When I found out last Thursday, I was pissed. Then, I settled down and my pissed off-ness turned to devastation. I was so sad for this girl… 18 years old with her whole life ahead of her. Before you begin the journey into adulthood, it’s best to be armed with a high school diploma. I don’t care what you have or don’t have, but there’s nothing more important than that piece of paper. Sure you can get a GED, but in my mind, it shows that you quit something, sometime during the 12 year process and took a test instead.
There were several ways I could have handled the news. My initial reaction was to call her up and yell at her. I wanted to tell her what an important thing she screwed up. She spent twelve years working towards something and fucked it up. I could ignore it and pretend I knew nothing about the situation and let someone else try to help her out. After all, I am not her mother. Or I could do my best for this kid and see what we could do to fix this mess.
My dad told EN about it on Saturday, so I called them when I got home, knowing that they knew. I pretended like I had just heard myself. I asked what the story was and I was told that the school and the guidance counselor screwed up and she didn’t have enough credits to graduate. Knowing that she had been enrolled in a night school class because she was short credits, I said that I thought she probably failed something. As is usually the case, I was told that I was wrong. My sister told them the counselor screwed everything up, so it must be true.
After speaking with my parents, I texted my niece. I asked her how she was doing and if she needed help. “Help with what,” says she. I told her I had heard she wouldn’t be graduating and wondered what needed to be done to make that happen. That offer opened the floodgates and she texted right back, “It wouldn’t be an issue if that douchebag Psychology teacher would just give me two points so I would pass.” Interesting. So I asked her, “Did you earn those two points?” She finally settled down and told me that she was a ½ credit short and would need to go to summer school. I then offered to pay for school, but she would have to live with me while she was taking class. Call it “protecting my investment,” if you will. If I’m dishing out money to help her, you better believe she’s going to be near enough to me so that I can ride her ass constantly.
I texted my sister at that point, to tell her my idea. She responded that she was going to try to get a meeting with the teacher and get the principal involved. I was dying to ask why nothing had been done yet. It’s now Saturday, they got this news Thursday, where’s the holdup? Then she told me the same thing she had told my parents: the counselor messed up. Our conversation was going nowhere good so we just stopped communicating.
On Sunday, I asked my niece for the name of her guidance counselor and told her I’d try to get us in there Monday morning to talk with her. I decided to email instead, and got an answer nearly right away. I was informed that because my niece was now 18, she could designate anyone to see her school records. A few emails back and forth and we had an appointment for 11 am. I asked the counselor to have academic and attendance records available for me to look at.
So, it was weird going back to my old high school. It looks almost nothing like it used to but it still smelled the same and felt the same. I got there early enough to stop in and see an old teacher. I was amused to see that he’s still the same guy I remember: same gestures, same laugh.
We met with the counselor and found out that my niece had been accepted into the night school graduation. This thrilled my niece because it meant no summer school. It is a diploma, but it is not from a high school. I asked her if that’s what she absolutely wanted to do and she said yes. Then the counselor slid the information I requested towards me. While I was looking over her transcript, my niece started to argue the F she got in Military History, saying that she had done “all the work, well except some.” The counselor said, “You need to go to class to pass.” She started to argue that she had been and the counselor took back one of the attendance printouts and said, “You missed 23 days in that class since the beginning of February.” More arguing from my niece, etc. Apparently it’s common knowledge that schools, counselors and teachers LIE about who’s in class!
The information in the documents was astounding: 20 absences and 60 tardies this school year alone. Let’s do some math, shall we? That means that over 40% of the time, she was either late or not there at all. Her academic transcript was even more interesting. Her GPA is a stellar 1.52 and her class ranking is 437 out of 500 or so. She had four years to earn 27 credits, but in grades 9 and 10 she didn’t even earn six credits each year. There are 31 final grades listed, seven of those are Fs, 11 are Ds. To be fair, I should mention that there is one A and 4 Bs.
So yes, I do believe my sister’s assessment is correct: the school obviously fucked up here (sarcasm font!). It’s apparent that she worked hard throughout her entire high school career. What exactly it was that she was working on is beyond me.
I’m not sure who I’m more upset with: the kid who never tried or the mother that saw this problem looming for four years and did absolutely nothing about it. I also struggle with nature vs. nurture in this situation: should an 18-year-old know better, know to go to class and be on time each day? Should they know that without being taught? Or do they simply repeat the same behaviors they see, and the behaviors they’ve used in the past with no consequences?
I am still tremendously sad.