The Number-One Way to Save Your Semester
“You have not sunk your battleship yet!”
Last year, it sure felt like torpedoes with blood-red “FAIL!” emblazoned along their flanks had hit me in the form of tests and quizzes. I have never seen a grade sink so quickly. Trust me, it was bad.
My pride and confidence took a hit that year, and I had to reevaluate. The study methods I had used for other classes were not cutting it in the course known as the bane-of-my-existence 101.
For half the semester, I was oblivious to this. I was intimidated, yes, by the instructor, who only wished we would put effort into our learning. I had answered incorrectly in class enough times to know the sting of not getting the concepts we were going over. I had already done poorly in the prerequisite. I could not afford to keep going this route.
But I thought I was smart. I thought if I banged my head against my homework long enough, I could absorb it in an osmosis-like fashion.
The course was a challenging one—a lot of us would repeat at least one of the halves our senior years—and the concepts would follow us into the advanced levels of the subject. I had to understand it. And yet, I could not. The scores kept coming back, bad, bad, and worse.
But I was smarter than this, right?
When I saw that third (fourth?) poor score on a test making up a good chunk of my final grade, I made a decision. I had to think of a new approach or repeat the class.
My new method: Shove your pride down to your feet, Priscilla, and ask for help.
I searched for my professor’s office hours. (I will admit that I held a bit of fear of him.) I waited at his door. When he let me in, I was greeted with a smile and the soft light of salt-lamps. He probably was not thinking this, but, to me, his expression screamed, “it’s about time.”
I have never worked so hard for a class in my life. I ended up spending several hours every week in his office, working, working, working these problems that went far over my head. He was patient with my mistakes—I made a lot, and still do—and then, I got it. Chapter after chapter.
I got it.
The dreaded final came and went.
It was close, but I did not have to repeat.
I would never have dreamed of a score like that at the beginning of the course.
I got it!
Now, though the semester has just begun, if you are in my boat, you have already been hit by a few blasts of not-very-nice scores on papers, quizzes, or tests. Or maybe you just cannot understand the basics.
“You haven’t sunk your battleship yet!” my instructor said, just today, as he consoled the class about our most recent quiz grades. I don’t think he knows how much that helped me.
We can still recover, learn. Ask for help.
My hands still shake when I take any quiz or test containing any form of mathematics. I still stare in bewilderment when I simply cannot get a concept during class. I still feel pretty dim compared to the students who fling their hands skyward to answer questions with the confidence (and the smarts) of Nobel Prize candidates.
If you are anything like me, you may not be the smartest student in the class, but you can be the hardest worker with some help.
Ask for help from your professors, your study friends, look for sources online, and in your books. To all my stricken, fellow battleships out there on campus—keep your ships afloat, guys, and good luck this semester! We haven’t sunk yet!7