Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Getting 'A's': A Student's Perspective on Grades

John Byron has a fascinating post entitled, "A Professor's Letter to Students." In this post, John states that since becoming a professor he is amazed at the sense of entitlement that students display when it comes to their grades. John notes that this attitude is accompanied by the belief of the student that one, I paid for tuition, two, I attend class, and three, I have submitted assignments, therefore, I should get an 'A'. John cites a very interesting article in Forbes magazine article authored by Art Carden, an economics teacher at Rhodes College. Please check both John's post and this article for more.

I would like to add my own perspective on this matter as a former student of John's at Ashland Seminary. First, a brief background on my own academic background is in order. I come from a family of teachers. Education has always been valued in my upbringing. That being said, I was never a very good student. In high school, it was all about sports and girls. I distinctly remember my senior year, having my class' GPA results posted publicly on a bulletin board and not finding my name until I arrived at the bottom quarter of the list. It used to drive my Dad crazy as he was teacher in the school system! We would have our mid-term grades mailed to our homes if we were in the 'D' to 'F' range. Nearly every grading period the ritual would ensue. My mom would grab the mail to find once again I was on the verge of blowing a couple of the classes that I was taking. I would get home, get a stern talking to, and then wait for my Dad to arrive. When he got home, I would get a shake of the head, a sigh, and another stern talking to. After this, I would promise to do better, pull my grades up to the 'C' range, and do it all over again the next grading period! You think I would have learned! But, in hindsight, much of this behavior could be chalked up to immaturity. However, much of it had to do with passion or more precisely, the lack thereof. As far as school subjects, History was by far my favorite and the one I excelled in. It also helped that my Dad was a history teacher and I had been around his interest all my life.

When it came time to choose a college, I had few options. I certainly was nowhere close to get an academic scholarship per se, so I decided to attend a local community college close to home. With my parents paying for my tuition, I took it slightly more seriously and did a bit better. By the time I transferred to Kent State University, decided on a major, I was bit more mature and serious as a student. But, I would not say more passionate. I tried to manufacture passion for my area of study, but that does not really work if your heart is not in it. Again, I did a bit better, close to a 'B' average by the time I received my degree. Unfortunately after an internship  and some years of working various jobs, I had an epiphany of sorts. During the time between my undergrad and these years I had become a Christian. I began reading scholarly works that dealt with historical backgrounds to the New Testament. I was reading Fee, Witherington, and Kenner, with a Thesaurus in one hand and their books in my other!  But, the one book that had the biggest impact on me and chartered the course of my scholarly life was David deSilva's Honor, Patronage, Kinship, & Purity. This book unlocked so much of what I had been reading and opened up exciting vistas that I was previously unaware. Through a confluence of events that I can only describe as God's providence, I ended up at Ashland Seminary where I had the distinct pleasure of being one of David's students. To make a long story short, I had discovered my passion.

The amazing thing about discovering your passion is the fact that you are willing to put the work in, often times above and beyond the average student, and when this happens good things follow. I began to receive straight 'A''s for the very first time in my life! Class after class, I was achieving as I never had before. It almost became addicting, and therein lies the danger. There were times when I had to check my intentions at the doorway of the classroom to remind myself that it wasn't about the grades, it was about the experience. As long as I kept my priorities straight, I would not fall into the trap of become a grade-hound and feel that it was my God-given right to get A's. Admittedly, this could be a struggle, but I overcame this danger for the most part. See, the thing is, my professors were under no obligation to give me anything! Everything I received was due to the fact that I earned my grades. Make no mistake, my goal was not in getting an 'A' on an exegetical paper or exam, it was doing my very best with the abilities and desire that God gave me. It was about honoring God by doing my very best. To give anything less would be a waste of everyone's time, my professors included.

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