Well the day finally came. The day my Grandma used to tell me about. The day when I would use words like..."Back in the day", "I know it's old-fashioned, but..."
The day I would wonder what in heaven's name is this world coming to?
In the college classroom where I teach, I declare proudly that I have old-fashioned values. While I do not generalize about college students, because so many of them are exceptional human beings and courageous people, I do find that how I conduct my classroom seems to, at times, bring a few chuckles and shakes-of-the-head.
I actually spend a whole class hour at the beginning of the quarter, in every class, talking about my "Expectations" for how things will run in my classroom. Students also have a chance to share their expectations for me, their expectations for their fellow classmates, and their expectations for themselves.
I want all of us to be on the same page. It seems like I've talked and talked about this for years and years. Actually, I guess I have.
Amazingly, this is my 47th year of being a teacher, 37 of those years have been my beloved Spokane Community College. Yes, the culture has changed during that expanse of time. Cell phones are in. Text messaging rules the day. Formal hand-written letters are almost extinct in this college culture, yet my heart skips a beat and I almost get teary when I receive one, especially from one of my students.
Yet while many things have changed in a college setting, and I may NEVER get used to a few students coming to class in pajama bottoms, over the years my expectations have stayed quite the same.
Here are a few life-lessons, in my book, that never go out of style:
1) Be on time. Actually, whenever possible, be a little early: That goes for walking into a college classroom, church, a family dinner your Mother makes, a job interview, a coffee date, or a meeting with your college professor. Being on time shows that you respect the other person's time as much as your own. If you leave them waiting, and there wasn't an emergency or good reason to be late, you lose credibility about being a person who is trustworthy.
2) If you have to be late, try to call or email the person so they are not left wondering what happened to you. And if you come into a room late, apologize and acknowledge politely that you notice you have kept someone waiting. If you come into a college classroom late, quietly take your seat and quietly apologize for interrupting and distracting from what is going on. It never works well to be late, make a scene, throw down a book bag with a huge "THUMP!", give a sigh of resignation, and throw yourself into your desk. Or even worse, if there is a guest speaker, walk right in front of them to get to a desk across the room. Instead, take an available seat by the door so as to cause the least disturbance possible.
3) Never, and I repeat NEVER, yell at or raise your voice to your teacher, professor, boss, parent, or friend. Never walk out the door when they are trying to talk to you or solve a problem. Never point your finger at them or blame them when you have made a mistake. Never, ever
tell them everything you are thinking. Yes, they irritated you. Yes, you might like to say those things to them. However, there are consequences for telling someone off. A college professor is like your boss. They are grading you. It does not serve you to be rude to them. You may disagree. Do it tactfully. They may be wrong. Share your disagreement tactfully. If you are called on bad behavior after doing this, OWN what you did and take responsibility for it. Listen to what they have to say. You might actually learn something. Do not make excuses for what you did. There is no excuse for being rude.
As one person said, "We have too much of telling it like it is. Let's start telling it like the best it can be."
4) Whenever possible show gratitude and say please, thank you, and you're welcome.
Don't take for granted the kindness of others. The smallest "thank you!" shows you acknowledge the kindness another person has shown. It makes them want to do more. I teach 120 students a day.
Every day I bring food to my class. There is a special chair by the door that has oranges, apples, and even cookies on it. Most college students are starving. Many of my students are parents and sometimes have to choose between their children eating breakfast or having breakfast themselves. They always put their children first, so they come to class starving. Every morning at about 5:30 I am on my way to SCC and I go to my neighborhood Safeway to get snacks for my students. I even get teased by the cashiers about keeping Safeway in business. I am delighted to do this. I've felt led to do this. Yet honestly I am a bit discouraged to see how many students eat these goodies and never, ever say "thanks! " A whole day may go by, and every snack gone, and no one may have voiced a single thanks. I am not doing it for a huge thanks or a brass band. However, those who do say "Thanks, Linda" almost bring me to tears. It tells me they are grateful. It keeps me buying those oranges. The same goes for when someone writes you a letter of recommendation. Send a thank you card to them for taking the time to do this for you.
You might wonder why I am listing these "Old-Fashioned Life Lessons." I LOVE, really LOVE being a teacher. God made me to do this. I have loved doing this every day for the last 47 years. Yet last week I felt so discouraged that I was brought to tears. A student I cared about was, from my perspective, very aggressive with me. Someone complained that the oranges I brought were too small. Yes we have bad weather, yet many students came late and forgot to apologize. I was rudely told I was old-fashioned to expect a student to put their phone away while I was lecturing.
It wasn't everyone. Most of my students were their usual wonderful selves and no matter what, I wouldn't trade what I do for anything. Yet, I did have a moment of pause. I honestly felt a bit discouraged. I was stunned at being almost yelled at. I had to laugh at being called old-fashioned.
If there had been a "Retire Button" to press, I would have pressed it. I was praying and praying for patience. I was asking God to help me not take things personally. I was wondering if it was worth it to care so much about how my students treat each other and treat me. I pray for them every day. Every morning I put my hand on the outside of my classroom door and ask God to help me be His servant and help me to give each student love, care, attention and what He would have me give them.
Who knew some of what He would have me give them would be lessons in old-fashioned values.
My Grandma was an elementary teacher who lovingly sent back my thank you notes if they had a spelling error on them. I made the corrections and sent them back with a smile. My parents were sticklers for being on time and expressing gratitude. My Mom and Dad role-modeled being punctual
and polite. My 6th grade teacher, Miss Palace, drilled us on manners as much as she drilled us on the capitals of each state.
Today I am so, so grateful for all of that old-fashioned training. I am grateful that
high expectations were set for me. I'm not perfect, no one is, yet when we practice some of these old-fashioned values, it seems that life just gets better for everyone.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old." ...