Why school is (ir)relevant

When I got back from school a couple of weeks ago, I found a huge stack of papers on my desk with a note from my mother that read: “Fe, I know you’re busy these days, but whenever you have time, please look through your old schoolwork and sort out what you want to keep, and what can be recycled.” I picked up the first sheet of paper from the pile, then another, and one more, until I had looked through a good 400 pages worth of old schoolwork.

Later, I opened up my laptop to start my homework, still thinking about my papers. I was genuinely impressed with my former self, especially with time-management, in having the leisure to doodle on the back of my math tests. Then, it dawned on me just how irrelevant each of those papers were on their own. I could take two, four, even six papers out, and it seemed like I could never have done that work. Regardless of those single papers, I would still have made it to where I am now. The reason school is relevant is because of the totality of our work, of the impact of small efforts repeated day in and day out. In the same manner, a single, isolated step does not get a person far, but a thousand steps together will.

The totality of our work at school should lead to college acceptances, and later, the totality of our work at college should lead to a successful and fulfilling job. Thinking about this, I realized that, sometimes, I treat an assignment as if it were the totality of my work, and this invariably creates a lot of pressure for me to do well. Still, not even my grade point average reflects the totality of who I am. While school is important, it is not everything. I learned that rather than assessing myself based only on the totality of my work, I need to evaluate myself based on the totality of me, because no single aspect by itself can truly reflect me.

Thus, when I see students being so critical about themselves, defeated by a grade, a number, or worse, other students’ grades, I feel sorry for them, because they let a number influence the way they feel about themselves. These students fail to recognize just how insignificant that grade is to them. If students could change their mindsets, and see a grade not for its numerical value, but as a building block to the totality of their work, then they would learn to appreciate and enjoy learning as it should be.

Here are the thoughts of three current and former Graded students:

Isa Bruder (Grade 10): School is very important to me, and this sometimes causes more stress than is necessary or normal because of my desire to succeed. It can take up a lot of my mind and time trying to achieve more than expected or necessary. It’s hard to find a balance between school and other aspects of life, but I think it’s an important trait for all of us to work on.

Jenna McCollum (Grade 11): I think that the work given at this school is, to a certain extent, important. It helps us get a better understanding of what we are studying in class so that we can learn and achieve our goals. The school work can be very helpful for the future as well as the things we need to know to succeed in life!

Re Sayao (Class of 2014): So here’s the thing… nothing is really going to change when you get to college. People still will be competing for the best grades either to get a good job or to get into med school/law school/grad school, and so on. But people in college are so pressured and so free to do whatever they want that they try harder to find the pleasure in learning and working. Because if they don’t, they’ll die or get depressed or not do well in school—but that’s just my opinion.

So this goes to you, sitting behind your computer screen with ten tabs open, tearing your hair out as you study for your test tomorrow: BREATHE. Do not give it more attention than it deserves.