If I knew then what I know now

It’s possible I’m too honest with my students.

Before I handed back graded assignments tonight, I addressed a common error throughout. But even as I explained why it’s so important to keep an eye out for this issue, I offered a confession: “I suspect some of this is a result of end-of-the-semester busyness or laziness. I get that. I would do the same.”

The truth is, I was a mediocre college student. My grades weren’t bad–I was an A/B student and would have lost my scholarship if my GPA dropped too low. But I wasn’t particularly concerned about my grades, I skipped as many classes as possible without academic retribution and I often thought I knew more than my professors. (Oh, the ego.)

So I can understand where my students are coming from when they get a little lax with AP style. But if I had it to do over again, I’d try to be more like the kids I teach:

I’d show up to every class and ask tons of questions.

I’d stick around after class to show the teacher my resume and ask how I could improve it.

I’d ask professors with experience in my field about how they built their careers.

I’d figure out whose career path looked most like what I wanted, and I’d study his or her work.

I’d use my class assignments as opportunities to further those end goals.

I figured a lot of that out by the time I entered grad school (and the fact that I was bankrolling that degree didn’t hurt). But the kids I work with are several years younger, and they consistently impress me. They’ve got their strengths and weaknesses, sure, and not everyone is taking each of these steps. (Then again, not everyone wants to follow my career path.) My goal as a teacher is not only to impart knowledge according to the class syllabus, but also to encourage my students to get as much as they can out of their college careers.

But if I had it to do again, there’s at least one thing I surely wouldn’t change: I’d still prioritize life experience over grades. After all, no one cares now about my GPA.*


*If you’re wondering, I finished my bachelor’s with something like a 3.4, and my master’s with a 3.6. But if I, the girl who can still rattle off her SAT and ACT scores and takes pride in her GRE logic score, am not confident in those numbers, it probably says something about how much your GPA matters down the road.

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