Now that everybody knows how ignorant I was going into college, I might as well tell how I screwed up my first finals week. You might recall from yesterday’s post that I wasn’t very good at reading the details in the registration catalog for CSU. Well, that deficit wasn’t eradicated by the end of my first semester.
Chemistry wasn’t going very well for me my freshman year. The class I had, Chem 103, didn’t have a lab, so I didn’t get that extra boost I would have gained from working out the concepts with my hands. I was a “see one, do one” kind of learner. I happened to be learning to knit at the time, and I was on a deadline to finish a cable-knit V-neck sweater by Christmas. (No pot holders for me. When I started a new craft, I skipped the first ten or so steps.) I asked my chemistry professor if he would mind me knitting during lectures. He said he didn’t, as long as I still got the information. So I’d knit, he’d say something that sounded like maybe it was important, and I’d stop for a minute to write it down. About a week before finals, I realized my notes just weren’t speaking to me. I wasn’t getting it. So I went to the tutoring center. A tutor was assigned to me and we sat down to go over the material.
“What is it you’d like help with?” he asked.
“Well, chemistry,” I said.
“But which part?”
I held up the book. “All of it.”
After a moment’s thought he said, “Hmm. Maybe next time you might consider coming in a little sooner.” We went over what we could and it felt like maybe a little light was shed on the subject.
I also wrote a paper for extra credit, because my midterm wasn’t very high and I needed to get my average up.
When finals week rolled around, everyone received a schedule to show where to go, and when, for each class. For example, anyone with Section A classes, the ones that met M W F at 8:00 a.m. (I knew what that meant now!) would meet at their designated time and places to take their final tests. Chem 103 was an odd bird and met M W R (it’s tricky, but R is for Thursday) so it didn’t quite fit the regular pattern. I wrote down my test schedule and was glad there were no conflicts. Chem 103 would be the last test I took, and I arranged with my dad to pick me up for winter break afterwards.
When finals week rolled around, things were progressing well. I was getting all As and Bs. (Though I didn’t do well in practical knowledge, I usually did okay academically.) I had one more test to go, and my dad would arrive to take me home. Heading across campus to the science buildings the morning of my chemistry final, I noticed a sign posted on a tree calling attention to chemistry students. The flyer announced that the chemistry building had burned down over night (apparently someone had done rather poorly on their exam) and so the tests scheduled for that morning had been moved. I scanned the notice, looking for my class, but only Chem 101, 105, and a couple others were listed. So I found another tree. Same problem. None listed my class. Perplexed, I went to the main science offices to find out where I was supposed to go.
I told the lady at the counter I’d seen the signs and wondered where Chem 103 was meeting. She studied her schedule for a moment.
“That exam was yesterday,” she said.
“No, it’s today.”
“No, it was yesterday. See?”
My stomach sank. How could it be? Little did I know, but apparently I couldn’t just find the class that had the schedule closest to M W R and decide that meant me too. It was supposed to match exactly. There was a specific listing down farther on the page that said when Chem 103 would meet. And that was yesterday.
After a moment’s pause, I brilliantly said, “Well, surely out of 18,000 students, not everyone can make it to every single test. What do those people do?”
“No, pretty much everyone gets where they’re supposed to be.”
My throat got tight and my eyes started to fill. “What am I going to do?” I moaned.
She told me I could try contacting the professor. She couldn’t give out any personal information. I tried his office, but it was locked up tight and dark. He’d finished for the semester. Because that last final was yesterday. I returned to my dorm totally defeated. As I walked down the hall, my RA asked how my finals had gone. I leaned against the wall, slumped down to the floor, and admitted to my stupidity.
Fortunately, she was resourceful. We found a phonebook and flipped through pages. A couple of people matched my professor. So with the audacity of ignorance, I started dialing and found him. God bless him, he didn’t hang up right away. Turns out, a couple of students “had legitimate conflicts” with other class finals and he was holding a makeup exam in an hour. He’d let me sit for it if I got there in time. I thanked him profusely, gushingly, ecstatically.
I packed quickly, stuffing my belongings (and knitting) into my duffle, so I’d be ready to go home after the test. I dashed to the science building and completed it just before my dad arrived. Somehow, with my extra credit, and a lot of grace from my professor, I got a C in the class.
But as it turned out, when I transferred to nursing school, they required a chemistry class with a lab, so I had to do it all over again. But that time, I left my knitting at home.
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