Education and stories and stress and life lessons

My blood boils and I can feel the warmth in my cheeks as they become flushed with anger. I roll my eyes and step out of the room before I say something spiteful.

My hands clench and I breathe deeply.

Inhale, exhale.

I have just been sitting in class for the last ten minutes listening to people complain about their grades on an assignment and how the grading criteria wasn’t “fair.” Admittedly, I didn’t do so hot on the assignment, either, but I read my comments and accepted the fact that I had made some lazy mistakes. I would do better next time.

I don’t blame these people, to be honest, college is tough. The pressure to maintain a certain GPA keeps students up at night. It makes them cram in the library, take study drugs to stay awake, and quickly memorize material only to forget it once the class finishes.

Often times I take a step back and try to put the whole “college experience” into perspective. I came to Mizzou to be trained for my career in journalism, but instead I’m taking a lab science class, an economics course, and if I hadn’t done well on an AP test, I would have had to take math, too. The education system deters people from developing a desire to learn by forcing them to take unnecessarily difficult classes that do not align with their interests and aspirations. I often see students that are just so burnt out that they just stop doing their work and say, “Forget it!”

I absolutely love to learn. If I had my way, I would allot an hour every day to just sit on my couch and read a book (but I don’t have time because of my school and other work). I learn best when I experience, when I listen, when I do, and I learn best when I’m interested in the subject matter. I’m a good student because I like to know things, but I don’t see the point in completing work just for the sake of receiving a letter or praise for my (let’s be honest) answer that I found by searching Wikipedia for 10 minutes or regurgitating the information that the professor said last week in lecture.

When did we lose sight of what was really important? Learning. Remember? Aren’t we going to school to learn?

Regurgitating information does nothing to foster intellectual growth, and grades do nothing to incentivize learning. The process simply gives students anxiety and teaches them to hate attending class every day.

And here’s the main reason why I’m so frustrated with the backwards mentality of grades over true intellectual and skill-based growth:

I am a journalism major (obviously) and I LOVE telling stories. I’m a J-nerd, I’ll admit it. It makes me all giddy inside to go conduct an interview and then research facts and figures for hours in order to produce a quality article (clearly, I’ve found my niche).

But so much of the J-School culture at Mizzou (at least in my mind) revolves around the “grade” phenomenon. So often in my classes, I see people pestering my professor, all up in arms about the grade on their last assignment, worried about getting a B in the class because that’s going to be the end of the world.

Relax. Take a step back.

What have you learned by getting that B? Probably a lot more than you learned if you had an A.

You probably brought that B up from a C because at first you didn’t know what you were doing, and then you figured it out and fixed your mistakes. Then you messed up again, but listened to feedback and grew from that experience. You knew that maybe your photos were underexposed or you made too many AP style errors, but hey, that’s why you’re here! To learn.

But the most important concept that people are too quick to forget is the reason why we’re journalists in the first place: to tell a story.

For my multimedia journalism final project, I took on an ambitious topic. I’m still a little bit worried that it won’t work out, but I’m learning from this experience. My biggest focus right now is to make sure that the story is the best that it can be.

Journalism is bigger than you, or I, or a grade in a multimedia journalism class. Journalism is about learning, doing, growing, and looking beyond ourselves to share the ordinary extraordinary with the world.

So maybe instead of asking “What will that do for my grade?” Ask, “How can I tell this story better?”

Put your selfish worries aside. Realize that people’s stories are more important than any grade you’ll ever get, learning is better than regurgitating information, and improving the world through our knowledge is the goal to which we should aspire.

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