The thought of failing a class is a terrifying one. Think for a minute. You're a freshman in college. First semester, first class. Calculus. You took some pre-calc in high school so you think you'll do okay, but you're not sure. The professor walks in. He mentions he just graduated from graduate school in Canada. Wait, like last spring? Yeah, last spring. And before you have time to process the fact that he has never taught a real course in his life, the class is over.
It was an entire blur. All of it. What's an integral? I have no clue. Or at least, I didn't my fall semester of college. I had to take Calc as part of a prerequisite for my major (Business), and I thought it would be a breeze. I don't know what I expected, to be honest. That the class would be easy? Well, I mean, it was going to be a lot of work but it was something I could handle. That it was going to be a fluff class? My mom majored in math so I thought I would be okay. I have never been more wrong in my entire life.
I didn't realize how bad I was doing until I walked into my first exam. I had studied, I had our suggested cheat sheet with us (we were allowed one), and I thought I would be fine. I got a 66 on the first test. I thought, you know what, it's okay. It's one test. There are two more for the semester, I can totally bring it up. I talked to my TA. "Well, I have classes when you're free, so I'm really not available. Just text me if you need anything!" Yeah, like that will help me. How am I supposed to put an optimization problem in a text?
I tried to talk to my professor, and while he did have office hours, he had them during another class. "Is there anyway we can meet outside of class and outside of office hours to go over the material that I clearly do not understand?" His response? "I'm busy every other day. There's a reason for office hours." Oh. Okay. So I just wasn't going to actually learn the material. Awesome. Perfect way to start my first semester. We get to the second test. 57. Okay, not that bad. It's not optimal, but it's okay. I can bring it up with the last exam. That's not to say I was feeling confident, I was livid. I just thought, you know what, I can do this. I don't need his help.
Then, I got sick. I missed two classes. By the time I walked back into class mid-November, we were already soaring through integrals that I didn't understand. I missed two days. Could I have really missed that much? "There's a drop down option so you can move to a lower class if you need to." I had a month and a half left. Was it worth it? The answer was obvious, no. I wasn't going to drop down after I had done so much. "I still don't have any open office hours. And three days before the exam I will be out of town." Oh, so extra zero help? Great. I walked into my final destined to fail. I received 49 on my last exam, and preceded to fail the class.
That meant that in my spring semester, I was retaking Calculus. So that's what I'm doing now. It's not a particularly fun experience, but it's amazing how a change in professor can change your grades. I'm maybe not doing as well as I would like, but I'm passing with a solid B right now. How is that even possible? I missed two classes this semester from being sick also, and still managed to do well on my first two exams. The improvement is clear, and the data is clear. My last professor didn't put in the time and effort to make sure his students did well. This semester, an entirely different story.
Personally, I hated my first semester because of this. But, overall, I learned to listen to what other people say about professors. Trust the ones who have taught a class year after year after year, with glowing reviews. That's the only way to really tell how good a class will be. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. Retaking the course was the best idea that I had. And, my GPA will be reborn because of it.
Lead Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons // Amy, Science Lecture Hall