April 12, 2012
I make no secret out of the fact that I can’t stand stupidity. Stupidity, as I define the term, is willful ignorance. This can be either not wanting to learn something you need to know or simply ignoring what has been established as reliable information. Not everyone can know everything. I know this. I’m ignorant of cellular biology mostly because it’s not something that I’ve had to learn in my career, for example. I know enough to know what cells are and how they work, but I couldn’t name all the parts of the cell and their functions if I tried.
That being said, I do expect my students to at the very least pay attention and learn what they need to learn from me so they can become better writers.
Writing may seem like an easy class or something you just have to take for the sake of getting that credit, but it’s more important than that. I’m going to speak specifically about the experience I’ve had in Laredo, Texas over the last six years, but I’m sure teachers in other parts of the country can attest to what I’ve seen and heard.
Students, listen up.
You have a LOT of options. If you decide you want to get the most out of your schoolwork, ask questions. Talk to professors, tutors, instructors, anyone and everyone who can help you. You’re supposed to learn critical thinking. It’s not about memorizing facts. Anyone can learn basic sentence structure. It takes creativity and critical skills to make a poem, though.
That being said, I’d appreciate it if some students would please at least work on the appearance of giving a crap. This doesn’t apply to everyone. Don’t take it that way, please. I’ve had wonderful students, both as a writing consultant and an instructor. I’d say most of my students are either curious to learn or genuinely didn’t know that they didn’t know they didn’t know something.
I don’t even have to forgive that. There’s nothing to forgive.
What I can’t forgive is the student who is told how to do something, in various ways, and refuses to do so out of sheer laziness or a misplaced sense of wisdom grown from years of being a teenager. I’m sure writing Facebook posts made you learn all kinds of fun emoticons, but your other instructors and I did a little more work learning our trade.
Even worse is the student that knows he or she can do better but does just enough work to get by? That’s insulting. I put in good work to teach a class. I use videos, music, and anything and everything to make the learning experience stick. If I have to come in dressed as a hobbit, damn it, I will come in dressed as a hobbit if I think it will help. I put 100% into every class.
And I know my students have resources. You have the internet, tutoring centers, office hours, and your teachers. There is NO reason to not try. It’s not like there are no options.
Let me put it this way. Three years ago, I taught a Developmental English class. Basically, the students in that class did not have the necessary writing skills to enter the university, but the university let them in on the condition that they pass said class. In other words, they didn’t meet minimum requirements, and the school let them slide if they improved WHILE THEY STARTED TAKING CLASSES.
For the most part, the class went well. Then, I gave a simple homework assignment that could have been done in two hours. Four people turned it in.
I let them have it. Let me paraphrase what I told them…
How DARE you not try? How dare you walk into a class, unprepared, and expect me to respect you? You didn’t meet the requirements to enter this institution, and yet we have policies, and an entire department, devoted to whipping you into shape to make it as a productive member of this school so you can learn and earn the degree you need to pursue your career… and you have the BALLS to walk into MY class, without your work, and expect me to teach you?
I don’t know everything, but I know this. I have three simple rules in every class I’ve ever taught: give me your best, respect everyone in the room, and do not interrupt me. You break the first two at the same time? We have problems.
School costs money. If you’re not paying for it, you’ve got loans, grants, or your parents are paying for it. Someone is bleeding money so you can study. How dare you not try? It’s not like the resources aren’t there. Sure, some subjects are harder for some people than others, but at least try.
Like I’ve said before… if you stop trying, you lose. Simple as that.
Now get back out there and show me, and every other educator you’ve ever had, that you at least give a damn.
You don’t buy a diploma when you enter college. You buy the opportunity to earn one. At least make an effort to pretend you care.
And to those of you that DO care and try… you make my day every time I sit with you and see how much you’ve learned. To all of you, thank you.
You’re the students that make teaching worthwhile. Keep it up.
Now enjoy one of the most epic pieces of music from one of the most epic songs of the last decade…