May 20, 2008

The high school guidance counselor

Paula kvetches about her daughter's high school guidance counselor in this post. I put in my 2 cents in the comments, but I thought my own readers deserved to hear my own kvetching.

I actually liked high school, though I didn't like homework (but always did it, because I am unable to cram) and by the end of my junior year was terribly tired of the whole thing. (One of my reasons for moving back to California when I did was to get away with only two more years of school rather than three, which was what I was facing in Norway.) But in general, I liked high school. I liked my friends, I liked most of the teachers, I liked the school itself and its school colors (red and black) and our somewhat dorky name for our football team, the Dynamiters (guess what our mascot looked like). I never got the hang of American football. I went to one game, cheered for the wrong team, and decided that my talents lay elsewhere. One of my electives in my senior year had to do with office work, and I totally enjoyed that. That's my talent. Office work. And office work well done.

I didn't like my high school guidance counselor, though. There was very little guidance. I have never been able to tolerate people who do not do their jobs well (and conversely, I delight in watching people do excellent work), so I quickly gained zero respect for my counselor. I really can't stand it when the person who is supposed to give you advice, knows no more than the person seeking the advice (which bugged several of Paula's commenters, too). All of my decisions about where to next were made by conferring with everyone else but my counselor.

I met with my guidance counselor four times during the two years I attended Glendale High School. The first time was when we were trying to fit me and my foreign background into American curriculum. It was assumed that with my European education I was automatically smarter than American kids. Yeah, right. Because I was American, I was smarter than a lot of the kids in Norwegian school. Exposure to more than one way of thinking/one kind of culture will do that, but that doesn't mean one has the right academic background for an American trigonometry class. This led to my second meeting with my guidance counselor.

One day, after 6 weeks in my trig class, I suddenly realized that I understood not a single thing on the chalkboard and that was when I asked my counselor to transfer me to plain ol' algebra. There I got one of the best teachers ever, Mr. Morrison. Young but brilliant. I got A's in his classes. Some of my best memories from high school are actually from Mr. Morrison's summer class in geometry.

For a while, I had a friend who was seriously bored with high school. Cathy didn't even bother to get good grades though she was smarter than me. She was talking about taking the California High School Proficiency Examination. Now, I'm a test junkie. I even took the Scientologists's free test complete with free evaluation. (They're full of shit, no matter what they tell you. Trust me on this.) So, I took the CHSPE. And managed to make both my mother and my guidance counselor panic. I didn't like upsetting my mother and she finally got that I was just curious, but I must admit that I got evil delight out of watching my guidance counselor squirm. Especially since I knew I wasn't going to quit high school. But taking the test was interesting - and had me questioning the competency of the state board of education. At no time does a high school teach you how to balance a check book, but that was on the test! A test like that should be mandatory. Lots of good questions about practical, real-life stuff, totally unrelated to the academic get-a-good-SAT-score-or-die focus of school. Anyway, I passed the proficiency exam (I wouldn't pass today's version, I'm sure), and went to summer school. You know, geometry with Mr. Morrison.

Finally, graduation day itself. Even back in 1978 there was a consensus that teenagers are thieving little brats you can't trust farther than a flea farts so we were told we'd receive an empty leather cover during the graduation ceremony; the diploma itself would be handed out upon returning our caps and gowns to our - guidance counselor. I was thrilled to graduate. I was in line with some good friends. We were all going to grad nite at Disneyland. And the person I least respected during my two years at high school was handing me the most important document in my life up to that point (besides my birth certificate) and I had to shake his hand. And he insisted on saying a few words. Puhleeze! But all was forgotten the moment we got on the bus for Anaheim.

I was skeptical of the counselors offered at my junior college but the one I got was wonderful! Kept me sane, he did.

3 comments:

~Tim said...

Handing out the cover rather than actual diplomas is usually more a matter of logistics than a matter of trust. Especially in very large schools it takes so long just to get everyone across the stage that the tiny delays of making sure each person gets exactly the right piece of paper add up to a pretty big chunk of time.

Miz UV said...

I lived in Glendale! Nice town.

I barely remember my GC. A woman. She had no advice re college apps at all. I went in to drop advanced chem and replace it with another English at the beginning of senior year, and she just did it, didn't care, didn't ask why. Looking back, it might have been nice if she'd gotten involved and prodded the chem teacher to help me so I wouldn't have had to drop. He was too busy coaching the track team to meet after school and explain something I was confused about. If not for that, I coulda been a doctor!

Well, maybe.

Grad night my dad took a bunch of us out for pizza, bought us drinks, and I threw up.

Miz 17 is doing something sensible -- the school has a trip to a secret location where the kids can have a fun safe supervised night. Costs a bunch, but at least you know they won't be drinking and driving.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Tim, we were told explicitly that avoiding theft of cap & gown was the reason for the extra diploma pick-up. 30 years ago, logistics may not have been the same.

Paula, I lived .6 miles away from the GHS, right off Garfield, which was the street one of the Hillside stranglers and two of their victims lived on. Nice time to be living in Glendale. ;-) I hope Miz 17 has a lovely graduation party!