I finished grading final exams from my first-year college composition students. One of them, chemistry major, said this:
Having a science background, I realized that writing is much like a science experiment. Writing relates to a science experiment because with practice, you can only get better and better results. This is exactly what happened with me in this class. It has shown me that revision and editing are two totally different things and that they are both necessary steps to take while writing an exemplary paper…
Then there was this one, written by—ha ha—another chemistry major:
Someone once said “Before the final, your semester flashes before your eyes.” Whoever said that is definitely full of crap because it never happened. I believe that I performed a lot of busy work this semester during writing 106. My chemistry professor always says “practice makes perfect” so I tend to do countless practice problems in preparation for my chemistry exams. This method has yet to fail me, and I have learned a lot in chemistry this semester. Going into Writing 106 I thought I was going to be practicing writing a lot. This was not the case. During the entire course, by my count we did just one essay. While we did write a few things, we wrote just one paper, so if the purpose of this course was to help me become a better writer then I don’t think it succeeded. If the purpose of the course was to make me do a ton of work to earn 3 credits and a letter, then I congratulate whoever created the curriculum.
This was really annoying, for several reasons:
a) We wrote a lot this semester (six major pieces, to be exact)
b) Student often demonstrated an inability to follow directions
c) Student made fun of my MacBook the one day it froze in class, whereupon he chided me for not having a PC, then the following week he brought in his brand new iPad
d) I didn’t turn off the lights and read from a power point screen the whole semester—and I brought cookies on peer review days!
e) I think he was confusing “Someone” with Terry Pratchett, who said, “ your life flashes before your eyes just before you die.”
As a teacher, I sometimes take comments like this student’s as a reflection of my failure as a human being. So I moped around for five minutes. And then, because he was the only one, out of 70 students, who thought the class was stupid, I thought of “Dreamsong 14,” in which the speaker confesses to be bored by EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME. The speaker’s mother tells him that only people without “inner resources”—abilities to tease out what is personally, individually meaningful and useful from life experiences—are bored.
My response was apologetic: “Dear Student, I’m sorry you missed the point of the course, and that you have no inner resources.”
I disliked several of my college classes too, but I like to think the difference between me and this student is that I recognized when it was my fault—for being unprepared, for not paying attention, for not having slept the night before, for being distracted by thoughts about whether I wanted chicken or salmon at my wedding reception, etc.
But later I felt grateful for this student’s griping because he helped me think a little bit harder about my own life, and how I am more like him than I think. Sometimes, I forget to use my inner resources to make the most of a situation. I let this happen most often at church. When I think the talks are boring, or on fast Sundays, when I brace myself for the same people who always march up to the podium and ramble, or sound pedantic, or talk about soy beans, and I tell myself it’s okay to zone out. And then Elder Donald L. Hallstrom’s most recent General Conference address reminded me that it’s not okay to zone out when he said, “President Spencer W. Kimball was once asked, ‘What do you do when you find yourself in a boring sacrament meeting?’ His response: ‘I don’t know. I’ve never been in one.’”
Clearly, making the most of inner resources is a divine attribute. One I know I should cultivate more carefully so that on fast Sundays, I’m learning something from everyone—I could learn more about courage from the people who are brave enough to stand up every time on fast Sunday; I could pay attention to the speakers reading verbatim from the Ensign for 25 minutes and listen for principles that apply to my life; I could start a church journal, like a friend in another ward who weekly writes down what she learns from the lessons in all three hours of church.
There are lots of things I could do to make the most of my time and resources, not just at church, but at home, when I’m babysitting someone else’s children all day and wishing 5 pm would come sooner, when I’m talking to new people, or when I’m with people I love. I just have to remember that it’s not too much to ask.
What silly things do your students/children/relatives/coworkers say to betray the dysfunction of inner resources? How do you deal with this? How have you learned to recognize when it’s you and not someone else? How do you make the most of every situation? Tell me your stories!