What contributes to a life well lived? To me, it would be accomplishments I had to work hard to earn.
I remember being a senior English major in college and signing up for my final semester of classes. The only class offered that would fill my last three required credits in history was Diplomatic History of the United States in the Twentieth Century, a class designed for history majors only. I gamely signed up for it, thinking I could surely pass the class and get the three required credits.
The first day, the instructor singled me out, saying he didn’t recognize me; was I a history major? He counseled me to drop the class; the course content would be far too advanced for me. Determined to graduate a semester early, I stayed. Today I barely remember the details of the class, but I do remember the thrill I felt when I learned that my final grade was a C-, my lowest grade in college. For me, this humble grade was a victory. I had earned it by listening to lectures about people and events I knew nothing about, reading books I’d never have chosen on my own, and writing papers on topics about which I had severely limited knowledge.
Even in my day, students often used shortcuts to get credit in difficult classes. They might pay someone else to write a paper, create tiny cheat sheets to slide into a sleeve, or sneak peaks at someone else’s test. It is a matter of pride for me that I didn’t stoop to those levels. I felt a sense of accomplishment for having worked hard in the class. Though I got a low grade, it was the grade I deserved.
Earning that C- showed me that I could make myself accomplish a difficult task. I didn’t turn down the challenge, I didn’t cheat to pass the class, and I graduated early, just as I planned. I am proud of all that I have worked hard to earn, including every credit on my college transcript.
As a high school teacher today, I see plenty of students who have a similar pride because they work hard for classes, performances, and sports. They do their best, no matter what their scores, ratings, or points turn out to be. Although statistics show that nearly 70 percent of high school students admit to cheating, apparently the other 30 percent think that doing their best is good enough. I agree wholeheartedly with them. There is no pride in an accomplishment without hard work.
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