After taking almost a week off to watch 90s-era comedies and eat a lot of sugar cookies, today I copied a popular diagram of the immune system onto my white board.
Then I spent 3 hours goofing off online When I opened the door of my room to talk to a classmate, she saw the whiteboard and her eyes widened as she said “Wow, so you’re a gunner, huh?”
I thought she was joking, so I laughed it off and explained that 1) I didn’t understand the diagram fully yet, and 2) It takes like, 20 minutes to draw. Not exactly serious studying time.
But I think she was actually serious. And it made me think about the term “gunner”, because it gets thrown around a lot (I’ve heard people half-jokingly called gunners for color-coding notes, using recorders in small group sessions, and being involved in research. And in my case, for using highlighters in lecture. WTF). But being jokingly called a gunner has never bothered me – it just doesn’t make any sense.
Maybe it’s because people think I’m not actually just hitting the average on most tests, but even if I was above average, I still think the word “gunner” is, at best, inaccurate, and at worst, unfair. Here’s why:
1) The definition of “gunner” is someone who props themselves up to look awesome at the expense of their classmates. The usual examples involve note stealing, book stealing, passing off inaccurate information to others, showing up earlier than expected to clinical rotations, etc. (If you just think someone is obnoxiously ambitious, we already have a perfectly good phrase for that.*)
2) But if another person just studies a lot, that affects you approximately not at all.
3) If another person studies during break, that also affects you approximately not at all.
4) That is, unless your current unit is set up so that the bottom 13% of people will automatically fail, in which case… well, can you really blame somebody for not wanting to fail? Yes, me passing will push someone else under that 13% line – but that’s the school’s choice, not mine.
The people who are usually at the top will keep studying like they have, but the people who are sometimes below average will have to step it up. All of us. It doesn’t make you a “gunner” to recognize that fact and respond accordingly.
5) Sometimes interviewees will ask me “How competitive are your classmates?”. I used to say “Not at all” and explain how cooperative and awesome everyone was, but then I realized none of the pre-meds ever really believed me. So I now also truthfully add, “Some people here may be intrinsically competitive people – but there’s nothing they can do to affect you**. If you offered me a million dollars to make myself look better by screwing over a classmate, I honestly would not know how to do it. And that’s not because I’m such a nice person, it’s just because the unranked, P/F pre-clinical system doesn’t allow for that.”
6) We look at obsessive studying all wrong. I’m sure there are people here who study far longer than they need to, but honestly? If someone is obsessively studying on a Friday night, then they really are behind. They really don’t understand the material as much as they want. They’re the opposite of a gunner – because if you’re judging them for studying on a Friday night, that means you’ve decided you don’t have to, which means you’re actually more on top of it than they are. Even if your standards for success are different – you’re achieving your standard, and they aren’t yet. You still win.
I will study for a few hours today and tomorrow. There are other students who will probably study more.
And that affects the other students here approximately not at all.
I understand that being indignant about the term “gunner” just sounds… suspicious. It’s like how the only people who really hate the term “hipster” are.. well, hipsters. But regardless, it’s adding insult to injury to use the term “gunner” for people who are actually behind or lost. So can we start reserving the term “gunner” for the people who really do intentionally screw over their classmates?