Brady Gave Me a D…and Then She Gave Me a F

Being a product of the millennial generation, I made higher than straight A’s in high school thanks to some cockamamie grade point system that weighed honors classes higher than regular classes as part of a clever ruse designed by high school guidance counselors to get some of us into private colleges (so I thought at the time). Although I claimed to think of grades as “just letters” or “just numbers”, I assumed I’d perform at least this well in college just by the virtue that I simply must be awesome.

A few weeks into the class, Brady had us write full sentence outlines for one of our papers. Up until that point, I was doing decently well in the class and, for whatever reason, I didn’t write my outline in full sentences. (I probably thought it was a waste of time). I think what I did was write full sentences for the roman numerals and fragments/key words for everything below it. Which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Somewhere probably two-thirds through the outline, I got the infamous “I stopped reading here” note and a D for a grade. The D must’ve been for Doubt, because Brady later told me that she couldn’t tell how bad it was from what I had given her and, for all she knew, I might have been onto something genius. Assured that I was still indeed awesome, I re-worked the assignment to actually fulfill the basic criteria and fleshed out everything into sentences with subjects, predicates, and all that other stuff sentences are supposed to have. I turned it in a few days later and she gave it back to me a few days after that…

And she gave me a F.

And she laughed when she handed it to me.

At first I thought she was pleased with herself, that maybe all that time she was just setting me up to fall harder. But I knew better than to start arguing unprepared, so I read her comments (deciphered them, really). And she was right. My argument was inherently flawed and the outline would produce a terrible paper. So I told her, I guess I better come up with something better if I wanted to write a decent paper and tossed out an idea I got from one of her comments. The next thing I knew, the two of us were discussing not my grade but what my paper should be. And it was fun. I went from thinking “I have to write this paper” to thinking “I have to write about this really cool thing”.

After that conversation, I don’t think I bothered reworking the outline a third time hoping for a better grade. I was ready to write the danged paper and I let the F stand, having determined that, to a large extent, grades really are just letters and numbers that don’t really correlate to how awesome or not awesome I am.

I’m not saying that grades aren’t important. I’m just saying, for the life of me, I can’t remember what that paper was about or the grade I got on it or what I got in the class (either an A or a B, I think). But here’s what I learned from that class:

  1. Read the directions and follow them, even if you think they’re weird or stupid.
  2. F’s happen.
  3. All failing really means is moving on to do the next thing better.
  4. Success also really means moving on to do the next thing better.
  5. Repeat 1 – 4 regularly, even if you only believe yourself half the time. [This one came later].


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2 responses to “Brady Gave Me a D…and Then She Gave Me a F

  1. I really cannot think of anything a teacher would rather want their students to learn.

  2. Pingback: On Like Donkey Kong: On video games, the ACE exam, and who I am | GINA PUTTHOFF dot com

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