To begin this narrative let me explain a few things. First, in my school district, high school was grades 9 through 12. However, the region assigned to my high school was populated to the point that the high school building was not big enough to serve all the students, so 9th graders attended school at the local middle school buildings. In a way, they were the senior class of the middle school (though, technically they were freshman.) So my freshman year of high school was completed at the local middle school.
The other thing I need to explain is what the NJHS is. NJHS stands for National Junior Honor Society. It is pretty much what it claims to be, a national organization that recognizes middle school age honor students. It is a subsidiary of a larger organization known as the National Honor Society (NHS), which recognizes high school age honor students. The NJHS is managed differently depending on the school district. In my district, one could join the NJHS their freshman year if they had maintained a 3.8 cumulative GPA through middle school, as well as a few other requirements.
You didn’t actually join the NJHS. They invited you. In fact, I didn’t even know what the secret society of the NJHS was until I received my invitation. Which I received near the end of my 8th grade year. I was in my industrial crafts class, and a group of kids came in. They announced a few names and asked us to come with them. I was nervous. I was sure I wasn’t in trouble, because one of my friends, Wade, was also asked to leave, and he wasn’t a trouble maker. I was also angry, because I didn’t want to miss part of class, and here they were asking me to leave. (Which is ironic because one of the requirements to join the NJHS was to attend classes.)
Well, I left with the group of kids, and we went to a few more classes, to collect more candidates. We ended up becoming quite a big ball of students moving down the hall. I recognized the guy that was leading the group. His name was Dave. I knew he was a 9th grader. As we were walking down the hall, he explained how we were being invited into the NJHS, and as we arrived in the music room (one of the largest classrooms in the building) he joked about how he almost got kicked out of the NJHS. It seemed like he was bragging about how he almost got kicked out. He was like, Yeah, I may be a good student and all, but I like to live on the edge a little, break some rules, do my own thing. Those weren’t his exact words, but that was his attitude. I liked the guy right away. I mean, like I said, I recognized him, but I didn’t really know anything about him, but there was something about his attitude that suggested that breaking a few rules was cool.
With the whole group of us assembled, maybe sixty total, they invited us into the NJHS. I’m pretty sure that everyone that was invited joined. I was excited to join, because there was this girl named Julie, that I had a crush on, who was joining as well. I figured this might be my chance to put the mack on her.
I sort of knew right away that the NJHS might not be right for me, because there were two activities that candidates had to complete over summer vactation. We had to go to an induction meeting, where we’d officially become part of the NJHS, then we had to do an activity where we showed new students around the school. I didn’t want to do any activities related to school during the summer. Seriously, it was the summer. Time for fun, not school.
Still, I had signed my soul to the secret society by filling out the Student Activity Information Form. I was in, and had no choice but to go to the induction meeting. And, so, a few weeks before school started, I found myself sitting in school, having the Bylaws of the National Junior Honor Society explained to me. They took themselves very seriously. Too seriously, in my opinion. The bylaws were literally five pages of rules and regulations for continued membership in the NJHS. Organized formally in Articles and Sections. Roman numerals and all. Now, if didn’t like the fact that I had to go to school during the summer, you can imagine how much I regretted joining the NJHS after I found out about all the rules involved.
I want to talk about the meetings as well, because these were ridiculous. Naturally, one of the bylaws was to attend all meetings. And they were far too formal in my opinion, especially since we were fourteen years old. In order to make a comment a student must first obtain the floor by raising their hand and saying, “Madame Chairman”. Every time someone obtained the floor I just waited for someone to say, “Madame Chairman?” “Yes,” the president would reply. “I’m a douche,” the person would say. That never happened, of course, but everyone felt that way when they obtained the floor. Similarly, we had to make motions, second motions, and vote on the motions. There was also something called privileged motions, which I never understood at all. It seemed like the only motion anyone ever made was to approve the minutes. I never made any motions, in fact the only thing I ever said was “Aye” when a vote was called. In fact the only time I ever got up, was when I was called to get up for my birthday so the society could sing to me. That was during the induction meeting as a matter of fact, since my birthday is during the summer.
At the induction meeting the rules for membership were explained. None really seemed that difficult. 1) Maintain a 3.6 GPA. I’d never had any trouble doing that. 2) Attend all meetings. As much as I didn’t want to go, it really wasn’t that difficult to stay after school. The meetings before school worried me a bit more, but I already [[blog:alarm-clock blogged about the alarm clock that I had]], so I didn’t anticipate many problems there. 3) Attend classes. I never skipped class so that wasn’t going to be a problem. 4) Complete seven service hours per quarter. I was in Boy Scouts, and would have plenty of opportunity for service hours.
As easy as the rules seemed to be to follow, I walked away from the meeting wondering if I had made the right choice by joining. I was in, though. I already knew the secret handshakes, which even today I’m forbidden to reveal. Okay, I’ll reveal them, there weren’t any. That was sort of my attitude though. I felt like a Mason. I felt like I was in a society, that had a public facade, but really, no one knew anything about what we did. Let me give you the skinny, we didn’t do anything. I was in, and as much as I wanted to, there was no backing out. I went home and told my mom that I thought the NJHS was stupid. She said it might help me out in the future and that I should stay in it. I did.
