Mistakes: That time I didn’t know I had an exam

Friday I walked into my Math 118 recitation (stupid people math, basically- I’m a humanities student with no faculty for numbers) ready to do our group work assignment.  I hadn’t gone to the lecture in about two weeks – I’ve found that I understand it a lot better when I teach myself from the textbook.

I walked into the room and rather than seeing chatted people divided into groups, I saw everyone hunched over their desks, an unfamiliar TA passing out papers.

“Who still needs a test?” she asked.

My first thought was rather explicit.

My second was: “Is this a dream? This sucks.”

Amazingly, I did not panic or burst into tears.  I took a test from her, found a seat, and started rummaging through my backpack.

This was when I discovered my second big mistake: I had forgotten my calculator.  For a test that required me to use logs.

I held it together and thought through my options.  I went  to the TA, told her I had somehow forgotten my calculator, and asked if I could use the one on my iPod.

“Don’t tell the professor….but I trust you.”

I would like to take a second to thank the apple geniuses for including a log function on my little iPod touch calculator.  And I would like to take another second to berate them for either not including an “e” button or making it too difficult for me to find it.

[For the record I am a devout PC]

I didn’t know how to do all the problems considering I hadn’t studied at all, although thankfully the formulas were included.

The other part of this predicament (yes, it gets worse) was that I hadn’t finished my one page reading response for my class the next hour.  I only needed 50 or so more words and a citation and was planning on finishing it while we did the group work (I swear I’m not as bad of a student as this makes it seem).

So when the time was up and I still had 2 questions left but only had ten minutes to finish my response, cite it, print it, and make it to my next class all the way across campus, I had a decision to make.

I was pretty sure the syllabus said our final would replace our lowest test grade, so this wouldn’t actually matter as long as I actually studied for the next ones, and the last 2 problems were worth less, so I turned it in unfinished and opened my computer in the hallway.  I quickly typed the rest of my response, cited it (hopefully correctly, I was rushing), ran up two flights of stairs where I knew there was a printer, printed it, and made it all the way across campus in three minutes.  I was only a minute late.

In my next class, I figured out how this had happened: when I wrote down all my exam and paper dates in my agenda I had somehow missed my math class.  But I also checked the syllabus and verified that my final grade would in fact replace my lowest exam grade.

Mistakes are never as bad as they feel initially.  All we can do is try to remain calm and do what we can with the situation.  And when you’re overwhelmed with your own stupidity because seriously, how did I not know I had a math test? just ask yourself: will this matter in two years?  Chances are it won’t.

And remember: mistakes almost always make for funny stories…

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