in 11th grade, high school students reported for college or career planning with the school’s guidance counselor.
it was my turn. my first visit to this office ever. my school hijinks, fortunately, never got to disciplinary level.
the meeting started. on his desk was my “cume” file. the formal term for it is “cumulative file.” the file contained contained grades, attendance, discipline, standardized assessment reports. the manila cardboard contraption of a file documented my existence at los angeles unified school district, from kindergarten onward. the session began. the counselor opened the file. an office clerk interrupted our meeting and the counselor left the room. peaked with curiosity of this mysterious file, i stood up from my chair and looked down into the contents. i cautiously stayed on my side of the desk and started to read the material upside down. most of it was pre-computer era and typewritten. something that caught my eye; it was iq test results. i made a mental note of the number.
as soon as i got home, i started to research the meaning of the number. it turns out that i had a genius iq.
growing up, my parents never told me about my iq. there, however, were indicia that i was different. in second grade, i was separated from the other kids and given third grade work. from third grade on, i was sent to the “gifted” classes. in jr. high school, i was placed in the honors classes. the same was in high school. “gifted” kids were segregated when it came to academic classes.
in my family life, there was some weirdness that keyed me in that something different about me. my sister’s strange comments that i was “special.” my mom telling me that i had a “good” brain and should use it.
occasionally, i would do something remarkable. i recall beating my uncle in chess when i was about 5 years of age. my parents, for some reason, never tried to cultivate a possible skill. they never placed my in a chess program and they never had me skip a grad. i kne i was different because people had difficulty understanding me. my thoughts ran faster than my speech.
religious school was perhaps my saving grace. these classes consisted of almost entirely all gifted students. within them, there were three who were recognized as being the “super smart” people. these were two brothers and a boy who skipped a grade to be with us were revered. we put on them on a pedestal. in these classes, it was refreshing was just another kid, nothing special.
to this day, i don’t know exactly why my parents did what they did. i had a gift that was never formally cultivated. my mom once commented that they wished for me to live a normal life.
for me, my intelligence made me undisciplined and disorganized. while things were organized in my mind, i had trouble organizing things in real life. for along time, i could get by in school without much work. i did what i needed to get into college and not much more at college, the lack of guidance or discipline did not fare well in the sciences. i redirected my academic goal and learned to discipline myself. there were signs of potential but they did not show on my final college gpa. i did good but not great.
with the acquired skill of discipline, i made my mark in law school. with good grades in first year, i drove myself to graduate in the top ten percent of my class. in doing so, i received the order of the coif. at times, i was the top of my class. i earned three american jurisprudence awards for having the highest grade in the class. these classes had over 100 students in them. the competition to be in the top ten percent was fun. everyone sort of knew who was competing. thus, it was fun to try to measure up with them in classes. i wanted to beat the smart people.
law school was satisfying as i combined intelligence with discipline and drive.
in sum, the intelligence is a mixed bag of tricks. it can trap people into bad habits. it is hard for me to grasp what my life would have been if my parents attempted to cultivate what my talent. with all of this said, i must say that self-discipline and organization, traits that are not exclusive to “geniuses,” should be encouraged for children to succeed in school and in life. in other words, you don’t have to be a “genius” to be great in the game of life.
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