Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dedication

A to Z Challenge: D

I don't speak or write about my college students ever, or college students in general. Maybe once or twice I wrote a blog post about one class and their reading list midterms one semester. I don't make social media comments about teaching or students in general. I'd never do that anyhow, target one student by name or otherwise. To avoid anyone ever thinking I am targeting them, should any of my students come across anything I do write and or post, I'd rather they find nothing at all so they won't think "it's about them." I might "like" a teacher oriented meme or something like that, but that's rare. So I just keep my thoughts on education, teaching, students, all that, to myself. It's easier.

However, when thinking of the letter D, many words come to mind that I want to write about, but each word I came up with would mean I have to dive into personal things that I just don't want to do right now.

So then, the word dedication came to mind. And while it applies to me and what I'm trying to achieve at this point in my life, I want to focus on the student aspect of that word and maybe share a general thought or two about it.



I appreciate the students the most who show dedication. College is hard work. My English class is no exception. I don't make it easy. I have standards and expectations that I think are fair. They haven't wavered much in the three years I have been teaching so I'd think the college would have made amends on that by now. Some students think the policies aren't fair. Some think it's too hard. And I get it.

I've noticed over the last few years though, it is difficult at times to persuade students into understanding the importance of a good English background and good academic writing habits because of the likes of all the technologies out there at our fingertips that do all the work for us. i Phones, tablets, Google. These things have made our lives much easier, but also, they've made us lazy.

So I stress the importance of being dedicated to doing all the work that's on the syllabus and the importance of coming to class, as well as the importance of still handwriting out a draft then typing it, and having that tangible thing in front of you that you created because it will make you a better writer. If a student doesn't want to be a better writer, if they don't care, then they won't have dedication. This will then be reflected in the grade they receive.

Not that many students want a passing grade handed to them, but I wonder if many feel that they will just be given a passing grade, despite them not doing the work, despite them not improving on their grammar, despite them not coming to class.

Outside factors take a toll on the amount of effort and dedication a student is willing to put forth. But there is a balance. Life happens. Things go awry. Personal things happen. Life is tragedy. But when you sign on for college, you either need to see it through or know when to step back and come at it again when things settle down. But the instructor still has a course to run, policies to follow, and students can't take it personal when those can't be altered to fit their needs because life has happened. Granted I was in college a loooong time ago, but I recall the struggle. Working full time for quarters at a time. Struggling with homework, grades, sleep, bills, rent. And I faltered. Many times. Had to take my share of classes over. But I took ownership. And it was hard, but I did it.

I wonder if many students do that today? Or, have we created a society over the last twenty years (since I've noticed this change and trend in that time frame) that allows us to get by without taking ownership?

Look around at people in general, not just college students, how many people do you know in life who don't take ownership? We blame other people, tragedies beyond our control, teachers, presidents, whoever, but do we ever take responsibility ourselves?

Succeeding at college, and succeeding in life in general, takes dedication. Perseverance. Thank goodness I do have a majority of students who tough it out and get that good grade and do the work and come to class, and if they struggle at first, I try to work with them within the means I have. But to those who dig in their guts and hearts and want to succeed, to those, I appreciate you. And to those who have to step back and reassess, I appreciate you too. Refocusing dedication is not a bad thing. I just never get a chance to tell you I appreciate you because some might give in before you really even tried or gave me a chance.

Perhaps my students don't think or realize what I learn from them. Some of them dedicate themselves to passing the class only to nail me on the evaluations at the end of the term because I was "too hard on them," but that comes with the territory I suppose. After all, you can't be everyone's cup of tea. Anyhow, I do - learn from them. Human things. Seeing their dedication in the classroom fuels me for trying to stay on this path I chose, no matter how hard it is at times. No matter if it might not work out. And when I want to throw in the towel it's not because I don't want to teach anymore. It's not because I've given up. It's because I can't support myself by doing this and this alone. Dedication doesn't pay the rent, but I wish it did.

Ah, and therein lies my conflict.

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