Academia

Students, teachers, and the bigger picture


Recently, I went on a “tweet storm” about students and some typical “end of semester” behaviors I’ve seen over the years.  A colleague read them, and suggested it would make for a good blog post.

I’ve been sitting on this since then, for a few reasons.  First, I’ve been pressed for time with other matters, and I didn’t want to simply dump the entire “tweet storm” here with no explanation.  Second, I’ve been considering how to frame this thing in the proper context.

Now that the semester is over, I finally have some time!  #yay

For those who know me, I’m always thinking about the “bigger picture”.  Things never happen in a vacuum.  There is always a cause and effect, there is always a deeper reason(s) why things happen the way they do.

I’m a teacher.  I teach.  It took me a hell of a long time to finally figure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I think I may have finally figured at least that much out.  At a basic level, I teach topics to help prepare students for a career in infosec.  But at a deeper level, I also try to help kids find their way as they move into adulthood and their professional careers.

Sometimes, kids don’t need much help at all.  Sometimes, they need a tremendous amount of help.  Everyone is different.

Sometimes kids don’t realize they need that help, sometimes they do.

I try my best to figure out how to get you that help.

Sometimes I hit the mark, sometimes I miss the mark badly.  I’m human, and God knows I make more than my fair share of mistakes when trying to hit the mark.  But I always try to do what I think is best for you.

In that context, that’s what my “tweet storm” was about – trying to help kids move beyond the x’s and o’s of mere coursework, and think more deeply about what they’re doing as they work on their college degrees.

These tweets weren’t meant as a criticism or attack, rather they were intended to try and give kids a different perspective to consider as they move towards graduation and a life beyond college.

So, to “my kids”, I say this:  People matter.  Relationships matter.  You matter.

You may think that these tweets are nonsense, pointless, or just the ramblings of some idiot academic whose courses you have to suffer through, in order to get that piece of paper you’ve been told is important.

I’ve probably been your toughest critic, but I’m also your biggest supporter.  I want you to succeed.  I want you to prosper.  I want you to grow into something more than you already are.  I see it in each of you, even if you don’t.

These tweets aren’t simply about courses and final grades.  They’re about how you go about doing the important things in life.  They’re about how you go about relating to the people around you.  They’re about how you grow into something more.

So, with that in mind, my hope is that you’ll read these tweets captured below, and take them to heart.

  • if you’re thinking about emailing your instructor to “discuss” a grade on a single assignment, ask yourself why you’re actually doing so.
  • if your course grade is on the border of pass/fail, ask yourself why this is? arguing with your professor about a single grade, at the end of the semester, is pointless.
  • that last, or close to last, assignment in the class isn’t magical in nature. it weighs the same as the other assignments you submitted. or maybe you didn’t submit? and that is the issue – how many points did you leave on the table earlier in the semester?
  • now it’s the end of the semester, you suddenly realize that you’re on the edge. now you want to “push back” or “seek to understand” the grade, which is intellectually dishonest. you want to argue for points, in the hope that you’ll somehow manage to pass the course.
  • if you’re being totally honest with yourself, you know that you didn’t turn in assignments earlier in the semester, or you submitted substandard work. you probably did so, thinking “it’s early in the semester, i’ve got time to make those up”.
  • the problem is, you cannot make up for lost points. they are gone, never to return. but, you get to the end of the semester, see your course grade sitting in an uncomfortable position, and you start to grasp at straws. this is self-inflicted damage and pain.
  • so, you email and plead your case. you tell your instructor this or that, hoping that you’ll some how be able to squeeze points out. however, you know that deep down, you didn’t earn them and don’t deserve them.
  • so, what do i want for students to think about and truly understand? simple – do your work to an acceptable standard, and submit it when it’s due. as a student, you have all the power in the world to control your own destiny here.
  • take control of your education. take control of your coursework. take control of your work. take control of your future. it’s all yours to take. what are you waiting for?

3 thoughts on “Students, teachers, and the bigger picture”

  1. You made life hell for two years and you cut no slack which made me push harder to finish my degree as a 36 year old “kid”, even through tears of frustration. You are the reason I got the great job I have now with no prior work experience. I passed the grueling technical interview because of your classes. You made sure we knew our stuff even though it about killed me at the time. Keep on keeping on. Thumbs up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Elmore, thank you so much!

      Believe it or not, to this day I use your actual story when talking to kids about how well things can turn out.

      We need to get you more involved in the program, if you have time and interest. May I drop you an email at the address you used here, to connect?

      Like

  2. I entered your classes at the age of 30 and had already read numerous reviews on ratemyprofessor.com. I thought to myself, “can he really be that bad?” However, by that time I had held numerous jobs in retail, avionics tech in the USAF, and started my first IT help desk job so hard work wasn’t foreign to me. Being at least 8 to 10 years older than my peers I noticed a culture from the current generation of not wanting to “put in work”. Yeah the assignments were hard but they weren’t like “dun dun DUNNNN OMG” hard. I had no previous “IT” experience, however, when needed I cracked open books, YouTube videos, and google and figured it out. These “kids” lacked that. Prof Green operated like a manager at a job. And if these “kids” lacked that experience of working under a demanding boss the experience was daunting (i.e. majority of the negative rateMyprofessor posts.)

    Keep in mind I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, nor was I some tech guru who can tell you anything about networking and computers. I was totally new to this industry. I had worked numerous blue collar positions and quite frankly I was tired of getting dirty.

    The classes helped me a lot and talking about my server sys security class really impressed my interview panel to the point where I stood out above internal employees applying for my current job. I say all this to say this generation has to stop “crying” over (any) prof’s “hard” work and just jump in the trenches and get dirty. Stop crying over “all this work” and just start attacking it piece by piece and don’t procrastinate. If you thought prof green’s class was “hard”, wait until you get your first security job….

    Like

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