In elementary school, every six weeks or so, my school district administered “benchmarks.” I remember my teachers stressing the importance of putting forth our best efforts towards these tests.
Quick disclaimer: Both my parents have worked for the education system for nearly 20 years. I’ve been exposed to the system well beyond when the school bell rang for us to go home. I’ve been fortunate to see the education system from multiple perspectives and I hold tremendous respect for those that devote their lives to the education of others.
That being said, I have a grievance with our system.
Speaking from my perspective as a student: I remember the benchmarks and the stress that came with them. I was the kid in the third grade who dreamed of the Ivy League schools in her future so when it came to these tests, if the teachers were serious, I grew serious. I remember the overwhelming feeling of nerves to take the test, the inability to focus fully during the exam, and the fear when we got our marks back.
I would later learn that this was a form of testing anxiety.
But the anxiety never ceased. Soon “benchmarks” turned into finals, finals turned into the SAT/ACT, and the SAT/ACT turned into maintaining a certain grade point average. As a student I was constantly reminded of the mark I was expected to meet.
Benchmark, by definition as a verb, is “to measure (something) against a standard” which [standard] can be defined as “something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison.”
“A basis of comparison.”
Haven’t we had enough comparison?
I brainstormed a few ways I personally have felt compared to depicted standards: body image, fashion sense, awards and honors, extracurriculars, relationship statuses, hardships and lastly brains.
Every day as a young person I’m always reminded to work hard to be like those who were successful before me. While this message was meant to generate positivity and growth from me it is also a constant reminder of the “right” way to be successful.
The “right” way being measured by a score on a test, a scale of connection, a net income or a GPA.
I love numbers (says the accountancy major) but I think it’s important to remember that they do not measure our worth as a human or the successes we achieve.
There are too many factors involved, and I’m here to say that there is no “right” way to be successful. Why? Success is subjective. For one individual success is having a healthy family, for another success is getting hired on as a CEO. Success is opening a bakery you’ve dreamed about since you were a kid. Success giving back to the community. Success is being a nomad, visiting every place marked on a map. Success is simply waking up in the morning.
Success is what you make it.
The harsh truth is a GPA is a part of our college careers. For those that may no longer be in college or took a different route–that is amazing. Numbers may still play a factor into “meeting a standard” however, the real standard for your life is the one you set.