesterday evening and this morning I had a meltdown, which isn’t typical for a largely level-headed person like me.  But words like “PSAT”  “SAT” and “perfect score” have gotten the best of me.  I haven’t enrolled in any classes, so I likely wont master the PSAT.  While all my closest friends will make the list of kiddos who got National-merit, I wont.  But in reality, I shouldn’t care so much.  It doesn’t matter provided that I’m doing something else I enjoy more.

Back to the fear thing.  I’m afraid to admit that I never read the Harry Potter series because all my friends have.  In truth, I wasn’t the most avid reader as a child.  I preferred to speak rather than read.  I’m afraid to admit that I’m actually a pretty slow reader, too.  Bare with me here, but I’m beginning to understand why I’m so afraid.  My head is constantly making these micro-comparisons with other people and it’s driving me off the deep end.  I don’t want to be the one amongst my friends who hasn’t read Harry Potter.  I don’t want to be that one person amongst all my smart friends that isn’t in BC calculus as a Junior.  I feel like I’ve always been hiding this secret that I’m not actually smart at all.  That if I didn’t work as hard as I do, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.

All of these concerns though, and all of these micro-comparisons and obsessive thoughts stem from our metric of intelligence.  Intelligence isn’t rank or a score.  It’s perspective and understanding and thought.  It’s seeing that sitting with my sister before she leaves again for UT on Sunday matters more than finding my report card.  It’s reaching out to people when they need me.  It’s listening to people even when I disagree.  That’s smarts.  Social skills, and the ability to have perspective and awareness is smarts.  So thank you dad for unwittingly throwing my report card from last year away.  I couldn’t be happier you did.

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9 thoughts on “Read

  1. I have yet to identify the mystic, driving force behind our number-craving attitude. Why we must be ranked based on how many dumb errors we made on some test, and how dumber (or, the often and more painful case, smarter) the class as a whole is compared to me. Are you a compulsive grade checker? I know I check mine four to five times a day, only to find out that none of my teachers entered in any grades in the past half hour or that I did rotten on a quiz that I thought I did well. (I took a break right here as I wrote this to check my grades.) But why? It’s a guilty pleasure, I bet, grade checking. We must look for discrete signs of our success so that we may accept the latter has having happened. A subjective dialogue we have with somebody, even if it is a deep one, is not as effective, as a number ten points higher than another. Sometimes I wish the grade website thing would tell me things like the standard deviation, or just a list of names and sources so I can engage in the even guiltier pleasure of judging. Later, when I get a B for a six weeks in English, I judge myself and call myself not smart enough to know how to do a timed writing or a test or quiz of some sort. But, evidently, all evidence pointing to the same conclusion, that intelligence is something else, prevail! We haven’t named it yet. What is this called?

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    1. I don’t know, frankly. But in my view, intelligence is combining experiences and reacting to the world around us. If intelligence is solely measured by a human-construct such as numerical grades, I don’t think it can really be inherent. I think it has more to do with resilience and perspective and the apt ability to survive in a world such as our own.

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  3. Marley, I loved your post. It is very thoughtful and reveals personal things I would have kept in the dark.
    I tackled your question early on. I had gone to an advanced (something or other, I don’t know the correct term for it) preschool in Bryan. I don’t have memories of the place except for a meager amount of photos from that time. However, one of the few things I am able to remember is that I enjoyed going there; my teacher was great, and because of the structure and size of the classes, I was learning alongside 1st and 2nd graders. By the time I left that school to attend Rock Prairie Elementary, I was learning 2nd grade math.
    While I feel positively in general about the move, I sometimes regret and wonder where I would be today in my studies if I had stayed. The reason I am glad we moved, without going into my strong opinions about the situation, is because I was staying with my mother at the time in a sparse apartment, that had a daily cockroach infestation issue, because of a family issue going on at the time.
    When I attended Rock Prairie 1st and 2nd grade, I was more bored at math classes than I currently am now. However, I somehow came to the conclusion that my situation wasn’t that bad, that as long as I enjoyed it, I didn’t care how tedious it seemed.
    That brings me to current times, where I managed to pull out a 4.4 and be 17th in our class last semester. However, as my peers around me in Goodwyn’s advocate frantically sought out to find where each other was in their class rank. In reality, I could have cared less. I knew I had found a way to work the system with fairly little effort. I forgot homework (or neglected to even finish it) more times than I can remember, but it didn’t change much in reality.
    Despite this, is really possible to claim that grades are a measure of intelligence? For example, one of my friends is incredibly smart, but doesn’t test well and so doesn’t have the greatest grades. And we’re all different, are better at certain things. Not a single one of us is better than another, it’s what we do with our talents and shortcomings that makes a person great.
    Just keep getting better and enjoy the ride Marley, that’s all that matters.

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  5. There’s a huge, HUGE difference between being intelligent and being “good at getting grades.” If it’s any consolation, I graduated 63rd out of a class of 172 seniors. I missed the top 1/3 of my class by several places, and I like to think I’ve turned out okay. As you approach the end of high school, the mountain of numbers that seem terribly important will only grow, I’m afraid. Don’t forget to breathe and realize that there are an enormous number of things about you–and about each student–that are far more important than GPAs, ranks, and PSAT scores. Learning to think is more important than getting grades, and you’re doing that first thing well.

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    1. Woah, thanks for the reply Lindner. An epiphany kind of hit me on Friday and I felt the need to share. This whole year so far I’ve felt this strange tension that I need to be constantly raising my standards. I think I’ve let the ‘junior year is the most important year of your entire LIFE’ comments get the best of me. Learning to think is definitely more important than grades, and I hope I can continue to distinguish the two.

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  6. I really wish I had read this earlier and I regret that it took me till now to read it. I know exactly what you mean, because I’ve been thinking it too. When I was in elementary school and they handed out report cards, I didn’t know there was a number. All I looked at was seeing if I got a S for satisfactory. Now, whenever the teacher hands out report cards, I stare at the back of it for a while, trying to prepare myself for whatever grades I made, dreading to see anything that doesn’t meet my expectation. I also feel the same about feeling like I’m the only not smart person in the group of all my smart friends who make better grades than me. I constantly find myself thinking “Am I at all smart? I mainly make B’s with A’s in the super easy classes.” But then I have to remind myself, true, I am making a B in one of my classes, but it is a hard class. And if I can make a mid B in a hard class and I am giving it all my effort, that should be good enough.

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