Finals. The word brings a sense of dread to all that hear it, including me. I’m in an interesting situation because I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I have been the one to give the “finals” as a teacher (aka 6th grade MAP testing) and I also just finished taking two group oral finals today. I’ve had a lot of different thoughts the last week or so preparing for them. Although most of you are done, I thought these two particular thoughts might be helpful for the future…
I want to be a life long learner. For my oral exams, the professor picks 3 questions, each of us has to answer one of them, and then we get graded on the spot after our discussion by the professor. My first reaction after getting the grade in my last oral exam today was to tune out the constructive criticism. This proves that I’m learning for the test. In Ken Bain’s book, What the Best College Teachers Do, he calls these people “performance learners.” Performance learners study really hard for the test, but cease all learning once the test is over. Sound familiar? I’d be willing to bet I just pegged several people, myself included. We do the minimum amount of work, and when we’ve finished, we’re done. Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) challenges that by saying we should be good stewards of what God has given us, which includes our minds and the disciplines we have the opportunity to study (chemistry, engineering, education, etc). At it’s heart, performance learning could care less about the actual material and more about the performance on the test. Once the test is over, bye-bye content. With Christ’s help, I want to want to learn the material of the discipline I’m studying and focus on how to continue to improve, not forget it all after the test.
1 Corinthians 10:31 is a hard verse to live out. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (studying for finals included), do all to the glory of God. What does that even mean – do all to the glory of God? I asked myself how do I study for the glory of God? It’s easier said than done, but it means that we use the brain that God has given us to the best of our ability. If you suck at Chemistry but at the end of the day can say you studied as hard as you could for the final and pulled off a C, then you did all to the glory of God. The other side of the coin is humbling. You can put in the minimum amount of work to just get by, get an A, and not live up to the spirit of this verse. I heard a seminary professor once say, “You can get an A in my class and still be in sin.” This is true for every single discipline. How are you measuring up?
We all are in process when it comes to living out Christ’s call on our lives as students. The more we find our satisfaction, identity, and value in the gospel and not in our GPA, the more finals become an opportunity to glorify God, rather than a threat.