Monday, 31 January 2011

High School English Lesson Plans

Dropping Out of High School (The Smart Way) - And Succeeding in College
I dropped out of high school.
There I said it. Even a lot of my closest friends don't know that about me. Most likely because I come off as an intelligent and educated person, which I am. But when you hear those badly stereotyped words "high school dropout" what do you think of? Losers, stoners, and minimum wage job workers? A lot of people that end up dropping out of high school DO end up this way but for the most part they were already that way before they started.
What I am here to talk about is how I dropped out of high school the SMART WAY. I went on to get my Associates degree within two years and another one during my time in the Air Force.
I still haven't finished my Bachelor's but that's only because I didn't play the game as intelligently as I would have liked and was held up by a few roadblocks along the way(some family, some monetary, and some that were of my own imagination). Nonetheless, if you are even a reasonably intelligent person, you can learn from my mistakes and realize this is an option for you. Especially if you have supportive parents like I had.
It all began when I realized I was just drifting through high school aimlessly. I was staying up late at night(much like I still do now), barely covering my homework, falling asleep in class and just basically half-assing it. I was an intelligent kid; I had been in academically gifted and college prep courses all my life and my family usually put me in some kind of summer activity or course here and there to stimulate me through the years. I guess I had just become disillusioned with high school and started feeling a bit distracted by this or that for whatever particular reason.
My father had dropped out of high school when he was around my age. He went on to do the same thing I was destined to do, which is one of the reasons I decided to go through with it. He dropped out, got his GED, got an Associate's from the local community college, then went on to transfer to a four-year school. He had done it, encouraged me to do it, and gave me his blessing and experience to guide me through it. He had wanted me to do it from the time I was 14 but it wasn't legally possible at that time so I always kind of kept it on the backburner of my mind for the next couple of years.
I got to the start of my junior year in high school, and one day while I was sleeping in Biology class and was forced to wake up I seriously started to consider dropping out and just jumping to college. The next morning, after my mom was trying to make me wake up for school and I didn't want to after another late night television binge I rolled over and said "I'm quitting school, getting my GED, and going to college." She didn't want me to but my father instantly came in the room and said "Then do it NOW. Don't procrastinate." So that was all the motivation I needed.
I went to school with him and started the process of dropping out. My guidance counselor told me to sleep on it, but my dad then came in with me and said this is what I WANTED to do. So she signed the paper and I went around to all my teachers, got signed out, and I was DONE.
The GED was a joke to me. I was in a state-provided preparatory facility at the local public library. I finished all the top level exams and essays in 2 days time and was deemed ready for testing. I felt a bit bad because there were a lot of older people there while I was zooming through the requirements, who were struggling with basic math and English booklets. It made me feel blessed to have my intelligence and youth because it truly does get harder with age if you don't put yourself into it. But luckily I was on the good end of that equation.
I aced the GED no problem. I took all the exams at the community college I would be attending over the course of a day. Once my scores came back I began to talk trash to my dad. I scored 20 points higher on the test than both he and my mom did(they ironically had the same score).
I then took the entrance test to community college and started working with the advisors and financial aid office to smoothly transition into college life at the tender age of 16. Most of the people I went to school with were understandably much older than myself but I did alright. I did make some mistakes here and there but I also had some successes and I feel like I got a headstart in life experience over my peers. That was 1998. I graduated two years later in the summer of 2000 with an Associate's. I was hoping to transfer to a 4-year college but I had unwisely decided to get married and have a daughter at that time. Family duty called so I joined the Air Force to support my daughter. The degree did help boost my rank and money in the military immediately though so it was definitely a benefit.
Some of the insights and lessons I got from this experience are as follows:
1. Don't drop out unless you are really prepared to go all the way with it and realize the drawbacks. I do have some regrets. I never went to a prom. I never experienced that senior year of high school superiority. I didn't have anybody I could really relate to in college. I had friends, but my college friends couldn't really relate to me because I was younger and my high school friends had a harder time relating to me because I was in college and much more responsible than they were. This lead me to definitely feel a sort of loneliness at times but as they say it's lonely at the top.
2. Also realize the benefits. I wasn't in Advanced Placement classes in high school. I wasn't getting any college credit for the classes I was taking. But I knew I was intelligent enough and prepared for college. I decided I would be far better off to go ahead and "skip" my final two years of high school to get into college immediately and start earning credits. I also knew I would save myself and my parents a great deal more money by going to the local community college(which I probably would have done anyway even if I had stayed in high school) instead of going to a 4-year institution right out of high school.
