Fear of Failure

This is the first time that I’m doing this particular meme, called the Hump Day Hmm. Just a note that this is a very, very long post (nearly 1,700 words according to Word).

The topic set out this week is this – Have you kept a secret or have you lied, directly or by omission, about something big? How did you make your decision—did it bring about justice? How did forgiveness fit in (or not)? Would you do it the same next time?

I think the biggest thing that I have ever lied about is failing in school; it’s something that I’m not particularly proud of, but at the time, I didn’t want to be embarrassed about it. Generally, one of the first things that you’ll hear from someone who knows me really well is that I am a very intelligent person. This is something that has stuck to me for almost all of my life, considering that I started reading when I was something like three or four years old; before I started school. In fact, one thing that I remember about my early days in school was being able to count to what I thought in kindergarten to be a large number – seventy or so.

Also, I was determined by the school to be so advanced for kindergarten that they moved me up to the first grade. For a while, I was there for a couple of hours, and then when they had their lunch, I would go down to my afternoon kindergarten, but then with about six weeks left in the year, I was moved there on a permanent basis. (Side note: As I’m writing this, I’m seeing mental pictures of my classrooms in my head; it’s kinda freaky).

So, anyway, I went through first, second and third grades with no real issues, but then when I hit fourth grade, I had some issues with my reading homework; I don’t really remember much about it. The only thing that I remember was that if I didn’t have my work done, I wanted to stay home. Not necessarily to get it home, but just to avoid being there to not turn it in (I never actually had homework until part of the way through third grade; nowadays I hear stories about kindergarteners getting work to take home and it makes me cringe). Ironically, one of the incidents that I remember was asking to stay home for the first inauguration of President Clinton; I think the reason that I wanted to stay home is that I wanted to watch it – nothing more. So, as the year went on, my grade in reading went down; it might have ahit a failing grade, but I think I managed to spare myself through some extra credit. I don’t remember it as well as the next time I wound up having trouble in school.

A couple of years pass by, and I’m now in the 8th grade. It’s a new school building (which looks remarkably like a jail, just with casement windows and without bars on them), and new teachers. Also, add in middle school kids who aren’t the kindest ones around; they always picked on me for being overweight and not totally fitting into the rest of the class. At some point along the track, I started to just not care. Homework would go unfinished and not turned in; projects would go on the wayside for no good reason; and things just kind of fell apart. At home, I tried to put on the faΓ§ade of everything going well. However, the progress reports (on which I would try to hide the grades on and only show the line where it was to be signed) and the report cards (which I actually would make sure that I got home first to intercept so that my mom didn’t see) showed the truth. I was failing Reading. Again.

Not only that, the grades in my other classes (except for math, science, and band) weren’t that spectacular. I probably still have the letter from my brother where he takes me to task for failing reading, basically saying that it was ridiculous and that I need to fix it. In all honesty, I should have been able to fix it, and I did make an effort to do it, but not enough of one. I still remember at the end of the year, I was thinking that I had managed to get the grades sorted out enough that I could be part of the graduation ceremonies and go on the class field trip to the local amusement park. I even turned in a check for the trip, but then I got asked to come to the front of the class to pick up the check as I hadn’t fixed my grades. I also was not eligible for the graduation because of the situation I put myself in.

However, and I consider myself fortunate for this, the solution to the problem was to attend summer school. I only had to fill in my reading curriculum for the year, and the task that I had was to read some books (which they held for me; all I needed to bring was a notebook, pen, and myself), and write short book reports on them. And I did just that, and wound up being able to leave summer school within two weeks or so; a much shorter time than just about everyone else there for remedial 8th grade studies.

You would think that after this experience I would have learnt my lesson and made sure that if I needed help to swallow my pride and ask for it. Well, that didn’t happen when I got into college. In all honesty, I probably should have delayed going for a year, as I don’t think that I did want to go; I only ever applied for one school, and that was at the very end of the application period. I didn’t apply for any scholarships, which if I would have, I probably could have wound up with a free ride to any school I wanted, but that’s all in the past now, and quite honestly, I am glad that I got out of there because it wasn’t working out for me.

