Movies are made in segments, each small step repeated from several angles; these are called “takes” as in “Take 1,” “Take 2” so that the best possible outcome for that step can be pieced together toward a unified whole. This suggests that if you find you are not engaged in a class session, or do not perform as well as you thought you should on an exam, consider that each activity provides an opportunity for another “take.”

This constructive approach to mistakes is hugely important in the workplace, where running from problems or trying to hide errors can negatively affect the whole organization. Employees who can maturely acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and work to correct them are highly valued.

how to handle a Class or Professor You Find boring

It is likely that during your college life, you will be in a class taught by a professor who you find uninteresting or dry. Instead of saying “I can’t relate to this,” here’s what to do:

  • Sit in the front row where you can’t hide and drift off.
  • Read what is assigned before class. The professor’s lecture will have significantly more meaning to you. Don’t believe us? Try it. What your “boring” teacher is saying may suddenly become more interesting if you bring your own knowledge to it.
  • Form a study group with classmates to share ideas and notes to make the learning experience more social. Ask what they find interesting about the subject and share strategies to learn more about the topic.
  • Look more deeply into the subject. Most ideas are engaging if you make the effort to look beneath the surface. Get interested! Think of questions for yourself and to pose in the class. Don’t wait passively for the instructor or subject to interest you.

coping with Negative Test Results

All students experience disappointment with testing at some point in their academic career. No one performs well on every test. There are four common ways that you might approach a testing setback. Only one of these is the healthy response you are looking for:

  • Pretend it didn’t happen
  • Blame others – the instructor, the course, the college, the university, the universe
  • Blame and berate yourself
  • Forgive yourself, make necessary changes, and move forward


  • Pretend the failure didn’t happen and proceed without examining why you failed.
  • Blame the instructor because “they kept moving ahead and wouldn’t answer questions.”
  • Blame yourself, saying you’re not smart enough and don’t deserve to be in college anyway.


  • Look at what caused the failure. Decide which factors are within your control and design an action plan for next time: “Take 2!”
  • Turn that negative tape in your head into constructive criticism. You do have control. How will you demonstrate it? Restrict negative thoughts about yourself. Retrain your brain to allow for learning and growth.
  • Be honest with yourself about your shortcomings and proceed to improve them.

Learning from failure requires honestly examining what affected your performance under stress. The more honest you are with yourself, the better the eventual results will be. What actions did you take that hindered your performance on the test? What “self-talk” did you give yourself and was it accurate?

Remind yourself that analyzing the cause and effect of a setback will give you important information and help you do better next time.

Dealing with Failure

When have you been disappointed in a presentation you gave? What about a work product? You feel you could have done better, but there wasn’t enough time, you didn’t review what you did, you didn’t present all the data or evidence or concept as fully as you now wish you had.

Unfortunately, you will remember these events far better than you will remember when you succeeded. Instead of berating yourself because you feel so poorly about your performance, take the initiative and learn from the event.

A productive strategy is to keep a written record of times when you know you did not do as well as you could have. What could you have done that would have made a difference in your performance? You have the task of being honest with yourself, not to feel poorly that you didn’t rise to the occasion, but to analyze what happened and figure out what to do differently that will help you on the next occasion. Keeping a written record of what you learned from poor performances or rejections will help you see your progress.

Exercise 4.1: Learning from a poor Performance

First, consider a test or project where you did not get the grade or response you wanted. What do you think contributed to the poor result?



Now, the next time you take a test or complete a project, how will you do things differently? Writing down your new strategies will help you remember them.



Click to download a fillable document: Exercise 4.1: Learning From A Poor Performance

Use Feedback as Constructive Criticism

Positive feedback is reassuring. Negative feedback is painful. However, negative feedback should be accepted as constructive criticism. When instructors or peers provide criticism, they are seriously considering your ideas and how well you have expressed them. Be open-minded, consider the feedback, and decide how you can use this to improve and clarify your work. Grades on tests and assignments received during the semester are also a form of feedback. Use them as a motivating tool to deepen your learning and demonstrate what you know through your next performance (test, project, etc.)

Your professors may give you comments on your work. If you ignore those comments and don’t apply them to improve your work on later assignments, faculty can also become discouraged. This is a two-way conversation.

Ask for feedback. That will show you are serious about improving your work. Ask your professor if you can submit a first draft for comments, even if that is not on the syllabus. Share your work with a fellow student and ask for their feedback (and offer to do the same for them). If you don’t understand the comments you receive, ask your professor or peers for clarification.

Feedback is an opportunity for thoughtful consideration that can be applied in at least two ways. One is what you do with the feedback that you receive. The other is how you provide constructive criticism to others, which may happen in a classroom setting or an organizational meeting, or informally when someone asks what you think of their work.

While we are using the term “feedback” here, in a professional setting it could also become a “performance review.” So consider how you receive it, what you do with it, and how it can help you improve your performance.

Exercise 4.2: The Good and the Bad: Using Instructor Feedback

Being a successful student is not only about passing a course. It is about challenging yourself to learn more and improve how you demonstrate your learning. Schedule a date with yourself each month to review feedback and grades on assignments and tests.

1. What does the feedback you have been getting from instructors about homework, assignments, and tests tell you about your performance and progress in your classes?



2. Schedule a meeting with your professors. What can you ask them about your performance? If you have done this, what was their response? If you have not done this, what is stopping you?



3. Who else can help you improve your performance in your classes?



Click to download a fillable document: Exercise 4.2: The Good And The Bad: Using Instructor Feedback

Build Your Resilience

Consider that City Tech is a giant community, with thousands of students, hundreds of faculty and staff members, and dozens of opportunities. Take advantage of these opportunities. Meet and get to know your classmates. Try out for a theater production. Get out of your comfort zone. Do not worry about failure – who’s to say that your effort wasn’t worthy in itself?

What skills and abilities will you be bringing to life after college? A breadth of experiences that you can talk about, including times you have tried something new and failed, shows that you have reflected on your experiences and learned from them. How you picked yourself up and tried again or tried something else new are important topics in job interviews and other future conversations.

Separate Yourself from Your Efforts

A negative result on a test or poor performance on an assignment is not a judgment of you as a person. Recast this thought: if and when you fail in some way, or even if you are disappointed in your performance, examine what you did and learn from it. Not doing something well – especially when that may be defined by others, like professors – does not make you a failure. It is an opportunity to understand what is being asked of you. So ask!

Your Changing Self-Image

Consider that what you believe is in part how you define yourself. Your beliefs about yourself build up gradually from your many experiences. But life changes. What you believed to be true of yourself in high school may not work now in terms of how you see yourself, or who you want to be. Your ability to reconsider something about yourself will allow you to learn more easily. You don’t have to be someone who “doesn’t do well on tests” or “isn’t good at math,” even if that’s how you thought of yourself previously. More knowledge, skills and experiences will expand your many possibilities.

Exercise 4.3: Assess Your Strengths

1. What have you learned this semester about your strengths as a student?



2. How will you reinforce and make use of these strengths?



3. If you have stumbled in your academic performance, what will you do to make changes?



Click to download a fillable document: Exercise 4.3: Assess Your Strengths



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