My midterm report card will be shipped home this Thursday. But just so there are no nasty surprises in three days, all my teachers gave out our grades today. First period American History- 87%. That’s pretty good, but if I were diligent in my homework I’d be 3% better. A 90% in accounting. That’s really good actually considering I don’t even like the course. In fashion (my best subject!) I am breezing by with a 92%. The last key mark was my English mark. But I never worry about English. Proper grammar and impeccable spelling are my greatest joys. My ninth grade nickname was “Webster,” as in the dictionary. So when I turned over the piece of paper with my overall grade written in the corner, I had a grin on my face- a grin that was quickly replaced with a look of horror. It’s not so much that an 85% is a bad mark. But if you knew me better, you’d be shocked as well that I don’t have a higher mark. The Elements of Style is my Bible. I can dissert Shakespeare like multi-page essays are going out of style. If there’s one subject thing I can emerge from summa cum laude, it’d be English.
Admittedly, I asked to go to the “bathroom” after I saw my mark and proceeded to go cry in the arms of a friend I saw wandering the hallways. Did I overreact? Probably. Banshee-like wails seemed entirely appropriate at the time. So did banging my fists on the wall and calling my teacher various names that rhyme with, well…never mind. I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation, regardless of your current academic level, be it the last legs of your M.D. or the first few weeks of gym class. Getting disappointing grades- for lack of a better word- sucks! So what’s one to do when faced with such an academic despondency? Well for starters, don’t lose your cool and disrespect your teacher the way I did. In hindsight, it was madly immature. As my loyal friend put it, “that’s not the kind of academic karma you want to be building up, yo.” The better thing to have done of course, would have been to take a few (or a lot of) deep breaths and asked the teacher after class what could have been done to improve the grades. And then sitting down and creating a set of goals and then an action plan for how I can improve.But as much as grades matter, I sometimes can’t help but wonder if in all of our desires for impeccable GPAs we lose huge amounts of perspective. What I mean is, if your house burned down tomorrow would you care about what grade you have in your economics course? What if you found out a family member had a fatal illness? Would you still care about your grades in biology class? I apologize for being morbid, but as I was walking home, staring at that big loopy eight standing to the left of the squiggly number five, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would I even remember this moment in ten years? Was anybody going to sue me because I have this grade? Am I putting anyone’s life in danger because of my grades? No. No. And most certainly no. If you can answer no to all three of those questions the next time you are faced with an academic disappointment, feel free to take a deep breath. Calm yourself down. Tell yourself that you’ll do better next time and then move on. (But then actually make the effort to do better next time, lest all your rational thinking be in vain.) There are worse things that could have happened to you. And at the very least, you’ll have an interesting story to blog about later!