It's a balancing act, really; life is a great big balancing act.
This week has presented me with a test… or two, or three.
Front and centre was my mid term exam in English at the U. For as much as I've been yammering on and on about how the "education is more important than the grade", I found myself - for the first time this semester - concerning myself with the eventual outcome of my course... in terms of a letter grade.
Why am I all of a sudden concerned with "how well am I going to do... on someone's preconceived scale of good and bad"?
Here's my answer:
It had everything to do with the timed nature of our exam. You see I suffer from test anxiety. I even know where it comes from. School, for as long as I've known it, has determined a student's worth on the academic scale by how well he or she can learn a prescribed amount of material in a given amount of time. If you don't learn the material in x amount of time, or regurgitate it within the allotted time in an exam, you're grade reflects THAT, rather than how well you may do long-term.
As an aside, the example I like to use is typing. I took Typing 10 in grade 10. That same year I broke my arm in phys. ed. As a result, I ended up with a half-semester spare and was required to take the typing course again in grade 11 to meet the prerequisite for the computer courses I wanted to take. Upon completing the course in grade 11, my instructor granted me a "conditional pass". I would receive a 50% grade. The notation on my transcript would then read "not recommended to proceed to next level".
Typing 20 was out.
So much for my career as a receptionist.
Little did they know, I'd show them! Just to spite them, I started my own business and said,
"I'll do my OWN typing, and answer my OWN damn phone! ...and maybe throw in a little DJing to liven things up a bit..."
Over time, my typing has improved. I don't feel the least bit uncomfortable running a keyboard. I'm not all that quick on a number pad, but I can type fairly accurately with all ten fingers, fairly quickly. The skills I posses now are the skills I was expected to posses in grade 11. I got them. Finally. But because I didn't get them "right away", I was deemed "not good enough".
So here I am, a number of days prior to my mid term exam. Things are moving along nicely. Then, it happened. Fear struck. I'm not talking any normal kind of fear. I'm talking paralysing fear to the point I indeed froze. For two days I didn't study. I didn't crack a single book. In the time perfectly suited to reviewing - neither so close to the day to be considered cramming, nor too far away to allow for the damaging effects of forgetfulness - I did nothing. It took several people encouraging me by way of
"take it as it comes",
"do what you can do",
"this is your time to shine"...
to get me back on track. You know who you are, and thank you, all!
As if test anxiety alone isn't enough, Sunday night brought with it some trauma. I won't go into the details, except to say... remember when I broke my arm in grade 10? That was in 1986. Sunday night, as a result of said trauma, I met up with Ken - the man who casted my arm back in grade 10. I KNEW he looked familiar!
So, as ill-prepared as I felt, and shaking like a leaf from head to toe, palms sweaty and mind racing a mile-a-minute, I entered the class. Armed sans-caffeine with a bottle of water, two pens, a pencil and a quarter-ream of paper, I was set.
Second aside: I was joking with a friend earlier who said,
"Hey man, maybe you should just relax about the whole thing. Take a bevy with you to class... hell, take the whole bottle, make some friends!"
The exam consisted of three short-essay questions. We were instructed, "No more than two paragraphs, each essay".
I have a queasy feeling in my gizzard.
It seemed too easy.
I must have missed something.
But... it's done.
All the semester’s assignments have been thrown off-track as a result of our prof. taking medical leave until January. Between now and January 9 I have the rewrite of my first essay to complete. (I see M. on Monday to consult on that.) Essay #2 is also due at that time. This worked out to my benefit in that I receive the consultation on Essay #1 BEFORE having to write Essay #2. Huge benefit to lowly English fledgling!!
So... I suppose in the end I've really accomplished (so far) what I set out to do: get an education, learn something new. Where the rubber meets the road in this case is all about forward motion. Grades be damned, what did I learn, and how will it make me a better person?