GETTING EVEN AND LEARNING A LIFE LESSON
It was my last day of 7th grade in 1965, and I got called to the principal's office. Mr. Corliss told me to sit down and then he proceeded to give me a lecture. He really laid it on me! He told me I had wasted away the school year, I'd shown no responsibility towards my education, and for all practical purposes, I shouldn't pass on to grade 8.
He continued to put emphasis on the fact that I'd missed 67 days of school for the year. And he didn't for one minute think that I was sick all of those days. He pointed to me and said, "Quite frankly Schire, you're a loser". Very harsh and direct comments for sure. All the while he's giving me this damnation speech, I was looking at him thinking, what a total jerk he was. Honestly, my mind was saying that he was just an absolute jerk! I felt he'd been mean, rude, and abusive with his tirade.
When I walked out of his office, I continued to think he was a jerk. For the next few days, I kept hearing him laying in to me, and I decided that I was going to get even with him. Just the thing you'd expect from a snotty nosed 13 year old, right? But seriously, I wanted to get even with him, for what I felt was his belittling of me.
So, I came up with a plan to show him. Over the summer I made up my mind that in 8th grade, I was going to go to school every day. I wasn't going to miss a single day, not even if I really didn't feel well. When the new school year started, I got tested early, as my great-grandmother passed away in October and as much as I wanted to go to her funeral, I went to school instead. It was a long school year, as they all are in a kids mind, but at the end of 8th grade, I'd made it. I had perfect attendance!
As it turned out, there were only two other kids in the whole school that went the entire year, not missing a day of school. The three of us got a "Perfect Attendance Award". Now it was time for me to "get even" with Mr. Corliss. Upon getting my Award", I went to his office to see him. When I walked in, I asked him if he'd, "sign my perfect attendance award". He smiled, took the award, turned it over and wrote, "George, I am extremely proud of your outstanding accomplishment", and he signed his name.
Unlike the year before when I thought he was "a jerk", I left his office on this day, felling good, not only about him, but about myself too. I realized that whether his lecture to me for missing so much school was meant to demean me, or to light a fire under me, he'd succeeded in the latter. I remember smiling because, "I was going to get even with him". But in fact, he'd made me a better person.
Now I'm proud to say, that from this lesson, I decided that in 9th grade, I'd not miss any school, and I didn't. Again at the end of the year, I went back to Mr. Corliss and had him sign my perfect attendance award. Now I was on a mission, and for my forthcoming years of 10th and 11th grades, you guessed it, I had perfect attendance and had Mr. Corliss sign my awards.
For my senior year, I'd intended to again make it through without missing a day, but in April of that year, I ended up spending two days in the hospital with pneumonia. I was so disappointed. On graduation day, I still went back to Mr. Corliss's office. I told him that I truly wanted to have him sign one last certificate.
He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "George, you've nothing to be disappointed about. You achieved something that you can carry with you the rest of your life and be proud of". I shook his hand and thanked him for that 7th grade lecture, and he smiled and said, "On the contrary, it is me, who thanks you. I honestly never expected you to do the fine job you have".
Moral of this story is, Mr. Corliss taught me a most valuable lesson that I have carried all through my adult life. I was always on time for work and always made not missing work a top priority. Some years later when I'd received word that Mr. Corliss had passed away, I remember feeling so blessed that he'd touched my life. He was one great principal!