what almost failing a class for the first time taught me – an introspective look at the worst course i’ve ever taken

up until my third year of university, i had a 4.0 gpa and would often ace every class i took. i was incredibly keen, studious, and adored seeing my hardwork payoff in the appearance of an A on my transcript, and still do – but this all changed this past semester when i encountered my first 50% grade in four years, a result of my accounting class.

i have always been pensive in the presence of numbers and i knew that this class would be a challenge for me. i accepted the fact that i would probably end with a B, maybe even a B- and told myself to work as hard as i could in the course to garner a self considered ‘acceptable’ grade. upper years warned me about the perils of ACC 340, telling me the first half of the course and the midterm were hell, and cautioned me against my professor, describing him to be lucifer himself. i wasn’t phased by their warnings and went into my first week of the course with confidence and a laid back demeanor i wouldn’t see again until the course ended.

as i sat in the back row with my group of close friends, our professor stated simply and apathetically in our first class that ACC 340 was basically “two courses in one” due to the in class assignments, lack of a lecture, and online video files including often over an hour and a half of content each per week. he warned us that if we didn’t do the video lectures every week – some week’s content exceeding three total hours – that we would fall behind and fail the quizzes we had every week. these quizzes were intentionally worded trickily and the professor told my class that “they weren’t quizzes you would get an A on”, displaying the fact that he was intentionally making things more difficult than they had to be. i told myself that after this semester, i would never have to encounter this guy ever again, preparing myself for the next twelve weeks of hard, hard work.

my group for this course and also, my dearest friends! this was during our first ACC class.

the first assignment we did in class was fine, and the content was simplistic. after the first week, though, everything went to hell. the videos increased in length and in difficulty, the quizzes were near impossible, most students outright failing them – and our prof completely oblivious to our struggles either due to idiocy, ignorance, enjoyment, or a mix of all three.

i’m not going to blame the entire downfall of this course on the prof, but i will absolutely attribute my newfound anxiety, nervousness, and uncertainty towards participating in class due to his harsh, critical nature and often booming voice that he used to lash out on us every week. due to his unhelpful nature and unapproachable demeanor, i found it hard to ask for help, and because i knew i wasn’t going to get any with the insanely dense content, i just wanted to quit all together. i stopped doing the video lectures and guessed on the quizzes (ironically enough, the quizzes i wasn’t prepared for i always did better on); i zoned out during class and fell silent during group assignments. i felt hopeless, lost, and like i couldn’t do anything to improve.

i remember one night in october sitting down and trying to complete one of the video lectures. with my eyes and ears open, i recall staring at the slide deck and listening to my profs monotone voice, no distractions around me in the slightest – and even though i was reading and listening to everything he was saying, nothing had any meaning to me. nothing made sense, nothing mattered, and everything felt gray, murky, and confusing. i ended up starting to cry, tears pouring down on my cheeks as my chest ached while my eyes stayed fixated on my computer screen. i wondered what was so wrong with me, why i couldn’t focus on the content, why i couldn’t ace this class like the others i’d taken – i came to the conclusion that i was losing my intelligence and even at one point assumed i had lost my love for learning. i felt so defeated, i stopped trying entirely until reading week.

the midterm came around, and i studied for a few days straight before it, basically teaching myself all the content with the help of my friends. i actually felt somewhat confident going in, if you want me to be honest – sitting down and taking things slow helped ease my mind, and as i wrote the midterm, i only felt stumped on a few of the questions. i forced myself to do the videos every week after the midterm so that i could at least garner above a C in the course and felt relatively ok – and then i got my mark back for the midterm exam.

i remember sitting at home and dividing the two numbers together and i immediately started to bawl once the result illuminated itself on the calculator app of my iphone. i failed my midterm with a 49.1%. my professor had failed me by .9%. point. fucking. nine.

now realizing i was officially failing a course, i put my ass into gear, working tirelessly to complete video lectures in hopes they would help. but they didn’t – i still felt clueless about the majority of the content, and in class as we went over the quizzes, our prof would consistently trick us and sneak in little rules only he used, expecting all of us to know and remember them. the in class assignments became more dense and reflective of all content in the course, not just focused on the week they were included in.

after the midterm, my professor read out a list of names and told everyone who’s name wasn’t on the list to leave. my name was on the list, so i stayed put in my seat. he split up the remaining the students into two groups, which he labeled “the group that gets it” and “the group that ‘needs to pull their socks up’ to pass the course”. you can guess what group i was in.

the professor assigned tutors to each of the “bad” students, offering the mentors to receive a 15% increase on their final exams for having to tutor us, as if we were the biggest burdens in the world. the prof – let’s just call him chad – told the failing students that we should be gracious that we were receiving help at all. i went out into the hall and told my group of friends what had happened, despite our prof insisting we keep silent – a big ‘fuck you’ to you chad for trying to hide this from the rest of our class – and my friends sat there in shock and dismay.

these are my friends during our last class. you can see the difference as compared to the first picture.

two of my friends actually received a lower grade on the midterm than i did, meaning that chad was only providing help to those he deemed ‘able to help’, basically casting aside anyone who failed with less than a 46% to continue on with no assistance at all – stating that they were too far gone and too high risk to help. i felt outrage for my friends and outrage for me – i wanted this class to be done with. i had to pass. i have to fucking pass.

