When Amanda was over at Chez Kira last night, after a couple of glasses of wine I decided to do a repeat performance of “The Rant” which I just started giving to my classes this semester. She enjoyed it so much that she said I had to blog about it! (Although Amanda wins with the line of the night…I believe it was something like, “He just makes you wonder how many toilets he was dunked in as a child!” Haha! I like that one. I’ll be stealing it in the future!)
Ok, before I start on the rant, let me remind all of you guys that my goal as a teacher has always been TO TEACH the kids the materials. In the long run, if I do that, then it hardly matters how they feel about me, personally. That’s how I conduct my classroom. Usually this particular rant starts before class gets going and one of them mentions another teacher who is an “easy A” and hence, the class should consider taking that teacher’s class. I once was a student, so I surely remember that all the kids discuss the pros and cons of the teachers they’ve had, and the ones who dished out easy A’s were popular for only that reason. I, however, have a different approach. Usually my rant contains a reference to an incident I had as a student, but I think I clipped that one out when I gave my patented speech to Amanda last night. Oh well. Here it goes!
You want to take that teacher’s class because it’s an easy A that’s good for your GPA? How sad. I mean, I understand the appeal…I was a student once too. But the easy A classes come back to bite you on the ass. How so, you ask? Well, I remember when I was at Duke, I had signed up for an English lit class of interest to me. All of my friends went, oh that’s Grover! He’s the only easy A you can get in the English department! Good job! And then I groaned.
Why did I groan? Well, it’s been my experience that an easy A means that all I have accomplished is wasting my time, my energy, and my life just to bolster my GPA. In those classes, I learn nothing. Sure enough, after the end of that term, I could recall nothing I knew from anything else anywhere. In fact, on the easy as hell exam, I mostly used the information that my AP English instructor gave me in high school to answer the questions present. Everybody seemed thrilled with their grade; I, on the other hand, felt disgust. From now on, if an employer looks at my transcript, he or she will assume I have that knowledge because not only did I take the class…but I received an A in it. It’s a lie. It’s a lie on my transcript.
Whenever you take classes because they are easy, you cheat yourself. Sure, you may graduate with a perfect 4.0 and the employers may go, wow, I need to hire him or her! But then you will arrive at the job, knowing nothing when the boss assumes you know everything, and you’re screwed. You won’t get promoted. You may not even get to hold onto your job because your education has been a waste. You have a degree, but no knowledge with the degree.
When I was at USC getting my master’s, I had to take an American Lit class because we were all required to take one class from the opposite field. If one focused on Brit Lit, then one took an American Lit class to graduate; if one focused on American Lit, then one took a Brit Lit class to graduate. After talking to the American Lit folks, I was labeled crazy because I decided to take my one class in that field from the hardest professor in the department. They told me that he failed half his students every term, even the ones who were getting their specialty in American lit, because he asked so much work and performance from the students. However, he was THE BEST USC had to offer. If I had to take one class in American Lit, wouldn’t I want that to be from the best? So, I worked my ass off. It WAS hard. I even drove up to the Duke library one weekend to access their better books for a better paper. I ALWAYS received A’s of some type on my papers, and I remember getting a B+ on that one. I was so proud of that B+ I could have died. My good friend in the class who never had received anything lower than an A and was a PhD candidate received a C—which in graduate school is a failing grade—on her paper. She was hysterical. I just clutched my paper and felt a surge of pride. I ended up with a B in that class, something that the rest of the students thought was a miracle of god, but holy hell, did I LEARN!!! And now, if a future employer wants to know if I know anything about the 20th century American novel, I can damn well say I do.
You see, kids, you may think you’re doing yourself a favor by striving to get that all-perfect GPA, but what you’re doing by taking the easy path is not getting the knowledge you need to succeed. Some teachers make it so easy for you to take this path. I know of several teachers who don’t get the attention they need or want at home or in their personal life, and so the classroom becomes a way for them to get what they want. These are the teachers that everybody knows that if you suck up to them or flirt with them, you’re getting an A. And what did you learn from that? Nothing.
See, I don’t need to be loved. I don’t need you to love me. I don’t need that attention. I have parents, two great kids, a fabulous fiancé, lots of friends, and a cat who all love me. I don’t need more. My goal in here is not to be loved or get great evaluations or be voted teacher of the century to feed my self-esteem. My goal here is….TO TEACH YOU. If you are a bad writer, I want you to make it up to average. If you are average, I want you to become good. If you are good, I want you to become great. If you are great already…well, then, I’m sorry you have to take this course! But my goal here is NOT to become popular. It’s to give you this knowledge and these skills so that you can SUCCEED. And you know what, guys? If you succeed in life, even if you curse my name with your dying breath, I won. I won because I achieved my goal. I can wake up in the morning, look at myself in the mirror, and pat myself on the back for a job well done. I’ve done my job…I’ve taught you. Now, if you come through all of that and you still manage to love me, all I can say is that you have great taste! Haha! But do I NEED that attention? Do I NEED you to run around and say that I’m the best teacher ever? No. I NEED you to learn the stuff and to not pass until you do so that you can get the jobs you want…get promoted…and get where you want to go in life. THAT is what I need. And THAT is why I will never, ever, EVER be the ‘easy A’ teacher. If you get an A in here, feel free to brag to the world because it ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING IN MY CLASS!
For the record, both classes I gave this speech to this term broke out into spontaneous applause when I finished my little rant. Haha! I really do have some kids who hate me because I make them work or make them hand in assignments on time or whatever. That’s their business. I know I’m doing what I have to…and sometimes it pays off. For instance, take this letter that I received yesterday in my school email box as an example. The student actually moved me to watery-eyed tears with these specific words:
At the beginning of the semester I
remember e-mailing you and telling you that you were my favorite
professor, and that still holds today and will always. You weren't just an
English teacher to me. You were a life and moral teacher. You taught me
about how to see the world and how to make my own judgment no
matter if other people saw my side. To be honest you have been the
first professor in my years of being in school that has let me make my
own choices, which was scary at first but I got used to it and I
appreciate that a lot. So I basically just wanted to say thanks for all
you have done, you have done more than you realize. Thank you
And that’s why I teach! I know the pay sucks…boy do I, especially in this state. But it’s moments like that when I realize it’s all worth it.