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In the End,

We all consistently hear folks say that they don’t care about their grades.

But how often is this the truth? I don’t really think I’m going out on a limb by saying never. There isn’t an individual at HBS that wants to get a 3. As such, every person does care about his or her grades. So, it is certain that people do what they can to not drop into that bottom 10%.

There are a plethora of strategies that are initiated by our students. We have the individual that raises his or her hand every day in every class.

There is the student that diligently prepares and aces all exams. We have the slightly reticent student that knows the key to success is visiting his or her professor during office hours. Of course, we also have the glorious pit divers.

As I entered school last fall, I knew that it would be very difficult for me to implement any of these tactics. I would have to be creative and fashion my own line of attack to guard against the infamous 3.

Thankfully, my roommate had just finished the summer analytics program and was kind enough to share with me the key to future success: “It is about respect and making it clear that you realize that it is a privilege to be educated in these classrooms. You need to respect the teacher, respect your peers, and display a genuine interest in learning.”

It all seemed pretty easy; I knew what needed to be done. I would just make sure that I was sitting in my desk on time every single day, never miss class unless excused, treat my classmates in a courteous manner, not get up in the middle of class to use the bathroom, show my professor attentiveness during class, and of course participate when I felt I could add value. How in the world could I get a 3 if I followed through on all of these?

As we enter the home stretch of this semester, I am beginning to re-examine and second guess my entire strategy. It is becoming more and more evident that my professors don’t care if they are shown respect and my classmates aren’t afraid to disrespect. It is actually becoming quite comical, while at the same time very annoying. Every single professor preaches about the importance of attending all classes and the detriment of tardiness to the classroom; however, do they really care? If everyone could experience being part of my section for a day, you would be absolutely convinced that none of this matters. On a daily bases, there are at least 5-8 individuals that arrive late for each class.

We even have one peer that walks in five minutes late for every single 8:40 class. I promise this is not a hyperbole. How do teachers react to his disrespect? Well, our Social Enterprise professor gave him a quick jibe and then proceeded to call on him four times in one class. The rest of us sat with our hands up, wondering if we need to walk in late to be able to participate. We also have our share of individuals who skip several days of classes at a time. When they finally decide to attend, they raise their hands obsessively to get the “air-time” they were missing out on.” How do the teachers react to this disrespect? My assumption is that they didn’t even know they had been missing because they spend the entire class calling on these individuals.

I must admit that I never thought it would bother me if students went in and out of the room during class time. I was wrong. It is extremely distracting, as the doors consistently slam and people have to maneuver to create space. What truly amazes me is the attitude that some of my peers display. They clearly are clueless of their surroundings and it is evident that their time is much more valuable than anyone else’s. When someone walks in ten minutes late with a croissant or bagel, it is obvious that their dying hunger is more important than the possible annoyance to the 90 other people in the classroom, including the professor… who will inevitably call on the person after the breakfast is finished. Last week I was appalled to watch a member of my section get up in the middle of class and return 5 minutes later with a fresh cup of coffee. Ten minutes after making his grand entrance back into the classroom (with doors slamming) he was eagerly called on by the professor.

I haven’t missed a class all year. I haven’t been late for a class this year. I haven’t stepped out in the middle of a class all year. I participate when I can and I am always well prepared. Most importantly, I have always shown my peers and professors respect. Where has all of this gotten me? Well, I didn’t escape getting a 3 first semester and I am pessimistic for this semester. I am certain that most individuals that walk in late every day and miss a surfeit of classes still avoid the 3’s. In the end, I don’t think my strategy has worked at all… unless the professors surprise me.

May 5, 2003
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