Friday, October 5, 2007

Our "Go-To" Student Arrives Just in Time To Save Our Sanity, And To Make a Request To Meet Him Halfway.

Okay, I get it. It sucks hard to lecture every day to a class of largely unmotivated, uninterested students, who probably haven't done their readings at all and almost certainly haven't retained much if they have. I understand that's why you pause for painfully long intervals, waiting for someone to finally chip in and contribute something. And exactly because I understand, I'm usually there to throw you a lifeline. Partly I do it for myself, because I'd rather steer the conversation towards something (I find) interesting. Partly I do it for you, because I'm sure the silence is more painful from up front than it is from my row in the class. Yeah, you sure as hell know me. I'm your go-to student.

Now, let's get something straight. There are students who have a lot to say and very little to contribute. They make your day suck and they don't make mine any better either. But trust me when I say I know the difference between a go-to student and a never-shuts-up-even-though-he-has-nothing-to-say student. I know I'm not the only go-to student around. Once in a rare while there are a couple of us in a class. Then we can share duties, look less like over-eager spaniels, and you can really relax for a change. I'm sure there are many classes with no go-to students. I don't know what those feel like, because I've obviously never been in one, but I imagine they drag like a sack full of hammers.

So now that I've identified myself, let me make my request. Meet me halfway, okay? Enough with the bitching and moaning about how all of your students are uninspired and don't hang on your every word. Did someone once tell you that life is like a box of chocolates? They were lying. All chocolates are good. Just some are better than others. Life isn't like that and in fact you have to eat a lot of shit along with the chocolate. Your great achievements in scholarship, and your PhD, don't insulate you from this basic reality of life. Maybe you hoped they would, but then you learned otherwise. Now you're bitter and you spend your time on Rate Your Students feeling all sorry for yourself. Well, get over it.

Meet me halfway, that's all I ask. I'll do my bit to interject some life into the classroom when you pause hopefully for discussion, and you do your bit by doing your damn job. Come prepared, with a reasonably positive (or failing that, at least professional) demeanor. Don't half-ass your way through things just because you wanted the chocolate orange crème and somehow ended up with a cashew nut instead. The students who aren't paying attention to you anyway may not notice, when you stop trying, but I do. The very people you count on most, to relieve the tedium of your most boring lectures, are the few who notice when you figure it doesn't matter anymore.

And by the way. Yes, I know other students think I'm lame for participating in your class, and for giving a fuck about what you teach. And yet I still do. Unless you live all alone in a hole underground, you surely understand that whether it's fair or unfair, reasonable or otherwise, it sucks for me to know the large majority of my fellow students are going to scorn me for my contributions, sooner than appreciate them. So pony up in return. It's the least you can do.