Thursday, February 11, 2010

10 February 2010 – Avenida Pearson

Well my teachers they build this retaining wall of memory
All those multiple choices I answer so quickly
And got my grades back and forgot just as easily but at least I got an ‘A’
And so I don’t have them to blame
-Conor Oburst “Let’s Not Shit Ourselves”

It’s midterm week, a phenomena that I have been experiencing for most of my life. This is my second set of midterms during my graduate studies, and I have decided to take a new approach: I will not study.

I attend class with a relatively determined group of students, and their dedication becomes most evident during exam week where many will take up residence in the school’s library. In the past I would have joined them without hesitation, but I finally realized what I want out of higher education.

I did not enroll in one of the most ridiculously expensive schools in the world to spend my life cooped up inside a library. I did not quit my job to lay awake at night, stressed about grades. No, I primarily returned to school to learn. I want to learn a lot in the classroom, but I want to learn even more outside of it. To maximize both environments, I realized that it is not worth studying.

I have taken hundreds of midterms and finals and typically score quite high on them. To do so, I dedicated countless hours cramming on black holes, swaps, debits, integrals, antisense oglionucelotides, and ids. Despite this time investment, I could not carry on a conversation about most of those topics that I once earned an exceptional grade. Why? Because I didn’t truly learn those subjects; I just learned to take tests about them.

From now on, I plan on attending class, engaging in the dialogue, and completing any supplementary readings or projects. If I truly care about learning these topics, my engagement in these other activities should help me score well on any examination. If I don’t do well on a test, I will at least know that my score reflected what I truly learned, and oftentimes, I prefer learning something that isn’t tested.

Last week, for example, a teacher provided me and my classmates with practice tests and old midterms to help us to prepare for a test. I intentionally avoided the study aids. Today we had an exam in that course, and afterwards, my classmates were all excited that most of the test was just taken from an old exam. For this reason, most of my class probably scored higher than me; however, I am positive that I understand the topic and its application better than almost everyone. I do not want to learn how to score a high mark on a test. I want to learn practical knowledge that I will be able to apply in my life. Taking a test won’t help me do so. I will not study tonight (as evident through my writing of this).