Self-Worth in the Educational System
By Alicja Paruch
Volume 2 Issue 3
January 14, 2022
Original artwork by Elaine Ching
A 73?? How did that happen?
A seemingly mediocre grade, still passing, but most people’s gradebooks have seen better. This grade can influence someone in two ways, and they can either learn from it or fall into a hole of self-criticism.
Let’s take the positive approach first.
A 73? How did that happen? How can I do better?
One, of course, can analyze their style of learning and adjust the way they study. They can watch more videos if they need someone to explain the material to them; they can single out topics they have trouble with, read over their notes, or practice on examples. However, this type of positive criticism is rarely exhibited in the student body because the school system doesn’t teach us about it. When students get a bad grade, they are usually told to study harder or pay attention in class; however, they might already be doing that.
If the student takes the more common approach, it might go like this.
A 73? How did that happen? How did I let it happen? I’m terrible, right?
Putting such blame on oneself could bring mental instability. Many students get caught in the spiral of seeing bad grades on tests, freezing up, not knowing how to deal with them other than studying more in ways that don’t usually help. This method may result in receiving an even worse grade and falling further into despair.
The school system conditions students to believe that grades are the only way of validating themselves. They engrave it in the students' brains that they distinguish between the good and the bad, while, in reality, there are many ways one can succeed.
The school’s intense focus on academic performance can cause insecurity and the feeling of hopelessness to many students. The school nourishes the mindset that making mistakes is the worst a person can do. It often neglects the value of learning from one’s mistakes which might cause a student to give up hope. School strongly values academic intelligence; while it makes sense for schools to value that intelligence, it should not discourage students from excelling in other areas to feel useful to society. Let’s look at Howard Gardener’s theory on intelligence types such as spatial, intrapersonal, interpersonal, existential, and naturalist. There are intelligences other than those you can see evidence of in a number grade on a test or in a marking period average.
I have been stuck in the loop of self-criticism instead of constructive criticism and have watched so many people who embody the types of intelligence not exercised in school fail at realizing their worth. School is not the only path in life, and people can use their skills to develop their passions or help others. In finding out who one is, we can move forward and make the right personal choices in life, based on their previous wrong ones - to truly learn from our own mistakes.