By Anna Qin:
What’s the first thing I did before entering junior year, the most feared year of a high school student’s career? I became a detective—whether it’s Advanced Placement (AP) United States History (APUSH), Analysis Honors or AP Biology, I wanted to know everything the upperclassmen knew about my future ventures. I was 100 percent sure that by finding out everything the ex-juniors knew, I would be successful as well.
How wrong I was. In Analysis Honors, probability swept me off of my feet and I was completely stumped calculating the chances of drawing that royal flush. In AP Biology, nematoda, rotifera and annelida baffled me as I used all the brain power I possibly had in order to memorize all their details. And APUSH had me wishing for photographic memory every time I flipped open The American Pageant. And to think I was actually confident my sleuthing skills paid off?
[pullquote]Advice should be taken with a grain of salt; each student reacts differently to certain teaching styles and opinions often come from various contexts. Students thus should experience the class for themselves before forming an opinion about the teacher and course.[/pullquote]
The most common thing for any student to do before taking a difficult class is to bombard an upperclassman for any thoughts, tips or information on the incredibly difficult course that faces them. If the feedback is negative, the student enters the course with a sunken heart and a great fear for his imminent future. If positive, the student rejoices and enters the class relaxed and calm, expecting to ace the class with no problem. However, this is exactly the wrong course of action to take. Advice should be taken with a grain of salt; each student reacts differently to certain teaching styles and opinions often come from various contexts. Students thus should experience the class for themselves before forming an opinion about the teacher and course.
Another student’s opinion should be just an opinion and not the absolute truth. Whether the feedback is negative or positive, each student is tailored towards a different learning style and often, others’ opinions do not fully apply. It is common knowledge that there are three major learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. For a visual student to ask an auditory learner for his opinion on a course more tailored towards visual learners is akin to following a road sign pointing in the wrong direction. Preparing for success or failure psychologically before even attempting the curriculum is a recipe for disaster.
Subject bias should also be taken into account. Students naturally perform better in subjects they are interested in, as they are more willing to put in the effort. Therefore, it is practically impossible for a student to evaluate a course objectively without being affected by their preferences. For a student to take the opinion of an avid lover or hater of the course as an objective evaluation is misleading because his own preferences concerning the subject and his natural ability to understand the material is different from that of others.
However, this is not to say that advice from others is completely useless. If it is completely necessary to ask upperclassmen about information concerning a particular course and teacher, one should draw from various sources and various types of learners so as to get an overall idea of the course for everyone. But in the end, doing an in-depth analysis of the course based solely on feedback that often does not apply to everyone is not at all going to result in the glorious “A” that is the ultimate goal. Instead, more effort should be put in experiencing the course and preparing for the learning itself because that is the only sure-fire way of doing well in the class.