More Than a Number

More Than a Number pic

There are two questions I hate being asked: 1) “How much do you weigh?” and more recently, 2) “What grade did you get?” (I really only mind this when it’s someone from my own class asking me this).

My freshman English teacher used to say before administering each test, “A test is not a reflection of who you are, but how much you learned (and I will still love you even if you don’t do well).”

When it comes to asking about grades, I always phrase the question as “How did you do?” I don’t care about numbers; I’m just asking a fairly general question that can be completely open to interpretation. If you say “I did well,” that could mean an A, B, or even D grade, depending on what your usual average is. But no one has to know that average, and no one has to feel the judgment of being compared to. When you ask me what grade I’ve received and it turns out being worse than yours, I feel bad, of course. And if I’ve done better than you, then it’s just awkward. What’s the point of the comparison?

Like I said in a previous posting, I’m currently taking Bio 101 – a general ed requirement. So far it’s been smooth sailing – but not for everyone. After getting an 80% on the first unit exam, I kicked it into high gear and managed to fare a lot better on the next two – quietly. I guess you could say that my desire to not have to take the semester final outweighed my desire to watch the season finale of Downton Abbey (if you go into the final with an A, you don’t have to take it!).

I say “quietly” because I learned that if you do well in a class, don’t be loud about it, otherwise you’ll end up “helping” (and by “helping” I mean “doing”) others’ work for them. And bragging is just stupid. Don’t get me wrong – I’m proud of my accomplishments and when I do well. Don’t think I don’t privately do a little happy dance in my dorm room when things go right; maybe write a little grateful Facebook post about it. But I’m not about to shout it from the rooftops, or brag about it to my classmates.

However, I was explicitly asked by a classmate a few lectures ago, “What did you get on the last test?”

Not “How well?” but “What did you get?”

So I told him. And he told his friend next to him. It was clear that his friend didn’t believe me.

“Let me see,” he said.

Excuse me for being offended. I don’t need to prove myself to you. But I reluctantly handed the document over.

“How come you don’t tell anyone?” another classmate asked me, in regard to my recent scores.

What I wanted to say was, “Because then I will suddenly accumulate 50 new ‘friends’ who want to conveniently ‘hang out’ with me before each exam.”

But all I did was shrug, and laugh it off while saying in the almost-words of Leonard McCoy from Star Trek, “I’m an English major, not a scientist.”

I loved my high school – I’m proud to say, one of the best in the nation. But I’d be lying if I said that much of my time there wasn’t spent dwelling upon the high standards I was expected to meet, and feeling guilty when I fell short. I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t often wish that I could be as smart as those Calculus kids, or had more to put on my resume like the political party student interns. There was an unspoken but obvious game of comparison that everyone was a part of when it came to academic prestige.

I suppose you could say that my good old dragon days conditioned my insatiable need to be successful at everything – who wants to be labeled the Loser? But I don’t want to be defined by a grade – even if it’s a good one.  Because if you don’t know me, that’s all you will see when you look at me. Forget who I am, now it’s all about what I know. And when this class is done, you’ll never give me the time of day again, because we’ll have no more classes together, and therefore I have nothing to offer you anymore.

I’m more than a number, letter grade, or percentage score. At the end of my life, I’d like to be remembered for what I did, not how many classes I passed or didn’t pass. I’d rather be remembered for being kind than being sharp, and having lived a full, adventurous life, rather than one spent alone in my lair working on various projects day in and day out. My assumption is that whoever’s presiding over my funeral won’t be reading my past grades to those present, and if he does, I’ll be sure to come back to haunt.


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