I was always the naughty kid in my class at school. Well intentioned and good natured, but naughty all the same. I was the guy who’d run around the room, talking to anyone who’d listen and doing anything I could to make my classmates laugh. My teachers used to write on every one of my report cards, “Isaac disrupts his fellow students’ learning environment.” It wasn’t my fault, I just had too much energy for the classroom and I could never understand why I wasn’t allowed to just do what I wanted to do. Needless to say, my academic record was less than stellar. I’d flourish under teachers who had the patience to deal with me, but flounder under everyone else.
My first and second years of high school were a write-off, my third year I was lucky to have a string of good teachers and I achieved excellent results, my fourth year was an abject failure, and my final year was much the same except for classical studies, where I scored 84% in the final exam. I had plenty of teachers tell me I’d never succeed in life because I could never apply myself to anything, and other teachers who no doubt held celebrations when I was finally out of there.
So I left school with no formal qualifications above Fifth Form Certificate. No Sixth Form Certificate, no Bursary, no University Entrance. I went to work at Christchurch’s top hairdressing salon, and slaved away for 12 hours a day, five or six days a week, for six months.
My girlfriend at the time – who lived in Auckland – was an incredibly intelligent and highly ambitious girl who’d left school after sixth form to study law. She told me that I was far too clever to be wasting my life away shampooing hair in Christchurch, and advised me to go to university.
Now I was faced with a dilemma. I had no University Entrance and the rules state that if you don’t have University Entrance, you can’t gain entrance to university. So here’s what I did: I called up the dean of Arts at Canterbury University and told him who I was, what I did, and why I thought he should let me enroll. He told me to come in the next day for a sit down chat. The next day we sat down, talked for 15 minutes, and he approved my application for first year Arts. I did one semester at Canterbury University, then transferred up to Auckland to finish my degree (BA in Film and Sociology). And I never failed a paper.
This experience taught me several things: 1. Don’t ever let something silly like rules hold you back; 2. If you want to get something done, call up the person with the power and authority to do it, and if you plead your case well enough, it’ll probably get done; 3. Sometimes you just need somebody to slap you in the face and say ‘Stop wasting your life away’; and 4. The school system doesn’t work very well for people with high energy levels, a natural disregard for authority and a serious lack of personal discipline when it comes to getting work done – ie teenagers.
Finally, if you’re a teacher, never tell a kid they’re not going to amount to anything. It’s such a jerk move.
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