Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prepare, Don’t Compare
By Mary Ann Slavcheff

Students often compare themselves with other students. When we get our tests back, what do we do? We look at our scores and at our neighbor’s scores. “What did you get?”  we ask?
What about final grades?
What did you get in the class?”
“What did she get?”
It can be frustrating, if despite all your hard work, someone who you consider a flake  says he got a higher score.
But the competition is seldom about who learned the most. Instead it is often about final grades or scores.  Someone else’s learning is impossible to measure accurately.
Let me tell you a couple of stories.
When I was in high school, I was an awful student. I had problems in and out of the classroom, and teachers considered me hopeless. I didn’t do the work and that was it.  But when I took a shorthand course, I liked those symbols. I took the time to practice and learn them. I should have been doing well, but the instructor wasn’t about to give an “A’ to someone barely passing other classes. There had to be something wrong, if I was doing well in this subject.  I ended up with a “D.” 
But I liked shorthand, and over the years I kept it up. When I finally got to college and became a serious “A” student, shorthand helped me. I could take notes on 100 percent of what the instructor said, if necessary. Of course, that would be too many notes, but I could keep up with even the fastest talking instructor. 
I still take shorthand.
A few years ago I met an old classmate.  She was a serious student then in all the classes that I dismissed.  I remember  how well she did in shorthand. “Do you use shorthand?” I asked her.
“I don’t remember any of that,” she said. “I’m surprised I even passed the course. I couldn’t remember half those squiggles.”
I barely passed the class and still remember it. I was clearly the winner and the real learner. That teacher dismissed me as a goof off because that is how she read me before the class even began. A better teacher would have  recognized my interest and given me the “A” that  I now think I deserved.  But that is all ancient history.
Learning became its own reward for me.
While my old classmate and I were being honest about our grades and what we learned, know that other students sometimes lie.
I remember one of my students whom I will call him Willie. He seldom came to class and when he did come to class, he was unprepared.  He was the class goof off. He made jokes when he didn’t know the answer, so he had entertainment value.
The class ended. I gave him the grade he deserved which was not a passing grade.
The next semester when I walked into the school atrium., several students from that class were sitting around the tables. The goof off student was all smiles. He walked up to me, put his arm around my shoulders, smiled and said,”Thanks for the “A,” Mrs. Slavcheff.”
I didn’t say anything;  there was nothing I could say. It is illegal to discuss a student’s grade with an outsider present. I ignored his comment.
The students who had worked hard and several of whom had earned A’s stood there with open mouths. They couldn’t believe it.
The next few days I would walk into the building and see all those students again. The goof-off Willie would grin at me. “How you, doin’,  Mrs. Slavcheff?” The hard working students looked like I had just harpooned them. They believed he had gotten an “A.”
Finally, I went up to  my angry former students. “If he says he got an ‘A’, tell him to show you his “A.’”  I said.
I had not passed that student. His lie was believed for awhile, but he couldn’t show anyone his “A” because he never got one.  So remember that students lie, the next time someone tells you his grade was higher than you know he deserved.
But does it matter?

Start learning because it is the best thing you can do for yourself, not so you can compare your grade to someone else’s grade.

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