Gamechangers

Confession: Sometimes, I’m not overly fond of the first semester students.

On an individual basis, they seem to be nice enough but what gets my goat is the fact that they love to congregate in Classroom 5, the designated Second Semester domain (all of our classes are scheduled in Classroom 5). When I was a first semester, I would never have dreamed of camping out in a classroom that was reserved for another semester (although The Annex is the designated realm of first semesters, my study areas of choice were the fishbowl and Classroom 1, an unassigned quiet study space near the ocean) but for some reason, this new crop of first semesters likes nothing more than coming to our classroom and sprawling out like they own it. I get a perverse sort of pleasure whenever we have classes after 1:00 and they have to pack up their lunches and leave. I know it’s a silly peeve, but there you have it. That’s what annoys me about first semesters.

However – yesterday, the first semester students had their first anatomy lab practical*, practically on the heels of Mini I (we were lucky last semester; our practical was scheduled ahead of the Mini). As a pal and I passed them lined up anxiously outside of the anatomy lab, my pal snickered and said, ‘Don’t you feel sorry for them?’ I nodded, because I did. The first anatomy lab practical is kind of scary if you don’t know what to expect. I remember thinking of it as an evil game of musical chairs played in complete silence: there are 40 stations – 30 bodies lined up with structures tagged and 10 radiographs. You have 40 seconds to answer the question at each station – it could be a “simple” identification or it could be a secondary question, i.e., ‘what is the nerve that innervates this muscle?’ or ‘what is the structure that makes this indentation?’. Once the chime sounds, time is up and you have to move quickly.

My pal and I walked on and we encountered a first semester friend of his, shuffling to the line with his head hung low. ‘How’d the Mini go,’ my pal asked and with shame, his friend answered, ‘Not too good. I failed histo.’ We both expressed our condolences but then I blurted, ‘Wait! How badly did you do?’

It’s taboo to even bring up grades with strangers but in that moment, I forgot myself.

“54,” he said, to the pavement. “That’s pretty awful, isn’t it?”

“No!” I smiled. “Well, it’s not great, but you can come back from that.”

“Really?” He looked up.

My pal and I told him about our brushes with MPS (minimum passing score, usually between 58 and 61, depending on the subject) and dips below. Histo hit me hard on the first Mini last semester so I was happy to share that one low mark wasn’t irredeemable. As I was told by one of the Academic Success staff, a score in the 50s, though technically a fail mark, is not a gamechanger. One can easily make up for it on the practicals (which, in the case of anatomy for second semesters, is actually worth more than Mini I. For first semester histology, the 2 practicals are worth 15% of your final grade which is the equivalent of one Mini exam). Of course, one does have to be careful to keep every subject above MPS in order to pass the semester but one doesn’t have to start packing one’s bags or be resigned to repeating if Mini I doesn’t go so well.

My pal’s friend continued on his way to the anatomy lab but we did see him later, after he’d emerged from the anatomy practical. Once again, we greeted him with everyone’s favorite question. “How’d it go?”

“Not bad,” he said.

*If you’d like a taste of the practical experience, visit this site and try a virtual anatomy practical.

Explore posts in the same categories: 1st Semester, 2nd Semester, med school

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