I was in the fifth grade at Ewarton Primary School. I was a fifth grader who was very accomplished as he was competitive. Throughout my previous years at the school, I have won a nationwide art contest; skipped a grade, and maintained an ‘A’ average. In the fifth grade, I ranked first in my class. Naturally, during the preparation for the annual ‘Class Challenge Quiz’ I was approached by my teacher, Mr. Clark (now a National Commerce Bank senior executive and a major sponsor of Jamaica’s National Volleyball Team), who implored me to diligently consider about representing my class. Mr. Clark was one of the brilliant teachers I have known throughout my school career. He’s the type of individual which you aim to please in complete acquiescence. In terms of Norse mythology, he portrayed the Odin personality. I have never entered this contest in the past.
The Class Challenge Quiz was usually reserved for the fifth and sixth graders of whom the brightest were selected by a series of recommendations; academic excellence, and successfully passing a prerequisite test. I accepted Mr. Clark’s request. He referred my name to the committee that governed the Class Challenge Quiz. In turn, the committee checked my academic standing to ensure my eligibility and gave me the required testing. Of course, I passed both with flying colors. Few days later, my best friend, Troy, approached me about the annual cross-country race. Troy was a colorful character who was metaphorically capable of persuading a bird out of a tree or plucking a feather off a bird without getting it ruffled. In terms of Norse mythology, he portrayed the Loki personality. I have never competed in the cross-country race, in the past. The reason for my lack of an established athletic record wasn’t because of my lack of interest in that field. To the contrary, I was very obsessed in conquering both academic and athletic arenas. However, I became overly absorbed in my academic endeavors which overshadowed my athletic drives. Now, I have the opportunity to compete in one of the most showcased athletic event at the school. Howbeit, there was a small problem.
Both the Class Challenge Quiz and the cross-country race were supposed to occur at the same time. I informed Troy of my decision to participate in the Class Challenge Quiz. Especially, since I have given my word to Mr. Clark of my commitment to the Quiz. Therefore, I was unable to give a strong consideration about registering for the cross-country race, despite my burning desire to compete with him. In true Troyesque form, he responded: “Karl, you have received many accolades in academia. On the other hand, you’re practically a Mr. Nobody in athletics. As for Mr. Clark, he’s both our English and Physical Education teacher. He would comprehend your drive to improve yourself both mentally and physically. Well, he might not give you his fatherly blessing to choose the cross-country race over the Class Challenge Quiz. Howbeit, winning is everything. Victory covers all flaws and faults.
When we win, Mr. Clark will be the first to hand us the prize with a smile.” If Eve was seduced by a glibly snake who persuaded her to eat the forbidden fruit, then I would be susceptible to a friend’s articulate influence (beyond his years) to choose my newfound passion – running in the cross-country race with the intention of winning. On the day of the race, I avoided Mr. Clark. I registered for the cross-country event several days prior to race day. During the warm-ups, Troy approached me with a game plan that would secure the trophy within our grasp. “Karl,” he said, “The plan is for us to take a shortcut through the forest where we’ll relax for a time to await the appropriate moment for which to make our grand entrance at the finish line.” “Troy,” I incredulously responded, “Don’t your idea defeats the purpose of the competition…not to mention the true spirit thereof.” “Karl!” he argued, “First of all, our primary competitors are faster and stronger than us. We do not have any hope of competing with them, directly. However, the competition will be between our brains versus their brawns.
Moreover, I quote the Bible which states, ‘The race is not for the swift or the battle for the strong but for those who endured to the end.’ Thus, our goal is to endure to the end of the race with the trophy pressed against our faces.” Eloquence was Troy’s middle name. We executed our plan according to Troy’s scheme. We wandered around the forest poking fun at those poor souls (competitors) grinding it out on the side streets toward the finish line. Ironically, Karma seemed to have been laughing at us because we lost our way in the forest. Eventually, we made it to the finish line. We came in last. On the horizon, I saw Mr. Clark coming toward us. Troy, instinctively, stated he had to go to the men’s room. Alone, I faced Mr. Clark. He mildly reprimanded, “I’m disappointed you chose to dishonor our agreement pertaining to the Class Challenge Quiz. Least of all, you could have mentioned to me your decision to withdraw from the Quiz. Thereby, you would have afforded me the opportunity to have appointed someone else in your stead. Karl…your action was very irresponsible. I recommend that you expeditiously and gingerly go to the committee with an apology. “Certainly!” I replied. Furthermore, I explained to Mr. Clark about Troy’s involvement. He disregarded my accusations and placed the blame on me. The above experience is one of the cherished highlights of my elementary school days. It taught me how to make wise decisions and honestly fulfilling their goals whose consequence I’ll solely experience whether for good or ill.
Reflections on my School Days Excerpted from “The Memoirs of Karl A. Mitchell”Karl A. Mitchell, B.A., M.A., M.A. is a consultant with the following companies: Drummond and Crawford, P.C. (www.drumcraw-law.com); True Systems Integration (www.tsidrvs.com), and Qui Ping Hu & Associates (email: [email protected]).