Jonah pretty much had it made. He wasn’t the only boy in his grade at church, but he was certainly the one who was there most often. At Sunday school, youth group events, grade level get-togethers, and weekend retreats, it was Jonah and at least six girls his age. For a 14 year old boy—or really any fella—those odds were pretty good.
Then some of Jonah’s friends—male friends who (let’s face it) must have also been attracted to Jonah’s winsome personality—began attending our church too. And would you believe it? They all signed up for the spring beach retreat. So, in addition to the students from other grades, Jonah attended this retreat with eight ninth grade bathing beauties AND four other ninth grade boys.
On our way back home, I had a chance to touch base with the boy formerly known as the 9th Grade Casanova.
“So, Jonah,” I asked, “What do you think of all this competition you have now?”
Jonah leaned back, extended his arms lacing his fingers before flipping his wrists to pop his knuckles. Grinning, he responded, “There is no competition.”
According to the World Bank(http://go.worldbank.org/F5K8Y429G0, World Bank, accessed August 29, 2012), “Investment in girls’ education yields some of the highest returns of all development investments, yielding both private and social benefits that accrue to individuals, families, and society at large . . ."
Know what that says to me? It says something like, “Jesse Derrick Martin is one smart investor!” (Some people called him "JD," others "Jesse;" I just called him "Granddaddy.")JD was brilliant.
His teachers had high hopes for him, certain he would become a medical doctor: the pinnacle of academic success in his day. Years later, when technology advanced enough to make it possible, we grandchildren developed a favorite game. One of us operated the calculator; the other called out computations. The goal was to see if the calculator could arrive at the solution before Granddaddy did. It was no competition: Granddaddy (in his 70’s by then) always won.
But Granddaddy never did become a doctor. In fact, he did not even finish two years of college before he dropped out to go to work. “What a shame,” you say. “What a loss.”
Loss? No way. A legacy. What an incredible legacy. Here’s what happened.
JD, had a bunch of siblings. Among them, twin sisters, just ahead of him in school, and a sister two years younger. Money was short for the Martin family, as it was for most back then, and college education seemed an extravagance no one could afford. But my granddaddy thought differently.
“See,” he would explain decades after the fact, “I knew I could get work even without an education. Men find jobs a lot easier than women.” (Keen insight for that turn-of-the century Georgia boy.) “But the girls,” he’d shake his head, sighing; “The girls would have to have an education to support themselves.” (Please note he said an “education,” not a “husband.” Radical thought in his day. Radical.)
So Granddaddy went to work, freeing up family finances so his sisters could get their degrees. And as far as I know, Granddaddy never looked back. My great aunts all finished college. The twins, Elma and Wilma, both became teachers and taught from graduation to retirement. Elma taught elementary school; Wilma taught Latin and eventually got her Master’s degree. Their younger sister also became a teacher.
In the early 1920’s, JD Martin met Louise Cobb, they fell in love, and married. They had five children: three sons, two daughters. Just as with his sisters, Granddaddy was determined to see his daughters finish college. His oldest, Marie, graduated around 1950 with a degree in Home Economics; she later took up teaching. One of her daughters, my cousin Linda, achieved her bachelor’s and then her master’s in education and has served in the classroom over 30 years.
My mother graduated with her bachelor’s in 1960, my sister in 1985, and I in 1987. My sister and I both have graduate degrees. Like Aunt Wilma, my sister became a Latin teacher. She’s built a strong Latin program and is renown in her field. I’ve done lots of different things, the latest of which is teaching in a community college and serving as campus minister at a regional university.
Linda’s sister Kathi wasn’t able to attend college; but she had two boys and one of them has a daughter. That young lady, JD Martin’s great-great granddaughter, just started at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Mississippi. And my daughter, Trellace Marie, started at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Nearly 100 years ago, around the time women got the right to vote, my Granddaddy made a sacrifice, a sacrifice that would have appeared completely foolish to his contemporaries. He had crazy ideas, my Granddaddy. He believed that women were independent individuals, separate from their husbands. He believed women were capable of and deserving of higher education. And he believed the cost of that education—whatever it was—was worth it.
Of course, the women who have descended from JD Martin have been blessed with a host of other forbearers along with role models and mentors who valued learning. But Granddaddy’s sacrifice is certainly one of the gifts we girls have been given. See, because he paid that price, thousands of children have been educated in the classrooms of his sisters, daughter, and granddaughters. Because Granddaddy didn’t go to college, because he knew the education of women was worth the sacrifice, his daughters and theirs, his granddaughters and their granddaughters not only went to college, but inherited the legacy that Granddaddy left behind: education of women must be a priority, no matter what the cost.
"The good leave an inheritance to their children’s children . . ." Proverbs 13:22
August 11, 2012
I published a form of this article in a kids magazine back in 2006. In about 10 days, I start teaching at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (ABTech). I'll be teaching a class required for all first semester students on student success and study skills. Seemed like a good time to pull out this old article and post it. I've not updated it to include current technological aids, but I think you'll find these habits are timeless.
