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Trey Jackson

I remember being a TA for CS61 at Berekeley (the introductory computer class). Luckily, most of the time people didn't question their grades too much - though I was a bit surprised by the lack of bartering.

However, I did have a young woman come to me in tears because she had gotten a C on the first major exam. I can understand being distraught, but her reasoning was what got me. She was really worried that she wouldn't get into the right grad school if she didn't get better grades.

I forget what (hopefully) compassionate response I gave her, but I recall thinking, "getting into the right grad school won't be a problem, simply graduating college will." Hopefully she found a way to handle the stress.


I always start off my teaching years by telling students and parents that the grade doesn't mean a thing. It's what you learn, really learn, that matters. You can get straight A's and never learn a thing - you might already know the material or you may find it so irrelavent that you will forget what you 'aced' the minute the grade is recorded. You may earn a C but remember the information, incorporate it, and find the magic in thinking - processing - problem solving. And heck, the kid that leaves my class with a grade a couple points above passing but with self-esteem and a more defined appreciation for education and math is my greatest reward. That's the kid that I truly taught.


At 14 I bet that lousy pressure has been shaped over almost 10 years, and you will likely see the tears again. Maybe you can focus on where the points were lost? She wants to get an A, let her refocus the pressure into studying the math (though as I write this I realize how counter-productive that studying might become.) Nah, I was wrong. The whole grade-focus thing is a problem, and it sounds like you hit all the right chords, and it sounds like she probably didn't really hear them. Sorry.


“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Albert Einstein. Sometimes kids need to be given permission to make mistakes.


As I went through school, my parents would take an intense interest in my performance - to the point where I would be required to explain each lost point on each exam to my father. In one way, I can see the essence of "pushing my to do what I can" hidden inside it, but on the other hand, it drove me to a similar kind of desperation to never score less than perfect, and to view each single lost point as a failure.

This kept up until second term of university studies, where I at the end of it scored lousily at my first serious algebra course final exams. I still don't take non-perfect scores very well, but at least I'm used to them by now.

And I ended up an algebraist.

Aurora Orsini

Encouragement is one of the factors that can affect the learning curve of students. There is a right level of encouragement that you can give the students to raise their standards and improve their learning capabilities. If you pressure them, there's a chance they might perform great in one aspect but bad on another. Let them learn on their pace.

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