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Im not that much of a failure

Opinion Editor

Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Updated: Sunday, January 19, 2014 15:01


It was during my junior year of high school when I realized that I wasn’t very smart. 

It was the sort of revelation that wasn’t even really a revelation at all. On some level I had always known, but there had never been any formal acknowledgement on my part. I never went through the trouble of taking a good look at myself and saying, “Noah, you’re actually pretty stupid.”  

Frankly, the tell-tale signs were there if you bothered to look at my trajectory throughout high school: flunking tests, doing poorly on homework assignments, walking into school late if I even went at all (I mean, by the end of the fall semester my senior year, I had missed 23 days of school). I was a mess, you guys. But I was attending an expensive private school where your parents bought your diploma when they signed the dotted line, so there was never any real fear that I wouldn’t pass. 

I know by this point, gentle reader, you’re imagining me as this burnout slacker, skirting by on the tailcoats of my parent’s money. And in a way, you’re kind of right. But you have to understand that I’ve only painted for you a picture of my academic failings. Socially, I was heads and tails above my peers. I spent four years on student council, three years on National Honor Society (ironic, yes, but I was voted President my senior year, so suck it), two years as editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, five years as the leading man in our school musicals and the list goes on. 

I was well-respected. I just wasn’t smart. 

So, all of this rambling leads me (albeit in a roundabout way) to the crux of my editorial: I’m currently failing my Intro to Geology course here at UNO, and I don’t care. 

The interesting thing about all of this is that there was a time when I cared very much about my academic success. I remember the constant, pulsating quiver in my stomach as I tried keeping afloat in school. I was always trying to prove that I belonged in class with the rest of my peers. I was always trying to hide that I had absolutely no idea what was being taught. I was always trying to come to terms with the fact that some students are just not scholars. 

Flash forward to today: I’m a junior at UNO (so much For symbolism!), and I’m an average student at best. My Introduction to Geology course is kicking my ass, and I’m surprised I haven’t withdrawn.  If we’re being honest here (and I really hope we are), the minute my professor said “fundamental Earth processes,” I was mentally one foot out the door. But to my surprise, I kept with it. I regularly attend class, take notes, print study guides, ask questions, and form study groups. I’m trying very, very hard. But I’m still failing. 

I could blame test anxiety (something I’ve battled for years) or I could blame my professor (I can’t really––she’s pretty phenomenal) or I could blame my study habits (I won’t because I’ve found some really great techniques that work for me). The simple fact of the matter is that I am not, and will never be, an academic. I’m creative. 

And that’s the thing, reader: I’ve come to realize that I have a wealth of creative intelligence. I’m simply rooted in a sense of reality that is more imagination and fantasy than science and logic. I am imaginative, comical, sensitive, open, bitchy, loud, demanding, courageous, exuberant and talented. I resist rules and conventions. I have a need to be influential, to attract attention and recognition. I have the ability to think in ways many people can’t. 

My time in college has taught me that I need to forgo all of these traits in order to apply a more rigid and disciplined approach to my academia. Failing a course like Intro to Geology should be an embarrassment. But for me, it’s not. It simply means that I’m not great at geology. I’ve found that UNO places too much emphasis on the grade and not enough on the student. The college institution needs to shift away from the rigidity of its courses and understand that some different students are different learners.

I am not a letter grade. My self-worth is not a score out of 100. I am failing a freshman-level geology course, and that’s okay. I realized in junior year of high school that I wasn’t very smart (I still don’t think I am). I also realized that being smart doesn’t mean I’m not bright. 

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