Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflections on the Semester: The Importance of Taking a Deep Breath

As I'm sitting in my parents kitchen with a beautiful view of the falling snow outside, it becomes much easier to self-critique, and remember the things that I've done well, and the things that I haven't done that well.
My dad tells me all the time that school is a time when you're going to make mistakes, and all you can do is your best. Of course, one's "best" is relative, so it becomes harder to reassure oneself when Sally Knowitall consistently gets higher grades on those reading quizzes and ALL YOU WANT is that A-minus. 

The thing is, many students do so much more than school. Saint Mike's students volunteer, organize, manage, protest, meditate, mourn, and celebrate. I'm sure students everywhere do, but I speak only from my own experience. What I mean to say, then, is that to narrow one's definition of success to a series of grades on a transcript (over which students have only as much control as the effort they put in) is ludicrous, when the majority of our responsibilities lie outside academia. Is academia less than these outside experiences? Of course not, but to imply that the plurality of divergent experiences on SMC campus can be measured by an antiquated system of letter-ranking is preposterous, especially when some students are spending a majority of their time working or organizing service trips.

In light of all this, I'd argue the best thing any of us can do in a moment of calamity is to take a deep breath. To stress in the face of challenge is to accept and perpetuate one's state of anxiety. That being said, it's not an easy thing to calm oneself when one has a test in the morning and a twenty-page paper due yesterday. But all we can do is try.

This semester, I've learned that Yoda wasn't right after all. Yes, I suppose we could restrict the definition of human effort and attainment to a cut-and-dry binary of "either do, or do not," but that only bleaches any given story to one of outright success or failure. If a student learns more than they ever have about the social construction of race but gets a C in the class, how is that a failure? Moreover, how can one qualify as "intelligent" the student whose pompous nature and sturdy resolve allows them an A, by virtue of their predisposition? Neither of these stories is fully explained in the assignment of a letter grade.

In conclusion, then, I encourage my peers, prospective students, and parents to reflect on the importance of trying. More often than not, trial and error yield understanding. So why get down on ourselves for futzing that one Chem procedure, when we know for the next time around that we probably shouldn't add the water to the acid? It's all a learning process, because learning is never finite.

Thanks for reading, and here's to the close of one semester, the dawn of another, and the never-ending process of learning what "it's" all about.

No comments:

Post a Comment