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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Which of the seven deadly sins is pride?

Not that it matters.

Let me sit down with you and have a chat. Seriously....come here, next to me, pull up a cushion. We need to talk about grades and about hard work because I learned a few things over the past five months and I want to share them with you.

Comfy? Excellent.

Okay, so as a teacher I know how arbitrary grades are. And they're biased as hell. I give kids breaks left and right, and, while I don't take points away from kids just because I don't like them, I don't do those kids any favors either. The whole grading system is flawed beyond measure......yet it is the only system that "matters" to success for eighteen years of a person's life. There were doors that opened and closed to me based on whether or not the professor a) had had their coffee; b) liked me; c) agreed with my opinion; d) actually graded the stuff or had a TA do it that may or may not have known more than I did. Or many other reasons. As a result, I tend to make sure the overall grade for the student reflects their effort and the work that they completed. I give extra credit. I'm more in favor of hard work than of knowledge. Maybe that makes me unfair, but that's how I am.

So, my point. I finished my last final test tonight, and went home praying I had done enough to not wreck my A. My arbitrary, biased, doesn't-matter A. And I got it. I earned 3 As. With teaching an overload, with a second job at a funeral home, with a dog, with having a life. I earned my first 4.0 ever in my life. And let me tell you---I have never, ever been more proud of myself than I am tonight. Not when I graduated from St. Olaf, not when I got accepted to the Zoetrope: All Story writing conference, not when I was honorable mention in the Mentor Series. This is pride that comes straight from hard work-your-ass-off work, which I've discovered I've done decidedly little of in my life.

I know it's only going to get harder from here. This is the tip of the iceberg, and the further I get into it, the more pressure I'll feel to maintain the 4.0. But I'm focused now in a way that I wish I could share with my students--I wish I could make them see the difference between a B that's handed to them (what I accepted my whole life) and an A that is well earned. The difference is immeasurable.

A secret for you---I wasn't a good student. I look like I would have been, acted like I would have been, but I worked far below my actual ability level. Because I'm lazy. And sloth, also one of those seven deadlys, was a huge downfall for me. I'm not a totally smart person--I'm not a natural A girl, I'm a girl that needs to work for her As. And I never did before this January.

So, I'm basking tonight in a feeling that I've honestly never felt before---total and complete pride in a job truly well done. I know I did my best, and I was rewarded for it. Am I placing too much emphasis on grades? Absolutely. But, well, sometimes it's okay to do that.

1 comment:

jamais vu said...

If being proud of working your ass off to get and keep A's a sin then maybe that relgion is bogus. Just sayin'. Now if you were being all proud because you happened to be born caucasion or born in America, that might be a sin of some sort. And sloth... well that's just a LIFESTYLE choice isn't it? :D Congratulations for working your ass off to get A's, working you paying job, and not completely losing your mind. That really is a lot of good reasons to be self-satisfied.