I’ve always loved learning, but I hate class. Grades have never really been my strong suit, and so I typically associated my issues with class with the grading system. It always seemed that I would be the least interested in a class that I was struggling to get good grades in. Normally I would associate my lack of interest to being graded, because before grades became an issue, I would be very interested in a subject. Likewise, I typically am more interested in classes that I do well in. This “anti-grade” theory has been my answer to why I hate class for the first half of high school, but is that really what it’s about? Is it the grading system, or is it me?
The first half of high school, by September or October, I knew what classes I liked and which ones I hated, but Junior year has been a different animal. As of September I don’t hate any classes so far, my grades aren’t struggling, and most importantly I’m not discouraged. Strange. Why is that? What makes this year different? After realizing there was something different about this year, being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know why. So I began thinking about different things I was doing. First I started with the amount of time I have after school, and realized that so far I actually have less time to do homework after school than in years past. Ok that doesn’t make sense, how can I be less stressed and discouraged when I have less time? So I moved on to study techniques to see if I was doing anything different. Still I found that I was actually studying less for my tests, yet finding better success than in the past. How can this even be possible?
I thought on this for a couple days, and was rather confused because it just wasn’t making sense. I couldn’t find anything until I wasn’t looking for it and realized I had been looking at the wrong thing the entire time. I had been trying to pick apart the wrong problem and I didn’t even know it. In iD class we were tasked with creating a list of things that bug us, make us curious, and other things that make us think. Of course my list was pretty long, not because I hate everything but because I’m just observant. After sorting through all of the sticky notes, I sorted them into common themes and noticed a trend. It seemed that most of the things that bugged me were related to expectations in the classroom, the competition between students, and the feeling of failure. There were many other things in there that bugged me like long lines and people being in my way, but these issues stuck out to me. For some reason I was really bugged by the expectations to be perfect at school.
I went home that night thinking more about how I’m constantly being compared to other students, expected to be perfect, and other things that really bring me down at school and was getting pretty frustrated with it. Why do teachers expect us to be perfect? Why do they compare us to other students and expect us to be someone we’re not? Why don’t we get rewarded for our strengths more instead of being punished for our weaknesses? I kept asking questions like this and thinking “In iD I never feel this way. Why is that?”, and that’s where it hit me. In iD, we are able to show our strengths all the time, and when we have weaknesses we aren’t ever punished for it. We’re accepted exactly for who we are, and aren’t compared to the other students in the class. In iD there aren’t grades that define our intelligence. Our intelligence is defined by the questions we ask and our desire to make a difference. In iD, I feel like I’m smart, and I believe that I’m smart, and that’s the key. It’s not about the way I’m graded, or even grades themselves that make me hate class. I hated class because it changed the way I saw myself by being compared and expected to do things that I’m not.
After coming to this realization this school year started to make some sense. Because I felt like I was smart and capable in iD, that confidence carried over to my other classes and they didn’t discourage me as much. Its not that my classes were easier or that suddenly I became a genius, its that I believed that I was smart and capable of doing well. This confidence has carried over to other parts of my life too. I’ve found myself putting a lot more effort and commitment into becoming a better rower each day at practice and have seen how my coach has been impressed with my performance.
So as I think more about this idea, it makes me think that this is a problem lots of other students face in school. So many talented students don’t succeed because they don’t have the “right” talents or “proper” strengths that are assessed in the classroom grading system. If iD has provided this confidence for me, how can we help other students to find confidence in their learning? How can we change the way school works so that all students can succeed? How can we change the way we do our work so that we can use our individual strengths? These are the questions I’m now pondering and hope to look into to help other students to find their confidence in their education and hopefully in life in general.