Friday, September 01, 2006

I confess to being totally wrong

Remember this post where I thought I'd actually done something useful by helping the mentor think a bit more critically?

I was totally and completely wrong. I confess it to the internet. Totally and completely wrong.

We had our meeting today. I started out by asking them to brainstorm about what qualities they wanted to have, what they wanted to be like, or what they wanted people to say about them in ten years. I brainstormed, too. Then I told them my brainstorming things and asked each of them to share one thing, too, while I started learning their names. That went well. And they all started to learn each others' names, too.

Things went on a bit, and I turned it over to the mentor to talk about her three things. Except she wanted to go on and on and on and on. She wanted to talk about the going to see one's advisor. I'm all for that. Go talk to your advisor. But then she went on, go talk to your advisor because it's really important that you take the right classes so you can graduate in four years and get the right job so you can pay off your student loans and have the right job and make money and the professsor might talk about taking the courses you think will be great but you need to take the classes that will get you the job and you might want to be a history major but you have to study what will get you a job and

I stopped her. I wanted to stomp her, but I just stopped her and said I wanted to offer an alternative view. You're here to learn. I said, I took Basic and Fortran in college because I thought they might help me get a job. They didn't. And they're useless now.

I tried to explain that it's okay if you fail a class, but that you should aim to be learning, and not worry about grades so much. I tried to explain that the skills they could learn as a history major, communication, interpreting texts, working in groups, analyzing data, were all skills that would be important to employers, and they should learn those skills and they'd be able to tell an employer about their skills and so fort.

And I told them that I'd managed to get a PhD in English after getting a bachelors in something totally different, and that while that might seem weird, I had two things going for me: I love what I do and wake up every morning looking forward to my work, and that I'd had a wonderful learning path along the way.

My poor mentor, she kept trying to interrupt, but I kept firing back.

Seriously, I tried to tell them, you may make a ton of money, but if you hate yourself for what you do, no amount of money is worth it.

So, what I said in that other post about having taught this mentor something? I take it all back.

I think what's upsetting me, especially, is the degree of real fear that came through what she was saying. She's not talking about taking the right classes because she's looking forward to a wonderful life.

She's talking about taking the right classes because she's filled with fear. She's afraid she'll never get a job, or make a living; she's afraid of the basics of life. And yes, those things ARE scary as all get out, but her fear will take her in all the wrong directions, and at the end, fearful or not, we're all food for worms. But being afraid of the worms makes getting to them a lot less fun.


  1. Poor mentor indeed. Did the students get a chance to react? They're getting thrown right in to the maelstrom of pre-professional angst.

  2. Oh god, that's just terrible. What I find surprising is that she felt that it was okay to talk like that in front of a professor...I wouldn't have thought so. It suggests some really weird assumptions about what professors do and are and care about.

    It sounds like you did a great job of managing the class.

  3. I very much like the ending of your post -- it's so easy to get caught up in fear of the future (at all stages of life), but much better to remember your point about the worms :)