A Professional Student’s Laments

Please forgive the lack of modesty here, but I’m a good student. Or rather, I’m good at being a student.

I breathe ‘A’s and eat compliments for breakfast, lunch and dinner. These things are simply important to me, and thus I’ve taught myself to be the best possible student I can. I’m not trying to say I’m smarter than all of my peers who get ‘B’s and ‘C’s, for I certainly know that is not the case. I am, however, saying that I’ve mastered the skill of studenting (let’s pretend that’s a verb for a bit).

Maybe it’s my PR mentality, but I’ve learned to position each assignment to the professor who has assigned it. I don’t mean this in a manipulative sense, since I never lie, cheat, or steal to get an ‘A.’ I simply observe. I realize that in one class, including a paragraph about politics in an essay would be beneficial, while if I had that same assignment with a different teacher, I might use an example tied in with family. You can learn much about teachers and their values by simply paying attention. I don’t bend my own beliefs when I position my work, I simply highlight what I know they would find most important and appealing.

More than that, I’ve perfected my own personal studying techniques. I know what works for me (writing, and rewriting, and rewriting my notes again), and I put effort into it.

I guess what I’m saying is, it took me long enough, but ever since I’ve entered college I’ve developed into what I can only refer to as a “Professional Student.”

And now it’s time for me to retire.

I graduate this upcoming May, and while I’ve been liberally applying to jobs, I’ve been unsuccessful as of yet. My fear, even if/when I  get a job, is that I simply won’t excel at it. I know how to be a good student. Years of training and practice and I’ve mastered the art. But now I’m being thrown into a whole other shark tank, where a  high GPA  could quite possibly be as meaningless as a bicycle to a fish (I hope everyone enjoys the aquatic theme of that last sentence).

I know many of my peers who, despite being nervous about getting out into the real world, are incredibly relieved to be done with their school careers. I, however, am hesitant. What if I can’t find success in a workplace? What if my best talents are those of being a student? I’m sure some of my skills will transfer, but I’m going to need to learn to play by a whole different set of rules.

While the concept of being  a Professional Student for the rest of my life has crossed my mind (think Buster from Arrested Development, minus the mother complex), I realize that I’ll be broke enough after graduating from my 4-years here to even think about any more schooling for a while. I may go back to graduate school, but I can’t go simply because I want to stay in school. I need to have a reason and a goal. I need to find a specific area of work that I enjoy and, hopefully, excel in. Then I can build on that.

So while I enjoy my last couple months of professional studenting (again, we’re pretending it’s a verb), I look with trepidation upon the future. Is it possible that I can someday drop the ‘student’ and learn to simply be a ‘professional’?

“A language we all speak…”

Classes have started up again. For the most part, we’ve only met once or twice, but my schedule seems enjoyable. A fun last semester that will also hopefully prove beneficial to any job possibilities.

In line with my school’s policies, as seniors we have to take a final “Core Curriculum” class. The subjects of these classes are varied, and we choose whichever one might appeal to us most. I chose a Psychology (my minor) based class with a former professor with whom I actually did some research and independent study work. The topic is “Families and Society,” and at our introduction class yesterday, we spent much of the time discussing what a ‘family’ is exactly. We began by introducing ourselves and our majors. My professors then had us each relate the topic of Family to our respective fields. As a Core class, she was determined to highlight the importance of our various views and experiences in understanding the subject. To make a long story short(er), ideas and terms were thrown around for an hour or so. Discussion ensued. Afterward much conversing, my teacher decided to make things a little fun and show us film scenes that portrayed families. Her explanation for this was because “Media is a language we all speak.”

This statement was made as just a passing remark, but I immediately wrote it down in my notebook. It’s by no means revolutionary or deeply profound, but I found it interesting. As a Communications major with a focus in Public Relations, I consider the media to be a large part of my field. It is, in fact, my interest in all forms of the media that lead me into this discipline. So, to consider that media, a major study of mine, was a universally understood language was sort to remarkable. During my walk back from the class, I thought more about this small statement that most people didn’t even take notice of. It really is a uniting ‘language’ of sorts. We all use it, acknowledge it, learn from it, accept or disagree with it. It is a part of our everyday lives, no matter where we live or who we are. Only the most remote indigenous tribes can be arguably free from media influence, but even then the difference between our society and theirs is much greater than just a lack of newspapers or television.

Media is universal. While it comes in all forms and language, we all understand it. It’s there and we know why it’s there. Whether we trust it or distrust it, whether we enjoy it or hate it– media truly is a “language we all speak.”

B is for…Blatant Bias

When it comes to school, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I never used to be this way until college. And now, alas, it is my curse.

