Reader's Rite: Bad Grades
I was taking an online course about terrorism and had never met my professor face-to-face. As an asynchronous class, we communicated 100% through emails and never really talked. This made it all the more upsetting when they docked a full 10 points from my overall grade after I submitted a research essay to the dropbox in the format they hadn't wanted. Even though I had spent hours on this assignment – full in-text citations, a bibliography, the whole nine yards – I was having trouble downloading it as a Word Document, so I just submitted it as a PDF. After seeing the ridiculously low grade I received for this assignment, I emailed the instructor asking for a chance to resubmit it. They obliged. However, my grade never changed. When I asked about it, they told me it was still not formatting correctly and it was too difficult to read. I obviously felt less excited about writing, much less submitting, anything for the remainder of that class.
I always got really good grades in high school, so going to college with other students who had also gotten really good grades was an adjustment. I did alright in my first year and came to terms with the idea that a B was not the end of the world. Then I got to the second semester of Organic Chemistry. The class average on the first exam was a 42 and I remember high-fiving friends when I got a 38! If the exam scores weren't bad enough, my pre-med career literally went up in flames when I set one of the multi-week lab experiments on fire. There was no permanent damage, except to my ego, as I had to write an embarrassing lab report that explained I had no results because I was an idiot (a word to the wise – acetone and open flames don't mix well). I took this as a sign and switched to an English major. I wasn't sure if I could handle any more time around my friends who were hyperventilating like, “oh-my-God-if-I-don't-get-an-A-in-this-class-I'm-not-going-to-get-into-med-school,” and “my-parents-are-going-to-hate-me-and-my-life-is-going-to-be-ruined" (all at age 19!)
My roommate/lab partner is now a professor of microbiology and I've become a cautionary tale for his students. However, he does also tell them of his own lab mishaps to remind them that they can still pass and go on in science. Ironically, my friends who went to med school were done with school and residency and were in private practice long before I finished my doctorate. Shortly after I received my doctorate, my wife called me "Mr. Smarty-pants," after an obnoxious comment and I replied, "That's Reverend Doctor Smarty-pants to you." She was not amused, but that is, as they say, a story for another day.
The first semester of my freshman year was the first time I had to sit-down and study. I did not study for any classes in high-school nor the SAT/ACT exams. After all, why would I spend time studying when the public education system is designed to pass you through? But I digress, to the topic at hand. I spent freshman year trying different ways to study – from flashcards, to re-writing notes, to reading every page in the textbook. After trial and error I finally found a system that worked with me, and my grades started to improve. I went into my first final exam (Fall semester, Sophomore year) feeling confident that I had done everything I could to prepare. For this exam we needed to calculate various interest rate payments using a start and end date. Unfortunately, the professor switched the date format from numeric to written (i.e. 10/20/2022 to October 20, 2022). Although I had studied our class material diligently, I had not studied the months very closely. When the exam results came back, it became clear I did not know the order of all 12 months… Needless to say I didn’t get a single calculation correct. I showed up with a calendar every day for the rest of this class.
Miguel Valencia, ‘20
I recently got a bad grade on an open-book homework assignment for my
macroeconomics class. I really had to think to myself... How in God’s name was I able to get a failing grade for an open-book homework assignment? I reflected on my process of doing the assignment: I had a full week to get this assignment done, and I remember sitting at the living room table going over my notes, watching videos on concepts I didn’t understand, and just really applying myself to this assignment. It was my first homework assignment for this class, so I wanted to ace this. I answered every question at a reasonable length and made sure every question was completed. I got to the back of the packet to "opportunity cost" – a concept I followed in class but didn’t quite understand on my own. I attempted the questions anyway, knowing that I was most likely going to see red dashes on that section when I got the paper back. But there were more than just red dashes on the back of the packet; they were on the front and within my responses, with the grand red failing grade on the back of the packet. I had done the first homework packet to my best ability – using notes and researching concepts to better understand them – just for me to fail!
In high school, I had a good reputation for my grades. I was always on the honor roll or
merit roll and always had motivation to apply myself to my academics as much as possible because getting good grades was my drive. I’ve always had this drive for academic validation, and anytime I got a bad grade, unless it was a conscious decision for me to receive a bad grade, it always hit my ego. My whole life as a student, I had this fixed mindset that my grades were the validation of my character and who I was as a person. When I failed a test or exam, I thought I was stupid, ignorant, and incapable of understanding the material in a class.
I’m still in the process of realizing that grades do not define who I am as a person. Grades do not define what you’re capable of achieving. Rather, failing at something is a lesson and the motivation to become capable of what you once thought you were incapable of. The reality is that in life you are always learning, not only in school but in your personal life as well, outside of just being an "A+" student. Throughout my four years in college, I will not only be encouraging myself, but other students as well, to remain resilient. Never allow failure to hinder your process and progress in life in any aspect.
an indoor forest to record my voice/i renounce the rising aura, red attempted convolution/conniving for corruption, achieving portioned confusion/heliotropes to care for the working man, hummingbirds to infiltrate, rounding hums/and wax coated wasps/you yawn portals on other planets, di-solaric, and hardly correct;/a tank to contain a robust algae./i ask for a solid review, to know the limits of your understanding/you stare/and i question the walls of my room/why can the moon whiten at the sight of my own teeth but not widen?/split at seams and advertise jellied cliffs/remove the sound, your inner workings support words and realizations;/they do not care for your natural classes/and fronted vowels/but i dream about you in the feint overworld green./i plead with a karat on your holy fingers/fulfillment’s refrain: the cathedral material, compacted and caked./i thought i found you in a rotating ring, debating/homophones with the hierophant/i wonder whether/the costumes become intricate/or philistine for pleasure./i hallucinate my own halos, halations and debated holiness,/i mistake pheromones for a nimbus about my head:/do i document a dream?
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