3. You will probably be better off than your friends. I remember the day I was dropping out, one of my best friends tried to talk me out of it, even though he knew I had a plan. 11 years later, I have 2 Associate's degrees, am on my way to a Bachelor's and he hasn't even gotten his GED. After I quit and went to college, he floundered around 2 high schools, never completed his diploma and has half-assed it this entire time. Don't be a half-ass.
4. Once you are in college, act like an adult. I had a situation my first semester where a history professor had an awful policy that tardies counted as absences. I came into his class tardy quite a few times and it knocked what would have been a B to a D in that class. This was unacceptable to me as I couldn't transfer the credit for the class. I was inexperienced in dealing with people and had trouble getting up the stomach to approach him about changing it. My dad called for me and also was willing to meet with the professor's supervisor. Neither the professor or his supervisor would change the grade but told me that I should be dealing with it myself whether I was 16 or not. Lesson learned. After again trying to go back to the professor on my own, he denied me yet again but seemed to have more respect for me. I then appealed one level further and took it to the vice president of the college who changed my grade to a C. I could live with a C because it was transferrable credit. Being young and in college is a perfect time to learn to deal with uncomfortable situations as an adult.
4. Learn how to keep good documentation. The situation mentioned above turned out well enough for me but it possibly might not have. The vice president's memo on my grade change didn't get immediately put into action and I didn't realize it until my last semester of college. I didn't have a copy of his memo and the admin office had to really dig to find it and they very easily could have NOT found it. This taught me the importance of keeping copies of EVERY important document. Set up a decent office with a good filing cabinet and file all your important documents. It could mean the difference between a C and a D!
5. Do your work at all costs, even if its bad. My dad taught me this lesson among many others. Many times if I was slacking off and hadn't gotten my work done he would tell me this about big assignments. "Just do it. It's better to turn in something than NOTHING. A 60 is better than a ZERO." He was absolutely right. I found out that in some circumstances, teachers didn't even GRADE all the assignments and you got credit just for turning the assignment in. This alone got me an A+ in an online computer class and helped me make Dean's list for that semester.
6. Take great notes. Especially for classes like history. My notes in all my history classes after that bad first semester got me A+ grades in all of them. It also helped for those review sessions before the big final exams in many classes like biology and math. This may be common knowledge but its worth repeating: most teachers design their own tests around THEIR teaching and not all from the text books. Put effort into taking copious and detailed notes.
7. Try as diligently as possible to get GREAT teachers. Talk with your fellow students and peers and find out who the good teachers are for each subject and what their styles and strengths are. If you find a good teacher , use them again for another class in the future if possible.
8. For papers or assignments, finish early and talk to your instructor about reviewing and editing it for you. This will take a B paper to an A. The instructor will simply carve out the parts of the paper he/she doesn't like and also tell you the areas where they feel you need more. Get your rough drafts and final drafts completed early and then ask them to edit it for you. I really don't know any instructors who wouldn't do this gladly if asked. Use any writing improvement facilities available. One more tip: always use one more reference than required. This lets the instructor know you're going the extra mile.
9. Be careful of taking too many courses at one time. I've read Steve Pavlina's blog and he really advocates taking a lot of courses at once to finish college quickly. I completely agree but you have to KNOW and be CONFIDENT you are ready for this. I pretty much bombed an entire summer session because I was taking too many classes and not putting the full effort into any of them. If you do insist on taking more than the traditional "full" schedule, make sure your maturity, consistency, and dedication are in check and devise a system to get your studies done and STICK TO IT.
10. Be careful about the company you keep and keep your emotions in check. As I said earlier, I was a bit divided between my friends because of my choice to go to college. Attempt to surround yourself with positive, motivated people. If I had more friends like myself I may have done even better in college and maybe even completed a doctorate by now. I was hanging out with a crowd that was destined to be less successful and therefore it sapped my motivation to be all I could be. I also started dating the wrong girl, got her pregnant, and got married at a much younger age than I should have(if I ever should have!) Focus on your studies first and make sure your emotions are not knocking your life out of balance.
Well there you have it. I don't regret dropping out because it has led me to where I am now and I've had a pretty awesome life with experiences that many of my friends can't even dream of. If I could go back in time would I do it again? Maybe, maybe not but the lessons that I learned have been invaluable to me up to this point. I basically fast-tracked my career, education, maturity, and life overall by doing what I did and I know if my daughters someday are in the position that I was in I could guide them. Options are power and while not always the most desirable route, this is just one more option.


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