My first failing grade - and lessons learned (eventually)


I was always a 90's student in elementary school (back in those days - we actually got grades). So when I started junior high and I got back the results of my first English test, I got 30! Yes that's 30 out of 100 possible points. The worst grade I ever received in my entire life!

I was furious, I bet my English teacher could even see the steam coming out of my ears as I spoke to her about it after class that day.  Me a 30? - Did she not know how smart I was? There must be some sort of mistake, I don't make 30's. Did she have it 'in for me' (not unlike my Grade 3 teacher did).

The teacher quietly and politely asked me how long I studied for the test. Why a full 2 hours the night before I proudly told her!.  Her response was simply 'interesting'.  So I have been teaching you this content for about an hour per day for day the last 90 days, so about 90 hours of information, and you prepared for it in 2 that correct.  YEP! (said I).  Well it seems to me, that your mark accurately reflects the amount of work you put into preparing for it.

This message, while spoken calmly -  was probably meant to help, simply made me more furious! This is ridiculous I worked hard, I studied, the same as I had done in the past, I expect the same marks (I did not say this to the teacher at the time, I thought it and sulkily walked away)

I held a grudge for that teacher for a long time - longer then I care to admit in public.  I finally started to understand only once I began learning about 'process'. A system which turns a set of 'INPUTS' into a set of 'OUTPUTS'.  The teacher is like the engine (or a computer program) that drives the process. A computer program has no feelings, it doesn't give out 'bad marks' because it is in 'bad mood' or hold a grudge, it simply turns the input into the output. 

The quality of the input directly affects the quality of the output. For example, if you try to bake a cake by passing ingredients through a 'cake making machine' , the cake requires a certain amount of flour.  If you substitute the flour for some other ingredient, say 'baking soda' are not going to get a very good cake, it's not the 'cake making machine's' fault that the cake turned out bad.

Reflecting back now, cramming two hours studying for material that was about 90 hours of teaching , in a course that I was not particularly 'good at'  was not really realistic. I had simply managed to 'get away with it' in elementary school, because indeed I was smart and picked up on things quickly. 

My error (lessons learned) was that not everything in life comes easily. More often then the things that really matter to you -  require hard work, perseverance and a lot of mistakes!

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