The wisdom of 15 years old.
My son, Ben: “Mum, I’m ready for school to be over. Learning shouldn’t be so hard.
I’m so tired of teacher X. I’m tired of battling student bias. I absolutely hate that class. She belittles me for asking so many questions then turns around answering everyone’s but mine.
All I want is a better explanation. I’m listening but she mumbles while rushing through problems. She said, I’m lazy and I have no focus.
I’m rethinking being a doctor because of teacher X.”
ME: “Ben, there will many “teacher X’s” in life. You’ll encounter people like “teacher X” as neighbors, in church or through employment. These people are checking boxes in life until the next thing to do. Sometimes, they perceive others as in their way and they react negatively. Sometimes, people have no excuse for being less than encouraging and motivating. The fault is in themselves, tearing people down is usually a sign of poor self-esteem or plain meanness on their part.
You’ll need to learn how to manage yourself in the presence of people like “Teacher X”.
Don’t allow those kinds of personalities to change your goals and derail your dreams. Find a way to persevere, so you’ll move through your time with them, with as little frustrations possible. Figure out what you need to do to succeed in this class, while keeping your head down, out of target range.”
BEN: “So, disarm her?”
ME: ” Figuratively speaking, yes. Retreat, assess your plan, pick your battles to achieve the goal.”
BEN: “Be the doctor, find the cure?”
Hmmmmm, “So, what you’re really saying is later, when I’m a doctor, I can choose to be an out of network doctor and not accept teacher x’s insurance or charge them a fortune because their taking up my time and knowledge? I could be spitefully biased too or are you saying, I could succeed despite them.”
ME: “Yes, to the first, No, to the middle part and YES! to the very last part. No spite, Ben, succeed in spite of their negativity…don’t plan a grudge.”
Singing, “Let it go, let it go, let go, go gooooo!”
BEN: “Really?! Ugh, stop already.” Sigh. “It was simpler in grade school. These life lessons take the fun out of a being a kid.”. Making faces while rolling his eyes. ” Yeah, I know, I know, welcome to your world.”
At the time of this conversation, two years ago, my son was 15, he was figuring out where to go and how to get there. He was holding 14th place in GPA ranking out of 321 students in his class. He had the smarts and was learning the people skills to navigate the high school pressures.
March 2016 Update: The 17 year old senior.
Since two years ago, those setbacks did not alter his course, he has not lost his focus or concentration at all. Currently, he is a senior, holding 10th ranking out of 286, with a weighted GPA over 4.12, proving his focus and willful determination to succeed.
In his junior year planning conference, he opted to load his final senior year with 4 Advanced Placement courses. He would have scheduled more if, he hadn’t doubled up in previous years, whittling down his remaining choices. He was looking forward to stack the college resume in his favor to earn scholarships.
He strives to do his personal best, it’s that competitive nature he sports.
Just like he’s always looking to improve his swim times, latest Cross Fit lift records, GPA ranking….never bragging but proud to prove himself better than his last effort.
He is constantly moving, seeking and changing.
Focus and determined. He’s charted lists, plotted and measured his must do’s to achieve his goals. He got up early at predawn mornings, to attend his Cross Fit gym before volunteering a few weeks here and there at a local non profit. He’s a strategic planner. He doesn’t sit idle at any point, because there’s always an opportunity to do something, make money, become stronger mind and body, be a better student.
My son has climbed through the rigors of Advanced placement courses meeting or exceeding teacher expectations, finding mentors to guide his way. This kid doesn’t have quit in his mind, anywhere.
This boy took the ACT test, a total of 5 times.
After accessing each result, he was determined to advance the score, register ing yet again! After devoting 2 weeks, this previous Summer in ACT academy workshops, his score remained stagnant after his 4th attempt. The 5th AND final time met his satisfaction allowing him to move on.
When my son’s college acceptance letter came earlier this year, in October, unlike some kids who breathe a little easier once the acceptance letter arrives, not him. Ben hasn’t changed his academic ethic because college scholarships were assured based on his previous years academic history and ACT scores.
Nope. He isn’t coasting through this senior year, secure in the knowledge he achieved verified early college admission and scholarships. He’s still navigating these final few months, diligently studying for those AP classes. All while juggling his volunteer hours for National Honor society, serving church and his youth group, alongside completing in his final season as a lettering 4th year swim athlete.
Because, as he tells me: “What else am I going to do?”
He’s banking good habits towards a solid future.
As for “Teachers X, Y and Z”, many parents tell me, they are still instructing classes with their perceptions of students eschewed by gender, sport or popularity. Sadly, it happens everywhere, to someone at one point or another in their lives…. Blatant unfairness. And yet, looking backwards, my son has managed to succeed despite their perceptions and treatments.
It was 50/50. Him and Us.
Partly, because we imparted the tools and freedom to puzzle through it himself. He was confident in the knowledge, we were on the peripheral to guide him. Secure in himself to withstand failures as he worked though frustrations and obstacles.
Ben was determined to focus on the big picture, keeping sight of his long range goals. Waving obstacles is tantamount to daring him in a competition, no one will determine his course but him. Whether this determination was innately there or cultivated, he uses this strength to confront obstacles instead of allowing them to whittle away at his self esteem. He knows, it’s ok, to fail, as long as he put forth his best to change the outcome.
Those painful observations at 15 years old, served him well. He persevered, learning lessons about human nature which will pay him dividends in the future. Life doesn’t come with a parachute. Sometimes, you need to save yourself in order to land safely, brushing yourself off to begin again, secure in knowing you can lead yourself forward in times of struggle.
He discovered himself and what a wonderful find, he is.
-Joanne Roth Marino, Ben’s Mom.