Letter to my students: FA16

It started as a nagging concern that a couple students were about to give up – and needed a kick in the pants, as Grandma  would have put it.  It turned in to an email sent to all of my 106 students, and I didn’t imagine anyone would read it or I would have felt self-conscious sending it. I may have to grudgingly consider using email more in my classes (though it goes against some long-held beliefs). I’ve had more students than I thought would read it come up and thank me for sending it.


tl:dr- Prof shares time he needed  meaning or relevance in his school work. Tries to motivate.

Warning: Potentially objectionable language

I remember when I was 1 class away from getting my Masters Degree at KU.  I’d worked 30-40 hours at multiple jobs and it had taken longer than I expected.  I had no prospects of a job when I was done as  far as I knew (Starbucks didn’t exist yet to provide Lit Majors with advanced degrees with work options).  I’d gotten tired of the politics and the crap that came with getting an education and I was laying on my crappy futon staring at the ceiling deciding whether to blow off the class that would finish it all.  If I went it meant a lot of work and what was the point?

At that moment I got a call from a longterm ex-girlfriend I’d recently parted ways with.  She reminded me how much I’d already sunk into the enterprise of my education, and yes, if I got up and walked up the hill to class and did that assignment it would be work, but it’d be over sooner than I knew it.  If I finished the job  there’d be no chance the decision would haunt me, regardless of the outcome. If I blew off the last classes and the last assignment, I’d remember it for a long time.  Maybe the rest of my life.

I said so what. Or something like that but with explicit and vulgar language.

Then she chewed my ass out like a high school athletic coach would, or like an asshole boss you secretly sorta respected would.

I got out of bed and walked to class and did the project good enough to pass.  I got my degree.  Then even though they told the best of the students in my program they’d never get a full time job without a PhD, I found one right away. It was temporary and not exactly what I expected, but in several ways much more fun, and it opened my eyes to all kinds of new opportunities.

I’d like for everyone to get their work in, and meet minimum requirements on time.  IF that’d happen almost everyone would pass.   But you won’t find charity in college.  Get the work in and do your best.  Try to impress someone – even if it’s only yourself.

I am not a good cheerleader.  I consider worrying or getting excited to be emotional work, and the responsibility of the student, but I do hope you find your motivation, and if you need someone, like I did back then, to kick you in the butt and motivate you to get your stuff done, I hope you find them, and I hope you appreciate it.

You’ve learned, and done, more than you realize.  Bring it home.  Finish  strong.

Prof  D.