The worst grade I ever got was a 12. Like a 12/100. A 12%.
The embarrassing part was, I actually studied. I studied a lot.
Back in college, I had a challenging Biblical Studies class.
The class wasn’t hard, or the professor challenging, but rather, it felt like I had never cracked open the Bible in my life.
Predestination? What’s that. Bema Seat? Yeah, I got nothing.
It was like speaking a different language.
Worst Grade – Questions
So, the quiz was composed of 20 multiple choice questions, worth a point each, and an essay worth 80 points.
The funny part is this: The essay was prepared ahead of time.
We knew the question and were able to study and prepare our answer. I studied, read the textbook and multiple external sources, and prepared a glowing essay. I had the entire thing written out before hand, then committed the major bullet points to memory.
When the time came for the test, I hardly cared about those multiple choice questions – they wouldn’t affect my final grade.
I figured, what’s the worst that can happen? My essay is rock-solid. I’ll easily cruise by with a B even if I tank every multiple choice question.
Nope. Not so fast.
Because I got a zero on the essay. And 12 correct on the multiple choice.
Thank goodness for the multiple choice. It would have been embarrassing to get a zero (cough).
Worst Grade – Sick
The day our quizzes were handed back I was sick. I figured we weren’t doing anything important, and had already killed myself studying for the quiz. So I felt confident to take a day off.
Unfortunately, I ran into the professor in the café during lunch.
“You missed class today,” he said, popping out of nowhere like a stalker.
“Sorry. I was sick,” I apologized.
“Swing by my office this afternoon. I need to explain the grading.”
That didn’t sound good.
Professors never went out of their way to find you. But how bad could I have possibly done?
I aced that sucker, I knew it.
Worst Grade – Office
I found his office and visited during Open Office Hours.
“Have a seat,” he said kindly, as the door swung shut.
I knew I was in trouble, but didn’t know why.
“Before I show you the grade, you need to know I’m offering retakes.”
He handed me the quiz. 12. Circled in red ink.
Shoot. I was beyond confused.
He continued, “A handful of students are in the same boat as you. They didn’t do well on the essay so I’m offering a second chance. I’m going to knock off some points, so the best you can do is an 80, but it’s better than nothing.”
Yeah, or better than a 12, I thought.
“I just wished you were in class today, because it’s not a big deal. I don’t want that grade to be a reflection on your effort. Because your answer was actually fantastic. But you answered an entirely different question, which I found compelling. It would have been an A.”
“Thanks?” I said as a question.
I wasn’t sure if I should take the 12 and call it a day. Or put in all that studying and effort a second time.
I shrugged my shoulders and left.
Worst Grade – Fridge
I hung the quiz on my fridge, like an elementary school art project. Hanging there in all its pride. 12.
They thought it was hysterical. Especially since I had worked so hard on the essay and needed to study all over again.
I retook the quiz, and put in the same effort. I even took the time to reconfirm with the professor, asking, “Is this the right answer?” Before committing the information to memory a second time.
It was. And I passed.
Meanwhile, the 12 stayed on my fridge all semester.
A reminder of my folly. And a memento taking the time, thinking, slowing down, and evaluating, before wasting countless hours on the wrong thing.
I never wanted to hear those words again: “You did a lot of work. But you’re just wrong.”
I’m never wrong. Sometimes I just don’t know what the question was.
Besides, it’s just not worth it. Even if you get a redo.