Why You’re Just Not an A+ Student

“For your final mark you were on the border between an A- and a B+, but I had to stay true to myself. One thing is sure though: You’re just not an A+ student.” — Confucius.

Just kidding. This was said to me by my 10th grade physics teacher. It made me feel so light, so liberated, to finally have an answer to the million dollar question: “Why am I not doing well in this class?”
So thank you, Wilferd, for the clarification.

Now at first, I was taken aback. I was dumbfounded by the frankness, as I was expecting another lollipop excuse. You know the kind; a sugar coated jalapeño. You start off with the sweetness, enjoying every last grain. However, you then end up in the belly of the beast, which acts as a beast in your belly. You bite down on the pepper, expecting a little more sugar. Unfortunately your ever-so-curious tongue is met by the 10th circle of hell, and it doesn’t just sting for a minute. It stays with you for hours, as you try to figure out how the hell you mistook a chilli for a sweet treat.
This is what Wilferd fed me. A “constructive” piece of criticism enveloped by the illusion of a sob story. Expertly done. By stating that he “had to stay true” to himself, he set up a scene of pity and empathy. The sugar. Then he hits home with the fact that I’m “just not an A+ student”. The jalapeño. He tried to paint this scenario, using words for colors and his sharp tongue as the paintbrush. It goes without saying that I walked away after giving a half-hearted smile.
Did that really just happen? I asked myself.
Never before have I been told that I’m “just not an A+ student”. Never in my life have I ever been told that I cannot do anything. I was insulted. Then I was enraged. Then I was on the track for a downfall.

I decided then and there: Alright, Wilferd. So when I fail your class and you ask to meet with me and my parents, guess what I’ll tell you? I’m just not a fucking A+ student.
I realize now that developing what I like to call my “fuck you attitude” probably wasn’t the best response. But it was my immediate one. I started skipping out on homework, half-assing assignments, building up and radiating a very clear message: I’ll show you what a failure looks like. I promise I’m not a failure, but I’ll show you one! To my surprise, I actually started failing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I was never a top physicist. But after my little encounter with Wilferd, I worsened to a point of no return. By trying to prove something to someone, I was jeopardising myself. By trying to show that I wasn’t a failure, I became one of sorts. Receiving bad grades then of course just fueled my fit of rage even more. I got 43% on this test. This isn’t who I am. But hey I’m just not an A+ student, right? It became my mentality. Now looking back on it, Wilferd probably couldn’t care less what I was doing — He had dozens of other kids to worry about. It wasn’t me against him. It was me against myself. I was on a path of self-destruction, looking to put a method to my madness by labelling his remark as an insult. Poor Lara got her feelings hurt.
Now looking back on it, Wilferd might have been trying to motivate me. He might have thought that I’m the kind of person who responds to harsh criticism; the kind of person who will work hard to prove you wrong.
He was wrong.
Depending on the teacher and the amount I care for a subject will determine how I respond to criticism. Wilferd just chose the wrong method. Looking back on it, he was way off. But so was I.
Instead of seeing his comment as an attempt at motivating me to strive and achieve marks that I’m wholly capable of, I saw it as a direct attack on my academic ability. And how dare someone question Lara’s academic performance — Especially if she hasn’t been performing well in that class? At that point I didn’t want to analyse the situation, as I thought that I would be romanticising the incident and robbing it of its gravity. So instead I resorted to anger.
What I failed to realize, however, is that I wasn’t Wilferd’s only student. He was teaching 4 other classes, meaning 4 other lots of children who, also, all respond to different types of criticism. Perhaps he just misread me? Perhaps he thought that I was someone who would work hard to achieve what was said I could not?
Now looking back on it, it’s ironic. Instead of working hard to actually prove something to him, I didn’t work at all and proved nothing. I thought I made my point, but the only thing that was constructed throughout the whole process of failing, was my bad attitude and an even worse semester report.

You win this round, Wilferd.

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