“Put in the work.” It’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re a single mom with a full-time job and your community college teacher is explaining what it will take to pass her class. You just picked up medicine for your sick child; your mid-term paper is due in 2 days; and you need all 40 points or you’ll have to take the class again. What you want to hear is “OK, I feel sorry for you and I’ll let you slide this time.”
I met a delightful lady this morning on my train ride into work. She’ll remain nameless as I didn’t ask her permission, so let’s just call her The Teacher. She sat across the table from me in a comfortable flannel shirt, reading her Guideposts book. She looked at me with grandmotherly blue eyes through her reading glasses, and graciously responded when I made conversation.
She teaches English to high school grads and working adults, and I asked her opinion about the work ethic of her students. She explained that most students fall into two camps. They are either motivated or they are not. However, she does get approached by even motivated students during occasional on-the-fence moments when life intrudes on education and they get behind.
Like a good language teacher, she explains her philosophy with an analogy…
The Teacher: “You’re standing in the driveway watching your fancy car get towed away by a big truck. What happened?”
The Student: “You didn’t make the payments!”
The Teacher: “Exactly. I expect all of you to put in what it takes to own your education. If you can’t do it now that’s OK, but don’t ask me to let you slide by without doing the work. Adjust your expectations to stretch your education out to 3 years instead of 2 if you have to, but I won’t help you sell yourself short.”
Now that’s what I called getting schooled on your schooling. She reminded me of some of the best teachers I remember in my youth… usually the ones who called me on the carpet when I needed it. She called her tough love approach “verbal fertilizer.” It doesn’t smell very good, but it will help you grow.
What did one of your teachers say that you still remember to this day?