Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Grades who needs them!?

I'm fed up with grades! I'm sick of everyone's obsession with grades and everyone's obsession over other people's grades. I can't stand it. Whenever I get a big test, exam, or paper back I literally dread seeing the number on the top. Even more than seeing my grade I dread my friend asking me how I did. I feel like the typical reaction of most students is to look at your own grade and then look and ask around to see how others did. I'll admit I used to be guilty of doing this, but I don't want to fall victim to this habit anymore. When I refuse to tell my friends my grade, they start guessing if I did bad or good. I do my best to compose my face to not give anything away, unfortunately I've become rather predictable and my friends have figured out that I usually end up scoring the highest in the class or among the highest. So why does it bother me to tell people what I got if I did so well?
My answer is complicated and when I try to explain my reasoning my friends usually don't understand. The reason is I don't want to change what they think of me. I don't want to become that 'smart' person that people just go to for homework help. Maybe I'm just to humble to take pride in my hard work. They'll tell me to my face they don't care if I got a better grade than them, but I can see it in their face and mannerisms it bothers them, and I hate that. I study really hard, I devote a lot of time to my schoolwork, its all I have. Other kids have jobs, sports, boyfriends and girlfriends, video games, things that distract them, I don't. My point is we're all different, we shouldn't compare how we did to others. If you tried your best that is all that should matter, if you know you didn't study and did poorly, doesn't that make sense?
I was in the Math Lab the other day working on homework with my friends and they ask me how I did on the Calculus II test we just got back. I ask them why does it matter what I got? They give scattered, desperate reasons, they just need to know. It's mind blowing to me that it bothers them that much. They assume I did well, but for some reason they need the specific number. I don't tell them and we continue working, I can tell it's still gnawing at them to know what I got, but I'm not giving in.
Later we reminisce about high school and all of sudden their dropping their GPA's and class rank like it's nobody's business. I can't even recall mine, I know I was in the top 10 rank-wise and had a good GPA, but I didn't feel the need to memorize it. They inquire if I know my current college GPA, I don't. They again recite theirs. Why?! I can't understand why it's so important. What happened to learning, why are we so number obsessed? Bah! I'm beyond frustrated.
I often visit my old youth group and help out, I like to stick around and talk to the kids, and offer them my advice and insight about college. (I'm not pretending to be an expert but I can share my experience) I wish someone had been there for me to ask questions, anyway, so I try to make myself available to these kids. They ask about scholarships and I immediately groan. I mention my beef with scholarships in an earlier blog post. I basically tell them that I received no scholarships even though my grades were exceptional (I got one B all of my life). They immediately begin asking what my GPA was, I tell them I don't remember. I don't, honestly. They seem disappointed.
Reminding myself of the above situation and the earlier post I wrote, I think I can shed some more light on my hatred for grades. In high school I was one of those kids just striving to get that A to keep my record perfect. By the time I earned my first and only B in 11th grade I was disappointed but still hopeful for my future. However I got no scholarships, so apparently my perfect grades weren't worth much. You really should read my earlier post, if you haven't already. Regardless I realized my obsession with grades in high school was pointless, and I don't want that to happen to me again in college.
My good friend who is not in my Calculus class overheard me talking to my calculus classmate about the test (this was after we took it, before we had gotten our grades). I politely told him I didn't want to talk about it, to which my non Calculus classmates pretends to mock me in a high pitched careless voice "I don't want to talk about it, but then I'll get it back and find I got a 100." Ouch, I know he was kidding, but ouch. That is not my attitude at all, I just don't want to talk about it, because then I'll stress out. This is another reason why I hate grades, it makes friends do ugly things.
Later I talk to the friend that imitated me and ask if it would bother him if I got a better score than him on a test, if he would look at me differently. He responded in his usual joking manner that it wouldn't because he knew he was better than me at other things like; golf, pool, and basketball. He then goes on about betting money he could beat me at basketball, which is fine and probably true. Then we get our Chemistry exams back the following day, I receive a near perfect score and he scrapes by with above 50%. The rest of class he hardly jokes around like normal and he won't even smile at me. I talk with him after class, he's upset with how badly he did. I try and comfort him, it's not that bad...only one test. It's no use, I can tell he despises me comforting him because I did so well. True we did study together, but I take notes during class and he doesn't most of the time. I just hate that my success is making him feel that much worse about his own grade.
I haven't even mentioned my Physics class, and I've barely skimmed the surface of the grading problems in Chemistry and Calculus, but I don't think discussing it further is going to help. I don't know what will help at this point. If everyone could just stop stressing the importance of grades...but then I guess that is what college is all about.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you, kfin. Veeeeeeeeeeery much with you. I'll need to write about this issue again, just to help myself process what you're going through, and to try to figure out what you and I can both do to better counter this pernicious obsession.

    Maybe it would make you feel better to know that I've reached the point where I intend not only to abolish in-class exams in all of my classes (done that already, in fact)...but also to abolish wholly individual exams in upper-level classes? The learning environment in my MATH 280 class was so obviously improved after the last exam, a collaborative take-home one, that I can't see myself standing by a highly traditional, but roundly ineffectual, pedagogical tradition.

    Hang in there, my friend. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.