High personal standards make B’s a sign of failure
B = F. It isn’t a new math formula or science equation. It’s a mindset.
According to guidance counselor Phyllis Bell, for some students getting a B in class can be failure, or the end of the world.
“Sometimes they forget that a B is good,” Bell said. “Some kids can roll with [getting a B]. Some kids go off the deep end if they get a B and you kind [of] have to talk [them] down from the ledge.”
For senior Sam Baynes, her dread of receiving a B stems from the fear of shattering a perfect streak.
“It’s just a personal pride thing,” Baynes said. “I’ve never [gotten a B] before, and I really don’t [want to] start now. I’ve just always told myself, ‘I could do it if I wanted to. I could get the A in the harder classes.’ It’s never really been an option for me [to] get a B in class.”
Even with the assurance of college acceptances, Baynes said she continues her hard work because she views an A as a symbol of pride and challenge. According to her and sophomore Katarina Schneiderman, a B would represent failure more in the sense of disappointment.
“I’ve always been someone who [has] just really liked learning, and then that kind of developed into always getting good grades,” Schneiderman said. “My parents are big factors in getting A’s all the time…I’m just trying to live up to their expectations as well as expectations set by my older sister.”
Similarly, senior Harry Taylor also said he upholds A’s with importance.
“My entire life leading up to this year, it was always extremely important for me not to get a B,” Taylor said. “I was always a straight-A student so I just kind [of] had that mindset of ‘You have to be successful. You have to get A’s.’”
Taylor said that changed, however, when he got hit with not just one, but two B’s for the first time this year.
“Because [AP] BC Calculus and three [trimester AP] Physics have reputations as the two hardest classes, over [the] summer I kind of mentally prepared myself to get a B because I’ve come close before, but I’ve always managed to get the A,” Taylor said. “And then with both classes, I got a B last trimester and it was really hard because you do feel like you’ve let yourself down to an extent because you pushed for the A for so long.”
According to Taylor, that disappointment arose from an individual standard, rather than pressuring outside influences.
“I never felt like I let my family down,” Taylor said. “It just personally kind of sucked. It was like the feeling of getting an F, [even though] I got B pluses in both classes. It’s kind of like if you’ve ever gotten a really bad grade on a small assignment. It’s not as bad as that feeling, but it’s much more drawn out, [because] one assignment will eventually go away whereas [this won’t].”
According to senior Tivon Tsung, ‘senioritis’ has caused him to downplay the dramatics of the dreaded B.
“I got my first B last [trimester] and it was a bummer, but it wasn’t a huge [deal],” Tsung said. “I don’t feel like it’s failure because I still tutor other kids in the same subject. I’m helping them get A’s. I just know that the reason I’m not getting an A isn’t because I don’t know it; it’s because I don’t care enough to put more effort in.”
In contrast, Baynes said the possibility of a B on her next report card would create a much bigger dent.
“I would probably break down and cry because 13 years of hard work would go out the window,” Baynes said.
But at the end of the day, Schneiderman said the seemingly baneful B doesn’t automatically mean doom.
“It would be disappointing [to get a B],” Schneiderman said. “But I think I would take it more as a part of life that is eventually [going to] come, whether it’s in high school or college.”
According to Bell, while students should be rooting for excellence, the key is to maintain balance.
“We try to help [students] understand that no one can be perfect all the time,” Bell said. “Sometimes we take it a little too far and things just get out of perspective…this environment at Mason is one which is meant to push you a little bit — and that’s okay. Setting high goals for yourself is not a bad thing; crumbling because you can’t handle a B is a whole [other] story.”