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EDITORIAL: Midterm grades should not override our mental health

As midterm grades come back, it is important not to let a single bad grade define you

While awaiting midterm grades can be stressful, it is important to remember that we are more than a grade. – Photo by Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu / Unsplash

After taking midterms, students anxiously await their results and how their grades signal their ability to succeed in the class. Midterms are stressful to begin with, but the grades add another layer of stress.

Take, for example, if you do poorly on a midterm. You feel defeated — like you did not do as well as you could have done and will not be able to make up for it. These feelings are all valid, and we all have a right to be sad for a moment when we do poorly on something.

Although we can wallow for a bit, we cannot allow our disappointment to consume our entire being. There is a difference between being sad about something for a moment and allowing it to derail us entirely.

Midterms serve the purpose of a progress report: You get to check in on how you have been doing, what material you have retained and upon which subjects you should improve on. As progress reports, midterms do not define us. They do not signal your entire academic performance, and they also do not determine who is a good or bad student.

When we view midterms in this light — as a simple reflection of our own progress and not as the end all be all of our academic experience  — we can better understand our own shortcomings and change them. 

When we get a bad grade back, it is essential to step back and look at the situation at hand — the good and the bad. While sometimes it can feel as though we only did poorly, it is just as important to recognize the things that went well. After that, though, we have to move to understand what went wrong and how to do better next time.

Perhaps you did not keep up with the readings, or perhaps you did not dedicate enough time to studying the material. These issues rest fully on students and require students to take responsibility for what happened.

If you did not keep up with the readings, make sure to do the readings and take notes that help you retain information.  If you did not give yourself enough time to study, try to manage your time in a more conducive way for future assignments. 

While the majority of the improvement has to be done by students, professors have a certain responsibility to students, as well.

Professors can sometimes seem disconnected from their students — they are teaching something they know really well, something at which they have succeeded. This disconnect can sometimes lead to professors being unable to sympathize with their students who struggle in class or with assignments.

To this end, professors must recognize that all students are not experts in the field and that there is a range of learning styles that make assessments more difficult for some students. This is not to say that we expect professors to simplify the material or exams, but rather an expectation that professors take multiple factors into account when making assessments. 

Professors, also, should never berate or criticize students who do poorly. In this type of situation, they would be more destructive than constructive. Midterms are about giving a progress report — about checking in and seeing what is working and what is not. Professors must also view midterms this way, and they should not reduce students to a single poor performance.

This conversation also opens up a larger conversation around grades and mental health. Midterm season always brings about juggling multiple assessments and feeling the need to do well on everything. But if you do not do as well as you might have liked, it is not the end of the world. 

We need to focus on ensuring that students everywhere do not put their entire self-worth into their grades or doing well on every single assessment. There is often a stigma around taking a “W,” or withdrawing from a course, but, if you see that you did not do well on a midterm and do not see potential for improvement, the “W” is worth it. This is especially true if you see withdrawing from a course as beneficial to your mental health.

In the long run, grades — especially one poor performance — will not matter all that much. What matters, instead, is our mental health. A single grade does not define us. We define ourselves and, as such, we must always remember to prioritize ourselves and our mental health. 

Getting a bad grade can be a difficult thing to manage, especially if you are isolated. If you feel like you cannot keep up with academic pressure and you feel it weighing on your mental health, reach out to Counseling, Alcohol and Other Drug Assistance Program & Psychiatric Services for support.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 154th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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