1st Quarter Grades (12-30-2007)

So, grades…those little numbers and letters which bring with them so much anxiety.  I have tried to adjust my feelings on grades this quarter. I am so used to being  a good student and having the numbers be my proof of this. The numbers are how I monitor my progress. It is how I know if I need to adjust my efforts. They are important to me, but I am not a perfectionist as some have accused. I do not feel I “must” get any particular grade or score. I only hold myself to the standard that I know I am capable of and I try to be realistic. I am only hard on myself when I know I could have done better. One of my professors referred to me this quarter as one of those “structured types”. (She of course is a very “unstructured” type) I will accept that label. I am a structured student and I know it.

It was interesting to watch my classmates as the quarter wore on. I think many of us are high achievers and we have all worked hard to get here, but by mid quarter I was hearing (and occasionally repeating) things like “C’s get degrees!” and the ever popular “What do they call the doctor who graduates bottom of his class?…..Doctor!” The commonly spoken phrase when viewing test scores, was “Oh well, at least I passed.” So, I have tried to lower my own standards for myself accordingly given the difficulty of nursing school, but change like this comes slowly and I am far from mastering it.

As for actual grades, I did manage to pull off A’s this quarter, including four 4.0’s and five others ranging from 3.5-3.9. I was very pleased with my grades, surprised but pleased. I spent so much of the quarter focused on individual test and project grades I hadn’t looked at the big picture much. Also, a few professors didn’t give back grades on projects til the quarter was over so I had no idea where I stood until grades were officially posted.

During finals week I had to have an evaluation meeting with my clinical instructor. I think I was more nervous about this than I was the finals that day. It was supposed to be like a periodic job evaluation, you know..”Well, Mr. Smith, what do you think your strengths are? What do you think your weaknesses are? This where I think you need to improve” blah blah blah. I know some of my fellow students were specifically asked about strengths/weaknesses etc. so I was trying to prepare myself to answer those questions. Did I mention my clinical insturctor is a PhD, Masters in Nursing, a Nurse Practitioner on the weekends and a PSYCH nurse by specialty? So if I answer my weakness questions too strongly I will have self esteem issues. If I answer my strength questions too strongly I will have issues with realistlic self reflection.  I just hate being put on the spot in situations like this. I am not a good job interviewer. So I enter his office and sit down…rehearsing my answers in my head. He pulls up a chair next to me and opens up my clinical notebook to the grading rubrick in the front. He starts to add the individual totals and then laughs at himself when he realizes I got a perfect score all quarter and no math skills are necessary.  I was shocked! How could I get a perfect score??? I wrote a notebook full of papers and journals surely one point could have been missed somewhere. He watched me do a physical assessment on a patient, surely I missed some little detail? Apparently not in his mind. He went on to tell me that I am creative, and an excellent communicator both verbally and written. He said I had no idea how much he looked forward to reading my papers each week. How can anyone enjoy, (no matter how well written) a paper on growth and development? I just said “thank you” quietly after each compliment. I didn’t know how else to respond. He asked me about my future plans and I told him I wanted to go into oncology. He asked me if I planned to go on to get my BSN or MSN. I told him I was going to start working as soon as possible for my families sake but that I did hope to pursue more education slowly in a part time program. He was glad to hear that, and then told me that I am a “very talented woman with a great deal to offer” and that he would hate to see me stop here with an ADN from a community college. Finally, he said his only suggestion for me to improve upon in the future is to keep gaining new skills. For what seemed like the hundredth time I thanked him, and I left. He never once asked me my opinion of my strengths or weaknesses. Just 15 minutes of compliments and career advice. I was blown away. I am still humbled by the experience, but it does make me feel more confident going into next quarter, knowing that even though I often feel like I have no idea what I am doing…maybe I can do this after all, and not just do it, but do it well.

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