I almost got kicked out. For breaking one of the rules. I attended all my meetings. I did my service hours. I never skipped class. And I was way over the 3.6 GPA requirements. What almost got me kicked out? I turned in my 3rd quarter service hours form one hour late. That’s right. I did my service hours. I just forgot to turn in the form until school was out. A few days after the service hours were due I got a letter.
April 6, 1998
You are hereby requested to appear before the faculty advisers of the National Junior Honor Society.
You are being considered for dismissal from the Society and, according to the bylaws; section V; “In all cases of impending dismissal, the member will be notified to appear before the faculty advisors for a hearing.” This hearing will be a review of your membership activities thus far.
Please report to Mrs. T.’s classroom (402) on Wednesday, April 15, 1998 at 7:30 a.m. If you have a conflict with this date and time, please see Mrs. T. to reschedule.
We want to offer you as much support as you need and give you every opportunity to stay in the society.
Thank you for your cooperation,
Stacy M. T.
(One thing that I want to point out is that the actual letter uses two different spellings of “advisers”, as seen above.) I knew right away that I got this letter because I had turned in my service hours form late. I was angry. I’d done the service hours, I just didn’t turn the form in. I wasn’t too worried about the meeting, though. Mrs. T. was my Spanish teacher, so it wasn’t like I was going before a board of faculty that I didn’t know at all. The only thing that really bothered me was that it was at 7:30AM. I showed up at the meeting and they handed me a form.
”’NATIONAL JUNIOR HONOR SOCIETY”’
”’NOTICE OF PROBATION”’
”’MEMBER NAME”’ ”Jack Everett”
You have been placed on probation for the 3rd quarter of the school year 97-98.
Your probation will begin on Jan 27 and end on Mar 30 if all of the requirements of probation are met.
You are on probation for the following reason(s).
___ Failure to receive at least a 3.6 GPA.
___ Failure to attend meetings or activities without a written and
___ Receiving one ‘N’ or ‘U’ in Citizenship.
_X_ Failure to meet seven service hours.
REQUIREMENTS DURING PROBATION
:* Attend all meetings.
:* Earn service hours in out-of-school activities.
:* Participation in chapter activities is suspend for one month. Feb.
At midterm of this quarter, you must have your teachers fill out a progress report that we will provide.
:* Return this form with your parent’s signature. Jan 30
Member signature ___
Advisor signature ___
Parent signature ___
Naturally I tried to make the argument that I did do the service hours, but I didn’t get the form in on time. They didn’t care. I partly realize why they didn’t care. It was because they weren’t actually taking the society seriously. They thought it was a fun activity to put some members on probation. Scare them a little. I’d probably do the same thing if I were in their position. Technically the bylaws stated that members will be dismissed for “failure to complete or turn in service hours for a second quarter.” So even though I had done the service hours, I’d still failed to meet the requirement.
Well, at the meeting they were all nice, and, as in the above form, all that I had to do to stay in the society for the last quarter was to do exactly what I was doing the whole time. There were no extra assignments, nothing. Exactly the same responsibilities as before. They called the probationary state being “on obligation”, but I wasn’t obligated to do anything that any other member wasn’t obligated to do. The only extra thing I had to do was have my mom sign the form (which, in a previous post of mine, I explain why that wasn’t necessarily easy). None-the-less, there was no real punishment. I walked away feeling a little proud of myself, as a matter of fact. Like the guy Dave that had invited me into the society, I was proud to be able to say that I almost got kicked out of the NJHS. I did everything I needed to do to stay in. I stayed in.
At the end of the 9th grade year we had a party. Awards were given out. I received an award for “Most likely to become a famous rocket scientist”. I can think of a lot of things wrong with that award. For example, no rocket scientist is famous. At the end of the party we played Twister. For some reason I had flatulence at the party and was really stinking the place up, so I left early. Like the chapter members before me, we were asked to go around the school to gather up the new initiates. I thought about bragging to them, like Dave before me, how I almost got kicked out. I elected to keep my mouth shut, because, as I looked at those 8th graders with their eyes beaming, I realized that they weren’t like me. They were going to take the NJHS seriously from the start. None of them would almost get kicked out. None of them wanted to almost get kicked out, like I had from the start.
I regret one thing about being in the NJHS, though. That I didn’t just walk out when I was put on probation. I genuinely wish I would have. Instead, I completed the requirements and kept my membership. The reason why I wish I had just walked out is because I never liked the organization. The meetings and rules and regulations always seemed silly to me. I didn’t have any friends in the society, and like I said I expected someone to get up and say, “Madame Chairman, I wish to obtain the floor because I’m a douche.” Seriously, who uses phrases like “obtain the floor”? I know they were trying to prepare us for a world where formalities are requisite. For Parliament, I guess. Which didn’t make sense because we were in the States. I wish that during the probation meeting I had said, “Don’t worry about putting me on probation. I quit. I think the NJHS is stupid.” I wish I would have let them know that I knew that the NJHS would not benefit my future, and it was a lie when they said it would look good on your permanent record. No one puts the NJHS on their resume.
As bitter as I might have just sounded about the NJHS, I’m really not. I’m happy to say that I almost got kicked out of the NJHS, but I’d be happier if I had walked out. I don’t know why I stayed with an organization whose principles I thought were stupid. I guess I did it because I genuinely believed that it mattered. It didn’t take me long to realize that it didn’t matter. I didn’t inquire about joining the NHS when I started high school. I wasn’t interested.