I’m at a sweet 16 party when it comes up: Final grades are in. School’s been out for two weeks and I’ve celebrated the freedom in the typical fashion: going to bed late, waking up late, browsing the Internet until my eyes hurt and, of course, thinking of all the productive things I should be doing. My peers are all on their phones checking and subsequently sharing their grades. Watching them, I have this thought:
Who checks their final grades at a party? It’s like actively seeking to ruin the night on the chance that they aren’t good.
The aforementioned crap is one that I don’t give when it comes to grades.
Especially when said grades are in the tentative limbo of “are they good or are they bad?” I come from the “if it’s not right in front of my face then I can ignore it” school of dealing with problems. So I did what I do best and ignored it. I managed to avoid thinking about grades for the most part as my attention was drawn to how much I regretted going to this party.
When I got in the car that night I thought about telling my parents that grades had been sent out – y’know just rip off the band-aid. But then I remembered that band-aids are for the weak and it would be much more in character for me to allow the metaphorical wound to fester until the limb had to be amputated. Thus, it was forgotten until two days later around midnight when my mother actually decided to read her e-mails.
Generally speaking I’m a smart kid – acceptance into academic programs, private school scholarship smart – but effort doesn’t usually factor in to my academic work. I got so used to not having to put in much effort to succeed that when more effort was needed I didn’t know (still don’t really know) how to adjust my tactics accordingly.
Despite this I managed to come out of freshman year an honors student with a majority of A grades. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for sophomore year. To put it simply, in many of my classes I either didn’t like the teacher/method of teaching and/or the subject, and my behavioral economics dictated that I shouldn’t be working myself up over something that didn’t matter to me. And looking at my report card, it showed.
This isn’t to say that I did badly sophomore year. I got one A, and my lowest grade was a B with an academic distinction of credits. But comparing the grades from my two years of high school felt kind of crappy. Who likes looking at the tangible proof of their academic downward spiral, especially with the shadow of my all-A’s older brother hanging over me. The worst part was knowing exactly why I got the grades I got and that I deserved them.
Ironically, knowing the source of my academic shortcomings is what allows me to exude so much (false) bravado when talking about my grades with my peers – “I don’t really give a crap!” “Who cares?” “Oops.” Setting myself up for disappointment is always the go-to plan rather than trying harder. I guess that seems safer than giving it my all and potentially failing. I’d rather pretend I don’t care than admit that maybe all the caring in the world couldn’t fix the problem.
Come September I’ll be entering hell year – junior year – the one that colleges really look at. I’ve heard it from myself and my parents: “No more messing around. This is the important year.”
I’m scared. I mean, I have no way of knowing that I won’t just fall into my old bad habits. But this is my pledge: I’m going to try. Study, do all my homework, be an active classroom participant. The latter being something that literally every teacher I have had since the age of 10 has pushed me to do. The difference this time? I’m promising to do it for myself (the point kind of gets lost otherwise).
The Sophomore Slump is over: If this is hell year, call me Lucifer.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.