Commentary

A Senior’s Perspective: Learned the Hard Way

I am not a math person. Don’t get me wrong, I respect numbers and can appreciate the beauty of a simple solution to a complex problem, but if given the choice between walking across a bed of hot coals or doing nothing but trigonometry for the rest of my existence, I would be sorely tempted to choose the former (no disrespect intended for my teachers here at Andover – you have all been phenomenal, and before taking your classes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have selected the hot coals without hesitation). So in my daily life here, it is my humanities classes that I truly look forward to. As a Junior, those classes were especially important. I thought of English class as my respite from my perpetual “small fish in a big pond” syndrome, and I remember being so proud of the first paper that I had to turn in. Well, folks, I received a 4 on that paper. And though the world didn’t end, it did stop momentarily as I gathered my shattered pride off the floor and wondered why Andover couldn’t just have understood that I was good at English, that I deserved a 6! I finally battled my way up to a 5 that Fall Term, but it required a lot of broken pencils, long library nights and treks to Bulfinch for Conference Period. And I don’t regret a minute of it. Andover, to me, remains a high school where grades are not given merely for good work – they are given for good work that is accentuated with a good deal of conscientious effort. After all, we don’t have a valedictorian here, nor do we keep track of class rank or comprehensive GPA. And where better to learn the bitter lesson of pushing oneself than in a class that everyone has to take – English 100? English 100’s switch to a pass/fail system does not make it less worrisome; it makes it less rewarding. Students deserve to see themselves progress over the course of the term. Plus, a pass/fail English class neglects to account for the infinite variations in ability and effort present in the classroom, an oversight that seems as though it goes against the very backbone of the subject’s recognition that there are no singular right answers. Don’t pacify students by merely passing them; rather, teach them how to extend themselves and how to fight to earn their grades and their own self-respect. Only then will students from across the disciplines learn how to enjoy and excel during their next four years.