As I scrolled through the supplements on my college applications, one question stood out from the rest: “What one invention would you un-invent if you could, and why?” The inability I possessed to come up with an answer is what attracted me to this seemingly simple question. While attempting to complete my homework, I came to a decision: letter grades.
I’ve realized that my sole purpose for going to school seems a bit misconstrued. School is supposed to be a place for learning and growing on an intellectual level, yet, for the past three years I’ve found myself trying hard in school for the wrong reasons. I created this illusory equation in my mind that if I had good grades, I would go to a good college, get a good job, and live happily ever after.
At times I feel that every grade I receive on a test, quiz, essay or homework assignment defines whom I am. After an A, I feel great and like I’m on the right track, but if, God forbid, I got a B- or lower, well… something had to be wrong with me; I wasn’t trying hard, I wasn’t smart enough, I simply wasn’t good enough.
I stopped caring about absorbing class material and became obsessed with checking my grades on MyMilken. I began opening my progress report more frequently than my Facebook and Instagram combined. Every percent affected my mood, and sometimes still does.
At the beginning of the year, after receiving a bad grade on an exam, I came home to my mom in tears. She couldn’t comprehend how one grade could affect my mood so negatively. After a few minutes of attempting to explain my reason for being upset, she stopped me and told me, “Natallie, as stressful as your life may seem at the moment, these grades will mean nothing to you in a few months from now.” Over a month has passed since that exam, and my mom was right. The grade, as difficult as it was to receive at the time, was something in the past and doesn’t really matter now.
Lishma is a term that is constantly thrown around at Milken. After growing up in a society that has taught me to learn for the sake of getting good grades, it was only during my senior year that I’ve been able to comprehend its importance. The word literally means learning for the sake of learning, and I’ve failed to practice this doctrine for the past three years.
Only recently have I been able to stop myself in the middle of a lesson or study session and say to myself, “I’m learning this for my own knowledge.” Although this doesn’t necessarily come easy to me, it has made a difference and is making my learning experience more meaningful.