So, when I get a bad grade (keep in mind, a bad grade in my sick little world is anything below an A-), I want to know that I at least deserved it. Instead, I am stuck with a dreaded ‘B’ in a class that I can only begin to describe as the worst college experience of my life. Not only was the teacher inexperienced– something that can be understandable if they at least admit their novice position– but she also clearly wasn’t well versed in the subject at hand. A major part of the class, and an aspect she graded us on, was so beyond her ability that she asked another professor to come in and teach class for a couple of days. Now, call me crazy, but I don’t want this same woman who has already admitted her ineptitude in a field to be grading me on that same field.

Her tendency to play favorites was also beyond obvious. We all have favorites– favorite friends, favorite neighbors, favorite relatives. That’s normal and acceptable. However, it is incredibly unacceptable and unprofessional for a professor to act on this favoritism.

Before I explain this specific situation, let me backtrack a few years and explain why I so hate when teachers blatantly favor one student over another. It was 10th grade, English class. I was loud, talkative, and, I’m willing to admit, a bit annoying. Therefore, my teacher did not like me. Understandable. What was not understandable was my inability to get above an 84 on an essay. I wasn’t the best writer, but I was convinced some of my work was worthy of at least a B+. And yet, like clockwork, my essays came back with the dreaded ’84’ on top. Somewhere half way through the semester I started going to my father for help. Gradually, as my grade refused to change, his corrections became more and more intense. Finally, for one of the last essays of the semester, my father practically wrote my paper. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t approve of parents during their kid’s homework, but this was just ridiculous. And, once again, I got an 84. Now let me explain a few things to you. My father is a pretty smart guy, and I’m not just saying that as his daughter. He’s a partner in a law firm. He went to Yale. And, ironically enough, his was an English major. And yet, according to my teacher, his essay was only worthy of an 84 in a 10th grade English class.

Well, I gave up on that futile fight. As I mentioned, grades were less important to me back then. However, ever since then, I’ve had a special hatred of favoritism by teachers (I think this is a good point to mention that I graduated from High School with the superlative “Teacher’s Pet”– I had learned to play the system, but still didn’t approve of it). Now, this inept professor also showed favoritism as extreme as my 10th grade English teacher. When handing back tests one day, she said to one girl that she was “shocked” and “disappointed.” I myself had gotten a similar grade, but did not receive such a comment. Was she simply not shocked at my having done poorly? Did she expect as much from me? And this was only a couple of weeks into the semester. We had gotten no other grades in the class by which she could judge are scholasticism. Later, she had a conversation with this same girl about how people like “them” had a “hard time” and more was expected of them because of their genius. At this point, I would like to call shenanigans. You see, my teacher was far from a genius. As previously mentioned, she didn’t even understand the subject she was teaching.

She just simply didn’t like me. I got a 100 on an exam and when she handed it back she said, “I looked it over 3 times and couldn’t find anything wrong with it.” She was frowning and I detected a blatant disappointment in her not being able to penalize me in some way. When she handed an exam that got a 90 back to an owner that she clearly preferred over me, she said to them a simple “good job,” with a smile on her face. Can you figure out what’s wrong with this picture? (and I’m not saying a 90 isn’t worthy of a ‘good job’)

I am also 99% sure that I got points taken off an essay because I didn’t have time to send her a copy of my rough draft to look over. Instead, my friend who was doing a different essay and had sent in her rough draft, sent me the corrections on hers so I could gauge the corrections I would have to make on my own. Apparently that wasn’t good enough. So what if I put in hours upon hours of work. It was a damn good essay, but not to her. To be perfectly honest, and I swear this isn’t just some low blow, but I’m pretty sure the reason I got points off (though she would never admit to it) is because I used B-I-G words. Oh. Dear. God. What has this world come to?

So yes, I’m peeved. I got a B, which isn’t horrible, but the fact remains that I got it in a class where no actual learning/teaching was done. All the classes got out a half hour early, and most of them had us “doing group work” when we really didn’t have any “group work” to speak of.

If I get a B, I want to have deserved the B. Instead, I had the misfortune of getting a B from a professor who I am completely unable to respect. Listen, the simple truth of it all is that some people are just naturally great teachers, some people can learn to be great teachers, and then some people have no freaking clue what they’re doing and should get out of the field as soon as possible before they anger another group of students (oh yes, there are multiple students who have expressed similar discontent) and lower their GPA (right before graduation, thanks for that). Can you guess which category my teacher fell in?

And now to enjoy a very merry winter break filled with emails and phone calls as I attempt to repeal my grade and ultimately challenge the authority of this professor. Oh joyous occasions.