Let’s Please Be Nice (Or Not?)

I went with my daughter as she enrolled in college today. As an incoming freshman, she’s understandably excited and anxious. She’s excited that she’s taking her dream course: animation and game development. She’s anxious about college life and how to survive it.

She’s fortunate to get a scholarship because of her good grades in high school and the entrance test result. As part of the enrollment process, she had to be briefed on the terms and conditions of the scholarship. The person in charge of this was an unsmiling man with a loud voice. He gave my daughter a document to study, and told her to come back after 15 minutes.

The document mostly explained grade requirements. My daughter was unfamiliar with the college grading system that has 1.0 as the highest grade and 5.0 as a failing mark.  She’s used to grade percentages (with 75% as barely passing and 95% as excellent). And so, she probably didn’t understand everything that was in the scholarship contract. She did study it a bit, and then came back to Mr. Stern-and-Loud.

What he did was to quiz her on what she had read. From where I sat, I could see my daughter cringing as she failed to answer some of his questions. I could also see his facial expressions and gestures. He would slap his forehead in exasperation, hide his face in his hands, and behave like he was talking to a moron. I felt bad for my daughter. I wanted to come rescue her, but this, in a manner of speaking, was her fight. So I just suffered in silence, praying that he’d quit with the twenty questions already and just brief her properly.

After the interrogation interview, my daughter was visibly rattled. She didn’t have to tell me she felt very embarrassed. What she did say was that she felt degraded. According to her, Mr. Stern-and-Loud said he wouldn’t be surprised if she failed math, and that he couldn’t believe she was a scholar. She said she was confused with some Tagalog words he used (like “uno” and “singko”); unfortunately, her Filipino vocabulary isn’t as good as her English. She must also have been confused with phrases like “lower than 3.0.” Numerically, this of course refers to anything less than 3, such as 2.5 or 1.75. But grades-wise, it means 4.0 or 5.0, which are worse and therefore lower grades than 3.0. To confound matters, the school had unique grades such as 7.0 (for subjects dropped). Oh well.

Mr. S&L wasn’t nice at all, that’s for sure. But I told my daughter to just take it as a normal part of life. I told her she’ll surely meet people who are mean and rude. She just has to learn to have thicker skin and not be too stressed by them.

Besides, it’s not all bad. Something good seems to have come out of this incident. My daughter says she’s now more determined to get really good grades so she could slap her report card in Mr. S&L’s face when scholarship renewal time comes. I believe her. Like everyone else, she seems to be strengthened by challenge and adversity. But a mother worries still.

So, was it alright that Mr. Mean was rude and demeaning? I don’t think so.

…But without people and situations like him, how can we learn to be tough?

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