I am a good/bad student.

School, I know from my Facebook feed, just started for many people. Today’s autobiographical tale is meant to be a bit of advice for any and all students, whether your school is elementary, junior, high, vocational, collegiate, or of the “hard knocks” variety.

Let me add to my preface the fact that I graduated high school near the top of my class (though not at the very top since those kids were my friends and I didn’t want to take that away from them). And each semester at college, I made the Dean’s List. And while there was some confusion as to whether I was enrolled in the College of Education or the College of Arts & Sciences, I made two different Dean’s Lists. I was also a member of the Lee Honors College. I have never had too much difficulty in school.

Student stress kills.

This is what an honor student looks like.

Now, there are two types of people who can make this claim: people who work very hard on their schoolwork at the cost of their sleep, social lives, and sanity, and people who get by on last-minute study sessions, lucky guesses, and learning the teacher’s favorite dessert. All good, moral people would encourage you to be in the first group of people. I, on the underhand (play on words intended), advocate the second avenue to academic success. It is easier, and it is more fun.

My wife, who loves me dearly, hates this about me.Why? Because she has always been in the first group of students. She works hard for everything she has, and then she goes on to work hard after she achieves whatever it is she was working for. She can’t stand the fact that I got the grades I did while putting in one-third the effort. In fact, there is one story from my freshman year of college that absolutely steams her.

This is it.

It was finals week in the Winter semester of the freshman year. I had taken all but my last final, Rec 101,  and was packing up the last few things from my dorm room. I knew that my final wasn’t until 1pm. The final would take about and hour and a half, so I would be completely done with my freshman year of college by 2:30pm. I had arranged for my dad to come down to Kalamazoo with a van to help me load up my stuff at 3pm. Like clockwork!

So when I decided at noon to pull out my Rec 101 (Introduction to Recreation) notes for a last-minute study, I was surprised to discover that my 1pm final was actually a 10am final. My mind couldn’t immediately make sense of the fact that I had completely missed my last final exam, the one for the introductory course for my newly chosen major.

“What?” said my eyes. “I missed it?”

“Um,” said my brain. “Looks like it.”

“Fudge,” said my mouth.

Now, had I been a student of the hard-working ilk, I would never have made that mistake. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that I was a model student and that I had somehow missed my final exam. I would have been in serious trouble. I wouldn’t have known the first thing to do to make things right.

Fortunately, that was not the case and I knew exactly what to do.

Again, here was the situation. It is shortly after noon. My computer, my dorm room, and my life in general are mostly in boxes. My dad is en route to pick me up in less than three hours. And I have missed one of my final exams.

Not to worry.

This is what a cool professor looks like.

You see, the professor and I had struck up a friendship. I was an active participant in class discussions. He was always interested to hear the latest happenings of the Valhalla Norwegian Society (a Registered Student Organization that I made up and got the school to recognize in an effort to apply for school funds to throw parties and award myself scholarships). And he and I played racquetball every now and again.

When I realized that I missed his final exam, I first called his office in the College of Education. But, since this was his last final too, he had left for the day. Not a problem. Due to our friendship, I knew his home number. I tried him there. No answer. I left a message.

“Um,” I said into his answering machine. “This is Josh. You may or may not have noticed that I missed the Rec 101 final this morning. So… sorry about that. Any chance I could take it anyway?”

My professor lived about an hour away from the university, so it took a while for him to get home and hear my message.

I have finished packing everything except my notes and my Rec 101 books. I am sitting still, staring at my phone like an ugly girl on prom night. At about 1:30pm, he calls me.

“So Josh,” he says. “You missed the final exam.”

“Yeah,” I say. “Sorry again for that. I was sure that it was at one. It turns out, it was at ten.”

“Glad you figured that out,” he says. “What are we going to do about that?”

“Well,” I say. “I had an idea about that. Is there any way you could email me the final? I could take it now, email back the answers, and we could pretend that I was really there this morning.”

“Hmm,” he says. “Well, since you have always been a good student, and you seem to know the material, as long as you promise not to use your book or your notes, I can do that.”

“Thanks,” I say, and put the phone down. I know that I yelled for joy. I think I may have even capered around my room.

Of course, this new deal doesn’t change the fact that I already have my computer packed up and my dad is on his way to pick me up in about an hour.

I run down the dorm hallway and ask people in various states of packing whether their computers are still hooked up to the network and whether I might borrow one of them to take a final exam immediately. Finally, I find one at my across the hall neighbor. I entrust my notes and book to my roommate (who is waiting for his parent to pick him up) and wait for my professor’s email.

With just under an hour before my dad is to show up, I get the email. I take the exam. I email him back my answers. I thank him profusely again for allowing me to take it.

Minutes later, my dad shows up. We pack up the van, stop off to eat some dinner on the way, and before long I am home.

It takes a few weeks for the grades to come by mail.

REC 101: A

So students, let this be a lesson to you. Of course you can work hard, memorize everything, do all of the practice homework, read all of the readings, and study for tests more than an hour before you take them. But there is another way. And it may just be the better way.

Maybe you should find out if your teacher/professor plays racquetball and challenge them to a match. Maybe it will end up saving you.