My most vivid memory of high school involves the annual meeting that I had with the school counsellor at the large public school that I attended.

Each student met with the counsellor for about fifteen minutes to check on the student’s progress and discuss their career plans. I was pulled from my math class (bonus!) to see the counsellor. This man didn’t know me; there were over a thousand students; but he was waiting for me and scanning some official-looking documents when I entered his office.

So Mr. Bakker, what is it you want to do when you graduate?

Truthfully, I had no clue but my parents had always said that I should go to university so…“I’m going to university!” I said hopefully.

Without looking up from the papers he was scanning he said, “Are you sure that there isn’t some other option that you would enjoy?” Followed by, “How would you feel about (enter some mundane job here)?” I wasn’t sure what he was getting at, but it started to sink in soon enough.

I’ll Show Him

As a student, I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Actually, I was working a long way below my potential (as my parents never failed to point out). I can’t really remember the rest of the conversation and soon enough I was back in my math class.

On the way home, our meeting started to stir something vaguely unsettling in me. It began to eat at me. Did he say that I didn’t have what it takes to succeed in university? Did he say I would fail or not get in?  Did he say I was STUPID? This led to “I’ll show him!”

I immediately set about plotting my revenge for the pain his words had caused. My plan ended up something like this: I was going to improve my grades, get into university, get a degree and take it back to school. I was then going to barge into his office, degree in hand, and stick it…Anyway, I was on a mission! 

A Novel Idea

Step 1: Improve the grades. I wasn’t sure how you were supposed to do this buy I was struck by a novel idea. What if I studied and did my homework? Sounds crazy but it could work!

I devised a schedule which had me working in my room for one hour before and after dinner EVERY DAY! I didn’t tell my parents about my plan and they were concerned about my secretive bedroom behaviour. Was I smoking drugs? Anyway, my plan worked. My grades went up dramatically and I did get into UBC.

Upon graduating with a degree in biology, I determined to make good on my plan. I can really hold a grudge! I showed up at my old school with degree in hand. I asked the receptionist if I could speak with my old counsellor. She gave me a puzzled look and said, “He passed away last year.”

I eventually recovered but later in my teaching career, an interesting thing happened. I was speaking with a student in my senior biology class. She wasn’t the most gifted student and I asked her about her future plans. She said that she wanted to be a doctor. I tried to help. I suggested that there are many medically-related careers that she would likely have greater success in. I tried to point her in a direction that made sense to ME. She didn’t say much when she left the room.

Hmm…you’d think I should have known better…