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Grading Yourself

It’s no secret that I suck at my epidemiology class.

I’ve spared yall most of the gory details of how horrible the last 9 weeks have been. I look forward to this module coming to a close for a variety of reasons. Last week, when I was at the worst of being sick, I gave up. I said forget it and didn’t even bother to show up to class. The week before I looked a hot mess and proceeded to go to bed and not go to work the next day. I digress.

Residual I don’t give a fuckness was all over my work ethic for school last week, especially that class. So, when I had an assignment due on Friday night, I threw up my hands and said it was something I couldn’t face or couldn’t deal with and I’ll accept a zero. I’ll be a grown up and accept it.

As my health started to improve especially by Sunday, I found myself drawn back to the material. I took the pressure off of the deadline that I’d already missed and I sat with my books and notes and I even went back to watch the recording of the class I missed. And I took notes.

I wasn’t doing this for a grade, I already made the conscious decision not to try and by default fail that assignment. I was learning for the sake of learning. I was learning for myself because I didn’t  want to feel defeated. I found that I was getting it right and when I got it wrong, I knew why I was getting it wrong. There was a certain level of self-satisfaction that came over me.

So as I sat in class tonight and she mentioned the assignment and how she’d grade them by the end of the week, I said even if I didn’t understand the rest of it, I wanted to hand in the section that I worked so hard on. Again, Damn a grade, I want proof that my hard work and practice paid off.

So after class, I handed it what I did. It’s not finished by any means, but I sent my professor an email basically saying contrary to my lack of participation in class and my horrible grades, I’m not a quitter. I’m handing this in for me and I just want to see if I’ve improved. So whatever penalty comes with handing it in late, I accept. What I can’t accept is knowing I worked so hard over the weekend to improve on something and not show myself or my professor that I actually did put in the work to improve, even if it’s a small part of the assignment.

Some of the epiphanies I’m having about grad school includes the fact that my education really is for me.

I’m spending all of this money, for me.

It’s not about what my professor thinks. Hell, I didn’t even have to explain myself in the email, but I wanted to. I wanted to get those things off my chest for me. The email wasn’t even for my professor, it was an affirmation to myself that she can bear witness too. I could care less as to what her response will be and have told myself to not even worry about it. I actually prefer she grade my work and not respond to the email. But she will. She’s aware of the difficulty I’ve been having, but she’s been pretty much hands off unless I ask her about something. It’s grad school, we’re grown. It’s my education and not anyone else’s so I own that.

I certainly care about my grades, but for a class with this much hardship, I do have to take it to the basics of celebrating small victories and learning for the sake of learning and not for mastery of a topic. I don’t plan on nor do I want to be an epidemiologist, but I understand how this information will inform decisions I make and how I analyze information in the public health arena. So I don’t pooh-pooh the necessity of the course. I just wish that circumstances allowed me to just take that class alone instead of with another class, as I had done this semester. Lesson learned.

I will say this, the difference between when I’d get frustrated in a math class in high school and undergrad and now is, I let setbacks in those classes make me question my entire intelligence, which is absurd. I’m older and I know better. My participation and enthusiasm in my policy class is like night and day. I’m sure some of my classmates are tired of hearing me talk in that class. Those classmates would probably get some pleasure out of my silent frustration if they saw me in epidemiology.

So, back to the point of this whole thing. This is for me.

A smart person once told me when getting your graduate degree, it’s a lie to call it yours. It belongs to the school. They create the rules and you have to jump through hoops they establish to get it. You have no say in the matter. You earn the right to hold the degree, but it isn’t yours.

While I get the point that person made, I’m going to disagree. My education belongs to me and recognizing that, I didn’t let the machine totally get to me because I did the work for me this week, not for a grade. I’m competing against myself. And I knew if I went another day willfully not handing in that assignment, I would have been disappointed with myself.

I would have been even more disappointed if the few pitiful points I will earn for it (with late penalty) would have been the exact amount of points I needed to barely pass the class. And I deserved to give myself that chance at earning that potential down-to-the-wire, millisecond, photo finish.

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