A letter to the student who thinks Grade Shaming is Okay.

Dear Student,

With exams coming up, I know you are currently consumed with your own life and that’s okay. Your grades are important, the competition is rough, and you’re probably overwhelmed. That’s okay and it happens to the best of us. Your friends are probably your entire life right now and their also your competitors- this makes for some awkward times. Who knows? Maybe you even got carried away and cross the line come exam season. 

How someone else does on an exam will not change your grade. Their academic record is just that, THEIR record. So please, stop asking how they did. Giving the benefit of the doubt, maybe you didn’t realize that this could make someone feel awful when you asked. The reason being: you were only thinking about yourself, not the other person. I don’t care if they broke the curve and got a 100 or if they bombed and got a 4. You as a person and us as a community: we need to stop being in everyone else’s business. Generally if you’re concerned with the grades of those around you, you are probably insecure in your own academic success.

If this is true: don’t be afraid to open up! If someone confides in you: be open and supportive. If someone is more closed off, do NOT go looking for their information. It’s immature, rude, makes someone feel subconscious and this is your wake up call so you cannot claim you were unaware/didn’t know better. According to research Professor Brene Brown, “shame not only hurts students but in fact also creates barriers to equitable teaching and learning.” Not only are you putting someone down but you are keeping them from getting up and improving.

If you find out their grades: DO NOT SHAME OTHER PEOPLE BECAUSE LIFE GOT IN THEIR WAY. You have no idea what that person is going through. You probably didn’t even realize you were doing it; however, recognizing the effects your actions have on other people is important. Making that person feel inferior doesn’t make you superior/smarter than that person. In fact, it makes you a bully.

I come from a place of being the victim of this. I have had to hide my scantron, have had to hide my computer screen after I checked Blackboard in undergrad. I have had to hold back tears when my classmates did better than I did and just said I didn’t want to talk about it. I’ve had to hide my struggle. Even then, I have been put on the spot and embarrassed into admitting that I didn’t do as well. I felt like a failure. Did I study? Yes. However, I also had a lot of other things going on in my personal life. I speak in past terms, but guess what? I’ve been a Pre-Med for a while now and people still ask how I did on exams. Over the years, I have learned study methods that work for me and am now able to make school my top priority (it was not always this way, I learned the hard way!), so I am proud of the grades I currently getting. However this took time, tears and years. You can bet, I still get annoyed anytime I get asked because it’s really no one else’s business by my own and who knows who else they’re asking?

So my advice: take the time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think before you ask something that is personal to someone else. It’s difficult. However, it will teach you sympathy and empathy. It will make you a better student, teacher, friend and future physician. It will open your mind and make this community a better place. Instead of shaming, be supportive. If you see someone struggling, even after putting the hard work in: Offer to study with them, share some tips and PLEASE wait for them to come to you about their grades. Some people may be private and that’s a boundary we all need to respect/ 


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