Disappointed in your grades? Want to be an A student? You can be. . .just fake it! All you have to do is find those academic superstars in your life and start imitating them. Here’s what you do: pay close attention to their class attendance; take note of how they take notes; and then study how they study. Once you have figured out how those A students act, just copy their behavior. Before long, your grades will look just like theirs!
One thing A students do is go to class--every time it meets. They treat class like a job. So do that. Be on time to class, pretending that you have to punch a time-clock. Be alert, ready to go to work. If you know you will have to miss a class, let the teacher know. Get your assignments. Act as if you care that you will not be there. If you do not know beforehand, just explain your absence to the teacher later. If possible, get a brief summary of the previous class and also find out how to make up any missed work. Then, of course, you should follow through and do the work. That’s what A students do.
C students often take lots and lots of notes, spending their whole class period with head down and pen to paper. Don’t do that. If you spend every second writing, you will miss the whole lecture. Most A students take notes sparingly. They have pre-defined abbreviations so that note-taking is more efficient. For instance, in a class on the Roman Empire, a good note-taker would just write a capital R for Rome or Roman, therefore writing less and listening more. After class is over, it’s a good idea to fill in any vague areas in your notes with details you might forget later. While you are doing that, quickly review all the day’s notes to solidify what you just learned. Take that a step further and breeze over them just before the next class begins. This way you have a fresh memory of the information from the previous class and can respond appropriately to the instructor’s questions. Not only does this make the upcoming information easier to digest, it also makes you look really smart.
A students study in many different ways. Some confine all study to an orderly desk. Others spread notes on the floor, prop up on an overstuffed pillow, and go to work. Whatever study environment suits your needs, that’s the environment you should create. It’s a good idea to post reminders in your study area so you will not forget what you are trying to fake. Make a sign for your study area that says, “A students enjoy studying!” Make a note in your car that reminds you, “A students make the most of every minute.” If you have a tendency to slouch in front of the TV like a solid D student, place a sign on it that suggests, “A students do not waste time.” (It’s not easy to be someone you have never been before; every little reminder helps.) Also, remember to allow sufficient time to study alone, even if you participate in study groups. Many A students benefit from group study; you might as well. But most A students prepare for group sessions in private and also do ample studying on their own.
One key aspect of studying is scheduling. At the start of your course, break down course requirements into daily study requirements. Stick to the plan whenever possible, but revise your schedule as the course progresses and as needs change. Sometimes classes need more time than you originally thought. Revise your plan if this is the case. And sometimes you will get behind. Again, readjust, refocus and get back on schedule. A students get off schedule all the time. The trick is, they make a new plan, they readjust, and then they get back to work.
Many times a study environment requires certain tools--things like computers, test tubes, calculators, books, notebooks and pens. But often, we find ourselves with time to study in places where these items are not within reach. When the tools that you normally use are not readily available, consider using mental rehearsal. This technique involves reviewing necessary information in your mind as if you were actually studying or practicing it. You can silently recite historical dates, mentally practice a music score or dance routine, or review mathematical or scientific equations, all without picking up a pen or lifting a finger. Mental rehearsal is convenient. It helps you make use of time that is often wasted. While you commute to class or wait in line, while you wait for your doctor's appointment or sit in line at the drive through window, wherever you are, you can use your best study tool--your brain.
One very irritating thing about A students is that they always do their class assignments, whether they get a grade or not. They practice formulas and do their reading assignments. So if you want to fake your way into straight A’s, this is crucial. No C student does assigned work just for the sake of doing it. So do those assignments, and do them in advance. A students usually have reading assignments complete before class discussion of that reading ever begins. They even bring questions to class about completed assignments that stumped them. And remember, A students do get stumped--all the time. They just ask questions, figure it out, and keep moving.
So are you ready for the test? You should be, almost. Because if you have done all these other things that A students do, cramming for the test will not be necessary. Complete additional study and review before the test. Do not stay up all night. Get plenty of rest and eat a good meal--that brain of yours needs sleep and nourishment! Get to the test on time, dressed in clothes that make you feel confident. (In other words, look the part.) Then get in there and ace that test!
See, you do not have to be an A student. Just pretend that you are! And in no time, you will find people are starting to imitate you!
Years ago, I volunteered to work with a group of teenage girls at my church. The other workers were moms of teens or tweens; but I had only been married a short while and didn't have children yet. In order to prepare for the upcoming year, we met with volunteers from other churches for a joint training on the program we would be leading.
“Let’s get started,” our leader said, “by naming some qualities of teenage girls.” The moms needed no further encouragement.
The critical adjectives just kept coming. Eventually, I raised my hand and said, “How about ‘fun?’”
The moms, looked at me, their expressions offering a mix of pity and indignation. Shaking their heads at my youth and ignorance, they assured me that when I had my own teenagers, I would feel differently.
And they were right.
Now that I have my own three teenagers and spend much of my life with them and other teens, I do feel differently. Teens are not just fun. They are serious and playful; passionate and confused; hope-filled and desperate. Some are transparent, some are more complex than anyone realizes, some are angry, and some are hopelessly optimistic. They are scholars, athletes, musicians, politicians, and more.
Really, teens are just like people of all ages; except that often, teenagers are lots more fun!