I read the teacher’s penciled comments at the end of one six weeks period and read, “Betty talks too much.” Odd, but I don’t remember talking too much in school. Another report card’s comments were on target, though. “Betty daydreams in class, she needs to pay better attention.” That I do remember, along with the teacher’s smiling admonition to me at one PTA meeting right in front of my parents. “You wouldn’t want that on your permanent record!”
I wasn’t sure what this mysterious permanent record was but I nodded agreement. “No ma’am, I sure wouldn’t.” That didn’t correct matters much, though. The next sunny spring day my imagination just took up where it left off.
I was easily distracted by the goings-on outside our classroom window – a little gray squirrel with swishy tail hunched over an acorn, or the squeal of brakes as a delivery truck slowed to turn the corner at Cheves Street and King Avenue. Even the routine of the mailman might catch my eye, as he climbed a few steps to shove letters from his bag into the metal mailbox on the front porch across the street.
My mind would wander as I silently cheered on the squirrel, scampering up the tree with his acorn before the yappy neighborhood dog got him. I might envision a shiny new Frigidaire in the back of that delivery truck, or better yet, construct an exciting adventure to break up the mailman’s dull daily activities.
Just when my story was developing really well, the teacher would call my name and my attention back to the humdrum arithmetic or geography assignment. I remember my frowned-on imaginings in those McKenzie School days. But they stood me in good stead when studying grammar, story interpretation, and best of all, story writing. A’s came easy to me in those subjects, despite the teacher’s dreaded permanent record threats.
Thinking back, I wonder – whatever happened to my permanent record? What did it contain? All those admonitions about talking or daydreaming, probably. I hope some of my A’s in language wound up in there too.
To get into college I had to submit my high school transcript, but it came in a sealed envelope marked Private, for admissions department eyes only. I never even got a look at it. Did that manila envelope include my permanent record? Well, they let me into college anyway so it must not have been too bad. It was comforting to know it was private, in a way. I wouldn’t want just any Tom, Dick and Harry reading my permanent record!
Fast forward to the present. These days most of your records aren’t all that private. With the advent of the internet, e-mail, Facebook, YouTube, instant messages, all those thousands of websites and data gatherers, who knows who is reading your records.
I myself use internet records in my family tree hobby – census records, city directories, military archives, maps, deeds, and wills. Hundreds of thousands of pieces of information from private and public records are being uploaded by professional and volunteer genealogists every year, and I’m grateful to all those folks.
But along with all that helpful stuff, credit reports, resumes, e-mails, even some medical records are flitting back and forth at the speed of light for all the world to access (some by paying a “small convenient fee” to a research company), and not all of those records are helpful or even accurate. You can try to delete inaccurate or regretted internet items but some of those faulty records could still be out there somewhere. Just Google your own name and you’ll see what I mean.
My, how the world has changed since the days of McKenzie School. The worldwide web gives a whole new meaning to the words “permanent record” – my old reports cards might just wind up in cyberspace one day. What a horrible thought!