Friday, November 14, 2008

Lesson Learned--that Golden Rule

So, this NaBloPoMo thing has encouraged me to post to this blog daily, but I’m wondering if I’m falling victim to the "quantity over quality" aspect of things. Perhaps some of that could be due to the lack of focus that has existed in my head lately, too. At any rate, I’m going to try to post something moderately thoughtful in an attempt to bring something more than Joseph’s teething issues to the proverbial virtual table. One thing that has been in my head lately is a lesson that I learned during my days at Dear Old Valpo.

Story time:
My junior year I was taking, amongst other classes, Quantitative Analysis with lab. The professor who usually taught the class was on sabbatical that year (of course), and an interim had been hired who was a post-doc (I think) in chemistry. I don’t even remember the guy’s name, but he had this strawberry blond hair that he wore in a ponytail with a beard. Anyway, since I was taking 2 other labs that semester (and had just started dating Matt, but we’ll pretend that didn’t matter…) I had fallen a bit behind in my lab reports. When I approached Professor Butthead about my situation, I told him that I could either get the labs done quickly, or I could get the labs done correctly. He told me to do them correctly. So, I did. It happened to take me a bit longer than it probably should have, and I ended up turning the labs in late. When I handed them to him, he looked at me like I was the dumbest individual who ever could have existed and informed me that he wouldn’t be grading my late labs. I appealed to our previous conversation and he categorically denied ever having spoken to me about my lab reports in the past. He didn’t grade the labs and I got a B- because of them.

Now that I’m on the other side of the desk, I think of Professor Butthead often and the lesson that I learned that semester. I learned that, as a teacher, my most important job is to make sure that my students learn. Students don’t always learn according to the schedule that the school year establishes. While an indefinite deadline is an impossibility within our current educational structure, a bit of flexibility can certainly exist.

Students have so much on their plates and are under so much pressure to do everything and be everything that they quickly feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Sound familiar? Yeah, welcome to life. I know that I appreciate being cut a little slack from time to time, so I try to extend that same courtesy to my students.

My mom has said for years: "Long after they forget what you teach them, they remember how you treat them." While I do remember Quantitative Analysis and get all excited about stoichiometry and dimensional analysis (remember—NERD!), Professor Butthead’s lesson on late lab reports remains the most valuable one for me from that semester. So, thank you, Professor Butthead, wherever you are (and whoever you are…) for helping to make me the teacher that I am today (and for giving me the opportunity to write "Professor Butthead" repeatedly in this post).


  1. I can't remember his name, either. But I do remember he was definitely a butthead...glad you managed to make that work for you, though. I've noticed, throughout the past few years, that sometimes the lessons about what NOT to do are the most valuable ones...

  2. Oh, and PS - the quantity over quality thing...yeah, some days it's like that with this daily blogging nonsense. Some days you have something useful to say, some days you end up talking about Facebook ads...

  3. I completely agree, esp. as my new job involves a TON of teaching, and I'm learning that some students (actually most) would do much better if given more time and assistance. Reminds me of my (new) favorite quote - "If the students aren't learning, are we actually teaching?"