Tuesday, April 24, 2012

for my college peeps

I wrote this for an online newspaper :) enjoy!

College can be an amazing adventure with many challenges and many rewards. One such challenge is often the professors themselves. While the majority are approachable, kind and helpful, every so often one has a professor that seems to have it in their mind that part of their job description is to make the students life miserable. While this is completely unfounded logic, it often seems so and, because of this, the student is left with the conundrum of how to handle the situation.

             Most students either opt out of the class or squeak by with a “D” for a grade. While both of these options seem justified, neither is actually helpful. In the first place, the student is still left with credits to fill. This can be particularly problematic if the class is one that is necessary for the student’s degree. The latter works to an extent but is still not ideal since grades like that or lower can be detrimental to a student’s GPA, thus costing potential scholarship money and chances at grad school. So what is this poor, academically abused student to do?

              I propose that the problem is often not with the professor at all, but with the way that the student regards their education. Now before you stop reading and throw this paper in the trash, I challenge you to consider for a moment.

             While I admit that there are those few disgruntled teachers who probably do have some vendetta against the potential that each student possesses, I think it is more accurate to say that most teachers’ main goal is to help students succeed. This reflects well on the teacher and is often the inspiration for going into education in the first place. If this is (generally speaking) their main goal, then it is highly unlikely that a “tough teacher” is actually being hard on you in particular. This begs the question: if this is the case, then why the struggle? Why is it that my professor seems to always assign the hard assignments during homecoming week? Why the ten page essay on a topic that I could not care less about? There must be a rational reason. Right?

             As previously mentioned, I think that the true problem is in the eyes of the beholder and not the object beheld. What I mean is that I think it is accurate to say that most students are in college to get a degree. Profound, I know; I point this out, however, because there is a fundamental problem with seeing a college education this way. Going to college simply for a degree that will help you make money later in life in order to gain some sort of faux financial stability in an economy that is largely unreliable anyway is a very non-motivational reason to be spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. I think that there is a lot of evidence of this when you look at how frequently students change majors, how many students drop out and how many students openly admit that they hate going to class.

               So what is the solution? A mind switch. No, I don’t mean swapping brains with the class nerd; I mean changing how you think about college. What if the reason you went to class was to learn? Again, profound. But seriously, what if the reason you were getting a degree was in order to possess an immaterial gift that no one could strip away? Knowledge. The irrevocable internalization of ideas that were once foreign to you, but now rest tightly in your grasp. That is something worth paying for; that is something worth going to class for and that is a motivational tool that cannot be matched.

               In this light, that hard as nails teacher who is out to get you becomes more like the refining fires that turn coal to diamond. Viewing education as a perfecting process (gaining something) rather than a progressive process (from point A to point B) makes the trying times of your education bearable by holding the goal of attaining something you never had before. Teachers who have high expectations are simply hotter fires who are helping you to refine your thought process.

               During this adventure called college, remember to keep your eyes on the final goal – attaining knowledge, not paper in a picture frame. This is the easiest way to handle difficult teachers. Change what you can: yourself.


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