Fail

When I was in my last year of high school, I received an "F" for my paper on Macbeth or Hamlet (struggling to recall which one it was). It was a significant piece of work, with respect to the weighting on our overall grade in our mandatory English course. The "F" pulled my average down.  So much so, that I slipped below the required "B" needed in English to honour the conditions of my university acceptance at the school I was leaning towards attending.

The grade came right before spring break, and I was given a chance to rewrite the paper and submit again. It was re-graded and I believe I received a "B" and all was then fine with my university acceptance and future plans.

The thing was, the paper was no way near an "F" based on the assessment rubric. To have truly received a failing grade at the time, you literally had to not submit anything or contribute an incoherent ramble unrelated to the literature being explored.

I recall submitting a couple thousand word paper in the classic 5 paragraph structure that we literally had to write and submit everything in. I remember my frustration clearly.

Looking back, I feel I was graded based on potential, not actual performance. I admit I was not especially motivated by the content and had grown a bit tired of Shakespeare in my final year of high school. It had felt as if we were on a Shakespeare marathon for years...Othello, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth etc.

Fast forward 6 months from that "F" and I was receiving an "A" in my Race & English Literature course at University. I recall deconstructing the work of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville with enthusiasm - a travel memoir from the 1300s - and recall it as a highlight of my early undergraduate years.

All this to say, in that 6 month period from receiving a failing grade to one of best in class, nothing really changed. I didn't make any concentrated effort to improve as a writer or make a plan for regular feedback on my work. The only things I can see as being different was that  I continued to write and was fortunate to step away from high school and enter into a context or area of content exploration that was more inspiring.

Thinking about all of this a few lessons jump out - 1) practice regularly 2) connect with a passion that naturally motivates you but also 3) learn to perform and hit a standard even when passion may not be there to drive you. Because undoubtedly, life will continue to present moments like my paper in my final year of high school.