Who Knew I Had Such Power or Grading Life

A student emailed me the other day, expressing her disappointment with her mark on a paper. She did not ask what would have made the paper better; she did not seek to book an appointment with me. She just wished to express her pain at not receiving a mark she felt she deserved. As a result, she told me I had “shattered (her) hope and dreams for a brilliant future”.

Who hasn’t been disappointed in life, sometimes by our own hands and sometimes by the way circumstances fall together? Who hasn’t come up screaming and swinging at how unfair it all is only to set back in a moment of silence and recognize the role S/he has played in getting the current point? It’s all part of the package known as life.

How one mark on a small paper at this time in her life will lead to shattered hopes and dreams I have no idea. It does not make her any less worthy as a person. It does not mean she is not allowed to still reach for the golden ring. It may mean she has to work a bit harder somewhere along the line. But it is only one mark and in a few years it won’t’ even matter any longer. Because no one cares about you grade point average once you are out of school. It is totally irrelevant as I have learned.

Graduated on the dean’s honor roll? Good for you, either you worked hard and sacrificed some of the experience of college time or you were able to find the fit between your classes and enjoying student life. The corporate world really doesn’t care much beyond the fact you have your degree.

I wanted to tell this student to relax, enjoy the whole experience as school and realize that in the grand scheme of things, this mark won’t matter. It won’t make or break her as a person, unless she lets it. And there is so much more to life than grades, some much more of life is spent outside of school than in it unless academia becomes your home. No one will think any differently of you if you were B or C student. Outside of the classroom it can be hard to tell the A students from the C students in casual conversation.

I also wanted to tell this student to never give someone else that kind of power over her life. Never let the opinions of another matter more than your own ambitions and determination. But I didn’t tell this student any of these things. Because she didn’t want to hear any of that, she wanted to place the blame of her future failings squarely at my feet. And that’s up to her. I won’t own it, and I think it’s rather sad if she opts to use this logic for her future. But it is up to her to make of things what she will. And if she wants to say her whole life went to hell in a hand-basket the day a professor gave her a C- on a positional paper regarding the role of women in theology, that’s fine. I just hope she also includes that her life took this direction because she failed to support her ideas, cite sources properly and ignored minor things such as spelling and grammar. After all if you are going to tell the story, you might just as well tell the whole thing right?


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