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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Trying So Hard

There are few expressions I’m more allergic to than “I tried so hard.” One quality that people routinely lack is self-awareness. Everybody sees themselves as extremely hard-working and cruelly underappreciated. The way to identify the laziest, most entitled folks is by their love of the phrase “I tried so hard.”

“Professor, I try SO HARD but you aren’t even giving me a passing grade. You keep saying that my Spanish isn’t good enough even though I try SO HARD to improve.”

“Let’s see. Have you been in touch with the free tutor, as I recommended?”

“Well, no, I forgot.”

“Have you been going to the conversation hour?”

“Not really.”

“How many times did you use the dictionary when reading the text assigned for today?”

“Erm. . . I didn’t.” 

“Did you use the websites I suggested to practice the grammar?”

“No, I lost that email from you. But what I don’t get is why my grade is so low. I try SO HARD!” 

“Can you give an example?”

“Well, for today’s class, for instance, I looked at the assigned reading!”

The really hard-working people actually never “try hard.” They go and do it. 

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7 thoughts on “Trying So Hard

  1. JProf on said:

    I think some of this “try so hard” stuff is related to the idea that some students have that their grade should be based on how hard they try in the class and how much effort they put into it, regardless of their actual mastery of the course material. Of course, the type of student you describe in your post didn’t really try at all, and we’d like to think that trying usually results in learning (and it often does), but sometimes some students just don’t understand the material well, despite their efforts. And some of these students think their grade should be based mostly on their effort.

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    • “And some of these students think their grade should be based mostly on their effort.”

      • And since effort is completely subjective, people honestly think they are being unfairly persecuted after not even deigning to open the dang dictionary in the entire semester! “I tried to hard” seems to mean “I made it to most classes and even opened the textbook a few times.”

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  2. Jonathan Mayhew on said:

    Absolutely. You only say you tried to do something when you in fact didn’t do it.

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  3. There are few expressions I’m more allergic to than “I tried so hard.”

    Ugh, me too. Usually “I tried so hard” means “I barely lifted a finger.”

    There are students who do work hard but not smart at all, i.e., lots of effort goes into cramming rather than trying to understand the underlying principles (which would reduce the need for stuffing facts into their head).

    Jonathan said, “You only say you tried to do something when you in fact didn’t do it.”

    Many students want us to test the understanding of concepts in some fictitious way that requires them to neither remember anything nor show that they can calculate/do anything specific. As one of my colleagues said, “I only become a ‘concept thinker’ when I actually have no idea how to actually calculate something.”

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    • “lots of effort goes into cramming rather than trying to understand the underlying principles (which would reduce the need for stuffing facts into their head)”

      • So true! I keep explaining that “the knowledge of certain principles liberates us from the need to know certain facts” but it isn’t sinking in.

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  4. Shakti on said:

    I wonder what would happen if someone with a C said, “Yes, I’m lazy. I find when I apply effort it actually results in a worse result. I flunk.”
    :-p

    Everybody sees themselves as extremely hard-working and cruelly underappreciated.
    No, and I’m aware I sound like a parody when I try to mouth that.

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  5. Eric Parsonage on said:

    The way to identify the laziest, most entitled folks is by their love of the phrase “I tried so hard.”

    This is certainly true of the most entitled people I know too.

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