Grades

I took a class at Penn this past semester, and found myself having to think again about grades. Not worrying about them, exactly, but knowing that what I was turning in would them be evaluated and given some kind of concrete value. That doesn't happen so much in the working world. We get evaluated each year, and I guess raises are based on performance, but it's a different kind of incentive. It's odd to go from spending 16 years of your life and a few more years with grades in grad school then switching to an ungraded system and then back again. It's harder to take it seriously; especially in graduate school when it seems like unless you really screw up, you get an "A." At least I thought I was blase until the other day when I got an email from some ominous unnamed administrator saying I hadn't turned in my final paper and was in academic jeopardy. What? I knew it was a mistake, but I imagined it would be impossible to prove, I'd be kicked out of the program, the director would think I was a bad student, etc. It wasn't that difficult to find out what happened--I posted my paper to the wrong place, but everything was time-stamped and the professor was fine with it. It's not like I had to go explain myself before Academic Affairs. But it was an odd feeling to be worried that I wouldn't do well; that I could get a bad grade.

I'm working on a story now about a teenager who wants to audition for the gifted high school program. I will rely on my own dorky experiences from that time (giant, Coke-bottle glasses; odd notions about what romance would be like--I thought that eventually, Steve Crosset would surely take me out on a moonlight rowboat date. Even though my curfew was like 7 PM and there were no canoes to be found). Look:

I'm sure my mom made that cake from scratch (it's got to be angel food) and she also did make that blouse I'm wearing. You can see that I've curled my bangs for the occasion, though I refused to wear hair spray, because I was so political and didn't want to contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer through aerosol Aqua Net.

And then:

The "S" in front of the house is the scarlet letter...It stands for my stepdad's last name. This shirt I'm wearing in this photo is also one my mom made. Lots of detail. I liked what I thought were somewhat romantic looking shirts. And yes, in this one, I do look a lot like a young Heathcliff.

Here is my latest article in Philadelphia Stories, "Writer as Creator, Not Conduit." I hope you like it.

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