Saturday, June 19, 2010

Recurring Nightmare

I have had this recurring nightmare ever since I graduated from University of Washington in June 1987. It doesn’t happen as much anymore as it did the first couple of years after graduation, but I still occasionally experience it. It is one of those dreams where I suddenly realize that I did not graduate because I received a failing grade on a required course. And, that I would have to return to school an extra term to finish. I wake up in the middle of the night and feel the relief once I realize that it is only a dream.

I took a Mechanical Engineering required course, ME 469 – Advanced Dynamics, my last term at UW. The course grade solely depended on a mid-term and a final test. The mid-term counts for 40% and the final 60% of your course grade. It did not matter if you attended the classes and lectures, as long as you were there for the test. Homework, although assigned, were not required to be turned in. If you showed up for the tests and were able to pass them, even if you did not attend most of the class sessions, then you were still credited for the class. The professor warned us not to take this course lightly. He assured us that if we followed his lectures and performed the required exercises, we would do fine in the class. I attended all the classes but did not care to do the homework or review assignments up to the midterm.

The mid-term consisted of two problems, worth 50 points each. On the test, I was able to do the second problem, or so I thought. I did not know how to proceed with the first question. The next day, the professor handed back our graded exams. Before handing the test papers back to each individual, the professor tells the entire class in a disdainful voice: “Out of 100, the highest score was a 65. The average is in the low 40’s. Someone scored a 10 and another an 8. I want these two people to see me after class.” When I did get my test back, I was shocked by what I saw on it – a test score of 10. I thought I got the second problem entirely correct and had received a 50. But, no.

So, I was one of two students that had to talk to the professor after class. What he essentially told both of us was that we had two options: Drop the class and take it again next time it is offered, or hope that we ace the final exam and that the class test score average is low enough to boost our course grade in the passing range. The first option was not an option for me because I would have to stay in school for the upcoming autumn term. The class was not offered during the summer term. So, I stuck with the course and hoped that I could do well enough in the final test to get a passing grade for the entire course.

The remaining part of that spring quarter most of my spare time was spent at the ME Building studying. Dynamics was a hard enough course, but advanced dynamics was very challenging. To this very day, I don’t think I used anything from that class in the real world. I was lucky enough that I had a vehicle of my own by that time because I spent a lot of overnighters in that building studying with fellow students.

I felt confident after taking the final test. It consisted of 4 problems. I thought I did well enough to get a passing grade for the entire class. Because the class was graded on a curve and I was able to do well enough on the final exam, I was able to pass the class and receive a 2.7 grade for the entire course, a B-. I never checked the results of the final test, but I must have aced it and the class average must have been low to boost my grade to a “B-”.

So, all you budding or “backseat” psycho-analysts out there, what does this mean? Why am I haunted by this nightmare even though I passed the class and received my diploma?


  1. This takes me back to my freshman year in high school. My english teacher made an announcement to the entire class and said cheating will not be tolerated. I was singled out in front of everyone, when it was actually my friend behind me who was looking at my answers. It was the only detention I ever got hit with (and an automatic grade drop). I still was able to get a B- (A- with the grade drop) by the end of the semester, but it was one of the 1st nightmares I ever had to live through in school.

  2. It happens to me too, and exactly like you described. Edin.

  3. Elvin - Everyone in Germany is asking me about you. What's up? Does your work email not work? Is there a different one where you can be reached? Give me all the pertinent info.