the final came around, and upper years told me that it would be so easy to write that it would be “an actual pleasure to finish”. i still studied my ass off, day and night – not sleeping 48 hours prior to the final, ensuring i crammed as much stupid accounting knowledge in my head as i could. i remember walking into the exam room feeling like i was going to vomit, pass out, or lose the ability to breathe all at once.

the exam was not easy like the upper years assured me it would be. in fact, i actually found it more difficult than the midterm, even shedding a tear during the final due to frustration and fear i was going to fail.

as you know from the title of the post, i didn’t fail – i actually received a 59 on the final, allowing me to pass the course with a 55%. but the experience of enduring through ACC 340 and the shock of near failure taught me a myriad of things about myself.

one. – getting a bad mark is nothing to be ashamed of and has no reflection of your intelligence.

as i said earlier, taking this course made me feel stupid and as if i was hopeless to the teachings of my prof chad. in the end, however, when i received my passing mark, i cried once more – this time, tears of joy – and paraded my 55% around my apartment building, touting it around as if it were a A. i learned very quickly that getting a bad mark is not the end of the world and that even after taking a whole course on accounting and still not knowing anything about it, it does not mean i am any less intelligent than i was before going in. while the low grade is partially because of me giving up in the first half and failing my midterm, i can confidently state that if anyone, literally anyone else taught the course, i would have fared much better off. a bad course and a bad prof is always a recipe for disaster, and this disaster destroyed my mark in the course – but hey, at least i passed!

two. – life is stupidly hilarious and you need to treat it as such.

one of my other profs helped me to realize the absurdity of my situation and how actually funny being in it was. amanda, a previous near straight A student was failing a class about numbers because of my professor’s incompetence. hilarious! amanda legault, an honor student, was now being tutored in a class while, she herself was an improteu tutor to her program. that’s funny shit! when he described this notion to me, i didn’t find my situation very comical, but now that the course is finished and i came out with a passing grade, i can look back and laugh at the past 12 weeks i endured. taking myself less seriously allowed me to realize that getting a less that satisfactory grade, according to me, wasn’t going to make my world stop turning or the sun stop shining – i just need to laugh about it and move on.

three. – there’s only so much you can do.

i busted my ass in the course once i realized how in jeopardy i was regarding my passing state in the class, and i still only got a 59% on the final for my efforts. the fact that i did everything i could in the course to try and understand the content and still came out with little comprehension on the content made me realize that no matter how hard you study or how many stupid weekly quizzes you do, sometimes, you just won’t get it. i am not a numbers person, and i will never be one – and that’s ok!

i guess in the end, i’m just happy i never have to take this course again and can focus on my new slew of classes next semester, confident that i will do well in them because i enjoy their content. i’m never going to enjoy accounting – but i will enjoy the mental reliviation that comes with passing it.

ambitiously,

amanda

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

21 Comments

  1. For a very long time, I was an average student in the class. I gained an interest in studies in college. But with time I realised its important to be a better person than to be competitive & growing with an inferior feeling.

  2. No one should be ashamed of bad grades indeed, but it is still a good idea to try avoid them as they can determine (unfortunately) your future (when companies ask for certain grades or diploma). But yeah, not the end of the world

  3. Hi Amanda,

    Yes, sometimes we do our best what we can do, although sometimes it can be frustrating with the end result. Things always happen for a reason.

  4. Yes, so true. I always struggled with math and did the best I could. The grade I got was a C, and that was seriously the best I could make. I just didn’t get it no matter how many tutoring sessions I attended.

  5. OMG I had this same experience with Calculus my first semester of college and I was devastated. Now I can look back on it and laugh. It just fueled me to do even better in college to make up for that grade (a D!!) It took me years to confess to my husband what I got (we were in the class together and he aced it … having previously taken calculus in high school). It was so the same situation for me – my professor was 175 years old, talked to the chalkboard, and wouldn’t explain how he got to his answers. I remember almost being in tears during the final and now I think about how absurd it was to feel like *I* was stupid because he was a bad instructor.

    1. im so glad you can relate dani!! i’m sorry we’ve both had bad experiences, but now that we’re not in the situation, it seems so funny and absurd. thanks for the support!

  6. This exact thing happened to me! Accounting was terrible, I had to take it twice and it was a terrible feeling. It is great to know that others have had the same experience! Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. I totally remember the first class that I could not pass. It was so hard – calculus! It almost made me give up entirely but it definitely teaches a life lesson that not everything is easy.

  8. I also had that experience before with econ. I tried so hard for days and kept reading over and over but just couldn’t swallow the whole information. lol. definitely a learning process but i don’t regret almost failing econ because i tried my best

  9. So in the end are you still mad at Chad or do you feel like he was teaching you some valuable life lessons with his horrible teaching plans? I had a similar teacher back in high school..its water under the bridge now, but I made myself pass that class just so I didn’t have to look at him ever again lol

    1. i still hate chad with like, everything in me, but i don’t hate the experience – i try to seperate the two, because being in the experience taught me something while chad taught me jack.

  10. Reminds me of a professor I had before. She did not seem to care about her students and hard work was never enough. I’m glad you passed! Now you can move on with your head held high and say you made it through one of the toughest classes in your college career!

  11. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Getting a bad mark is indeed not totally a bad idea (but me as an Asian, I can’t tell my Mom that!).
    Sometimes we fail on academics, and excel on practicum.

  12. I totally agree that its not the end if you fail in anything… I can totally relate to this when I was in my college… bad grades don’t mean you can’t do it… it’s just that i couldn’t do it or worked hard on it 🙁

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