by Quinn Busch
When I was in 4th grade I was diagnosed with a cognitive disorder with Aspergers symptoms, placing me on the autism spectrum. This diagnosis came with many problems and cognitive issues, one of the most prominent being mathematics. I have struggled with numbers my whole life. I get them confused and switch them around, and my brain is incapable of performing mental arithmetic: you could ask me 2+2 and I would tell you 6. Obviously this makes it difficult for me to be in any class where I am required to perform arithmetic without a calculator.
So flash forward to my freshman year of college. Apparently I did well enough on the ACT to place me into calculus, which was a huge mistake. At the beginning of the semester, I went into the disability resource center and registered with them so that I could have accommodations. These include: alternative testing, early notification of tests, calculators on all of my exams, and special seating. They sent a letter to each of my teachers explaining my accommodations, and they all signed the consent form. I also went to each of my professors individually to let them know that I was registered, and what that would entail. All of them were very receptive, well, except for my calculus professor. My calculus professor told me that I could succeed in his class if I just tried harder, and that I didn’t need the accommodations.
Now, a professor telling you that they know more about your mental disorder than you do should be a major red flag, but I shrugged it off and continued to attend the class. After this encounter, the class itself began to go downhill. He continually degraded us and told us that only half of us would pass his class because we were not trying hard enough. Hearing this as someone who does their absolute best to get the best grades I possibly can was very disheartening. The professor would also wait to grade my tests that I took in a different setting until up to 2 weeks after everyone else’s tests were returned.
I would just like to point out that college calculus is the hardest class that I have ever taken. And apparently it’s very common to fail calculus the first time you take it. So I was not surprised when I received my first ever F in a class. Even though I was expecting the failure, it didn’t make it any easier. I felt horrible, and like I hadn’t done everything in my power to pass the class.
I finally realized that, just because I had failed calculus, I was not any less of a person. I did everything that I possibly could to understand the material, yet my teacher did not give me the chance to learn the material from him. I also discovered this amazing website called Rate my Professor where students can go on and rate professors on how well they teach their class. Well my particular calculus professor had less than a 1 out of 5, which was not surprising in the least.
What I have taken from this experience is that you can’t let one bad grade ruin your perception of yourself: you are intelligent and more powerful than a letter grade. You also need to be able to self-advocate for your needs: don’t allow a professor, or anyone for that matter, tell you that they know you better than you know yourself. And use rate my professor, it really does help.
Quinn Busch Distinguished Young Woman of Oregon 2017