Whenever I make my syllabus, more specifically my grading scale for the upcoming semester, I feel so guilty. Should the final exam be 20% of their grade? 25%? 30%? Whatever I decide at that moment affects their grade even though all the work they give me remains the same. (It also is the main case of why I want to shift to standards based grading soon.)
The same thing applies to one’s life. All the events that happened remain the same but depending on what you value, you can feel joy, or you can feel sad, or any emotion in between.
One of my struggles is that I need to work on placing value in things that matter. For example, things that shouldn’t matter are: what strangers think of me, how much engagement I get on social media, follower count, and even to an extent what my students think of me.
Story time: I received a student evaluation roughly two years ago that said “I heard great things about Howie, but he didn’t rise up to my expectations.” At first I was angry at myself because I’m a people pleaser, and I didn’t reach this student. Then I realized that it’s not my fault that they had high expectations of me. That’s kind of unfair. This got to me way more than it should have though. I get 140+ *positive* comments about how I’ve impacted their math mindset, yet I focus on the one negative evaluation and it’s the only one I remember from that semester. I placed so much more value on that one comment than the others. Because of that evaluation, my current New Year’s resolution is to have no expectations, because it is with expectations that come suffering or disappointment. I know we shouldn’t use absolutes, and of course there are exceptions, but I can tell you that I’ve generally been happier because of this resolution.
Every semester, I get one student that just doesn’t like me/the class. I teach 140-180 students a semester so considering the law of large numbers, you’re bound to get people who just don’t like you with the more people you have (which is part of the reason why I wanted to delete Twitter when I reached 4,000 followers). But of course, between the one student who dislikes me/the class versus the vast majority of students who enjoyed the class, whose opinion(s) did I focus on every semester? You guessed it.
Where do we place our value? I know I need to place more value in myself. After all, I’m with myself 100% of the time. Others? They maybe have seen 0.1% of my life? If even? Are you willing to trust their interpretation of your life more than your own interpretation? People’s opinions are complex and I’ve learned that a lot of people are way more for themselves than they are against you. Not only are people’s opinions complex, but your life is complex as well. Not many people (if any) are going to fully understand your intentions and thoughts more than you. This is not to say to not care about anyone’s opinions, but rather, place the appropriate amount of value into their opinion and that varies on the amount of trust you put in them.
So I hope that the takeaway of this blog post is that shifting values, just like shifting the weight of assignments, really affect how you see yourself, so as you click out of this website, ask yourself, “Where am I placing my values? Is where I’m placing my values sustainable? Or is it at the mercy of others?”
You deserve to be happy, and I hope that reflecting on where you place your values helps you get there.
Thank you for reading.