Friday, October 01, 2010
The old permanent record
Remember the worst threat, the equivalent of thermo-nuclear mutually assured destruction, that teachers would pull on their students years ago?
"It will go on your permanent record!" I remember hearing more than one of my teachers shriek at a particularly recalcitrant student -- usually a strapping boy who'd been held back a time or two.
Funny how we never got to see that all-powerful folder. It was tucked away in a file cabinet, but the threat of even the smallest single dark blot upon it was enough to keep me in line. The one time I did see a tiny bit of it was more than enough to make me never want to see any more of it.
I don't know why it was out where I could see it. I don't know why I was left alone with it. All the same, I didn't see much -- just the edge of a standardized test report that purported to diagnose my IQ. I can't remember how old I was or what grade, but I do remember the cold feeling of shame that lodged in my gut when I saw that my IQ was only 108.
Now, of course, I know that my bona fide learning disability of dyscalculia probably kept teachers from getting an accurate picture of my IQ -- and that IQs are notoriously hard to quantify anyway. But for years I was ashamed of how my permanent record had proof that I was just average.
Even if the IQ test was spot-on, and I am only of average intelligence, so what? I've done okay with the little gray cells that the Lord blessed me with. I've used what I've got to my best advantage.
Of course, that's wisdom gleaned from four decades on this planet. I have to wonder, though, how much I bought into that quick peek into my permanent record, and how I allowed it to limit my choices. Did I turn down the opportunity to go into pre-med because somewhere in the back of my mind was the niggling fear that I was "just average" and "just average" wasn't good enough to cut medical school?
It occurs to me that perhaps there were other things -- whether it was from teachers or parents or grown-ups or my friends -- that were written on my mind's version of my permanent record in indelible ink. Were they true? Surely some of them, but not all. Could I have overcome them? Most likely. Few flaws are fatal.
What about you? What are some beliefs that you bought into that you've come to realize weren't quite true? How did you come to the realization? How long did you take to stop believing the bad stuff and how did you purge it from your permanent record?