The first semester I was there went fairly well; I managed to get As and Bs (though I think that there might have been a C in there, from my physics class). Second semester started off pretty good, but it didn’t last. About three weeks into the term, I had to go back home because my mom was going to have heart surgery. Sure, I got all the work that I had to do, but really my mind was elsewhere. The worst part of all was that I knew I had to get back up to school and keep going with my education. I really didn’t want to; I would have been quite happy if I could have stayed home to make sure everything was OK. One memory that sticks quite strongly in my mind is when I was heading back up there on the train, I started to compose an email to a teacher who was and still is a friend of mine and while doing it I literally broke down in my seat. It was really a case of the emotion just getting to me, and just trying to let it go.

After I got back up there, the same thing happened then as happened in 8th grade – I got to a point where I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t understand what was going on with my classes; I started to feel swamped by the work, and just kind of gave up. I never really looked at the report card for that semester, but all I know is that I wound up on academic probation for the next semester; I believe that I actually wound up failing every one of my classes for the semester. At home, I just kept the usual “everything’s fine” act up. The third semester went slightly better; I was in a slightly different situation where I had started out sharing a dorm, but soon my roommate moved to a different room, leaving me to be by myself. I got to the end of the semester and I made the decision that I had had enough. It was time to get out of there, but I didn’t know how to say it when I got home for the Christmas/New Year break.

When I finally decided to say something, it was about a week before I had to go back, and I just said that I didn’t want to go back, mainly because (and I’m not sure if I actually mentioned this) I had failed classes again in the last semester and since I was on probation already, they wouldn’t have allowed me to take any more classes. It really didn’t go over too well, but it would have been much worse if we would have gotten all the way there, dropped me and my stuff off and then had to call and say that I wasn’t allowed to stay in school because I had failed classes last semester, and the one before that, causing me to be on suspension.

I think that if I were to be in the same position, I’d be more likely to say something about it, but there is the very high likelihood that I would try to hide it because I don’t like admitting that I have failed, but it’s a part of life and it’s something that I’ve come to accept, especially when I realize how many successes I’ve actually had so far, along with the fact that I am very intelligent; it’s just that I don’t have the type of intelligence that was being looked for in the classes that I failed in.

By the way, in my third semester, I did manage to actually get an A in one of my classes – a basic geology course which was a very fun course where I had a Monday-night lab with mostly part-time students.

5 thoughts on “Fear of Failure

  1. Failure is a part of life. In school in relationships in work. School comes and goes so does college, and grad school. Good grades come naturally for some others like me had to work really hard for them. It’s ok to fail once and a while, you pick your self up and move on.

  2. What was wrong with your teachers? I would have been on the phone with your parents weekly to make sure they knew what was going on. You would have hated me, but they would have known.

    Kids need adults to help them learn responsibility. Your teachers failed you, not the other way around.

  3. Oh boy.

    Failing school isn’t (a) your failure from the sounds of this story and (b) is not related to intelligence.

    My older exbrother is IQ level genius off the charts and yet he quit school and lived in a garage off the radar for a while.

    Either end of the spectrum—and I’m sure you are on the smart end there—is hard for this culture because we work to the middle.

    I’m not saying I don’t understand how you feel; I do, totally.

    But seriously? In most cases, and yours is part of this, I think the failure was the shcools and the teachers and the adults around you.

    Anyway clearly you didn’t give oup on learnign or education. I’ve read your blog. πŸ™‚

  4. Anonymous – I have moved on from the failures; they’re a part of my history, and if I wouldn’t have moved on, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

    Snos – I think I know what you’re talking about there, but I’m not 100% sure.. πŸ˜‰

    Emily – I don’t think that there was anything necessarily wrong with my teachers; I think that calling parents about their kids wasn’t part of their way of thought, and this was just 10 years ago or so. Also, we had report cards and/or progress reports going home every three weeks, along with the occasional (and mostly optional) parent-teacher conference. I do agree though that kids do need to be taught responsibility, and the parents definitely need to be the catalyst for it.

    Julie – You’re right that it’s not about intelligence – it’s about how well you learn the material that is presented to you. It also, I would suspect, has to do with how the curriculum is presented. Just as an example from college, the physics courses I took were taught by a Chinese immigrant who had a very thick accent and was very difficult to understand; most of the TAs also had thick accents, so that made the material difficult to understand and the book really didn’t help matters either, if I remember correctly. And, no, I definitely have not given up on learning; thank you for the kind words πŸ™‚ .

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