I have a lot of a respect for teachers–really, I do. Their dedication to making sure I get the experience I need is inspiring, especially because they do it under all of the difficult and awkward situations that high school students can cause.
In my 2 and a half years as a student here, I’ve observed a trait that all of the awesome teachers I’ve been in class with have in common: frustration with their students’ priorities.
It isn’t uncommon to hear from a teacher “Stop worrying about the points!!” or “It’s a million points, now that you ask!!” This is pretty normal, and completely understandable since it’s the job of the teacher to worry about the content. But, every time I get this response or hear it somewhere else I say to myself: who do you think made us this way?
I know (or at least am pretty sure) that I didn’t come out of the womb screaming “HOW MANY POINTS?????” I’m even nearly positive that in Kindergarten, when I was exercising my developing reading skills, I didn’t say “Sure, I’ll learn how to read–but only if it’s for points.”
So, when did this happen?
If I had to put a date on when points became my main priority, I would say it was my first day of high school. This was the big leagues. Everything I did would be recorded on a piece of paper that colleges would be using to decide whether or not I’m worthy to go to their school. It seemed like everything in my academic life became about this paper, and high school was only a stepping-stone in a stream to my ultimate goal: an acceptance letter.
* * *
Since the day I started school here, I’ve worked hard. I track all of my points, grades, GPA, and test scores tirelessly. A lot of people assume that this comes from pressure of parents, but very little of it stems from that. This pressure came from a place within me that never existed until I learned of the possibility of an admissions office telling me that I’m not welcome–that I’m not good enough.
My work has paid off so far, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough. I’m always trying to squeeze extra points into my grades, sometimes I feel obsessed. In particularly high-stress times like exam week, I find myself refreshing Blackboard 4 or 5 times a minute–just hoping that something will change and I can take a breath. Because of all the effort I put in, anything that appears when I refresh that isn’t perfection feels like a disappointment. This is all because my academic confidence revolves around the number of points I have. It’s all about the points.
You could be wondering “Why doesn’t she want to focus on simply learning?” My answer is very easy. No one has time for that. Just as my day is split into 7 periods, so is my time after school. There is only so much I can do and only so much that I can handle. If I focused on just learning all of the material instead of playing for points, I would fail. There are too many possibilities of spending too much time on one subject, going so far that I confuse myself, or finding out that I actually don’t know anything. This could cause me to lose the opportunity to study at a high caliber institution in a few years. If I learn now, I’m denied a bright future of learning later.
Now, the endless play for points doesn’t go without consequences. Even though I have good grades, my academic confidence is very low. I’m terrified of standardized tests because they might reveal how unintelligent I think I am, because I can’t hide behind my grades. This is a reality all too real for a lot of students that I’m close with.
When I hear the frustration of my teachers about the desperation students have for points, I feel two things: guilt and a longing to be able to say that I don’t live on points and I fully submerge myself in my subjects. But that possibility seems untouchable, a million miles away.
Students are in a sort of tug-of-war on a daily basis. Our enthusiastic and good-intentioned teachers are pulling us in the direction of true education, while the ominous college offices are pulling us in the opposite direction: they only care about the points. As far as I know, the people judging our transcript will always win.
Who is to blame?
I don’t really have an answer. But, when we are scolded for being concerned about the point value of an assignment, it automatically puts the fault in the student’s already overflowing hands. What can we do?
It is about the points. I’m getting points for writing this blog post. Does that make me a bad student? Considering all of the work I put into school, I sure hope not.
I daydream a lot about changing the entire way the education system works when I’m an adult. If I could, I would make school more personalized about what the student wants out of their life, and I would get rid of the point system. Instead, I would introduce a system of portfolios to let schools judge your real work and see you as a person, not as an average of numbers and letters.
But, if I ever want to seriously pursue such an endeavor, I have to attend a great college where I can research and learn from the best. I think we all know by now what I have to do to get there.
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