Back in 2010 I went back to school to get my third degree. College at 45 is a different experience indeed. My professors were usually my contemporaries, and most of my fellow students seemed like they were from a different planet. I struggled to find common ground with them.
I hadn’t had this much contact with 18-year-olds since I was 18 myself. They are astonishingly sure of themselves. They’re not the least bit worried about their future. They take everything for granted.
They have yet to learn that their possessions mean nothing. They are very concerned with what people think about them, and how they look. One girl admitted she had over 400 outfits in her closet! I bet that 25 years from now, none of those outfits will fit anymore, and she’ll wish she had all that money back.
Returning to school later in life was rather surreal for me. I often felt like a detached sociological observer. But I think one of the things that stood out the most for me in this experience was my Chemistry class.
Chemistry was a required class for many courses of study in this college, so the majority of the students who signed up were only there because they had to be, not because they had any interest in the subject. And boy, did they ever take it out on the professor.
This was a man who clearly loved everything about Chemistry. It was his calling. He was fascinated with it, and tried to impart that fascination to his indifferent students. I kind of felt sorry for him.
There were two girls in that class who I called the Bobbsey Twins. They looked nothing alike, but they were joined at the hip. Both were clearly upper middle class children, just like the ones in that old series of books.
But these two girls were obnoxious beyond belief. They had the best of everything. Laptops, phones, cars, clothing… but what they lacked was respect. They’d sit in the back of the class and text and Skype while the professor was lecturing. They’d giggle on the rare occasion when they were paying attention, but mostly they wouldn’t even bother to hide the fact that they weren’t listening at all. Their foolish antics were distracting, which took away from the experience for the rest of us.
I know a lot of people who are or have been teachers, so the behavior of these girls infuriated me. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be mocked by people while you’re trying to do your job. And that job is the most important thing anyone could do. I mean, here you are, trying to increase people’s knowledge so that they have a better chance to succeed at life, and these little brats not only did not care, but they resented it.
And the ultimate irony is that they were punishing themselves more than they were punishing the teacher. They were feasting on ignorance, and they’ll carry that with them their whole life long. Any time you skip an opportunity to expand your knowledge, you may as well be shooting yourself in the foot.
As far as I’m concerned, education is a sacred thing. Learning is the most critical endeavor you will ever pursue. It shapes you. It allows you to grow and understand and empathize and question. It helps you to make decisions, and it charts your course in life.
People who are willing to dedicate their lives to giving people that education are the most amazing people on earth. They base their entire careers on the desire to improve the lives of others. And for their troubles, they are often underpaid, disrespected, and put in danger. I couldn’t do it.
Next time you cross paths with a teacher, thank that person, sincerely. Not just for teaching, but also for having a positive impact on society at large. And if you used to be like the girls in my Chemistry class, apologize. It’s never too late.
I’d love it if my book were as popular as the Bobbsey Twins series used to be! Check it out. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu