College Advice? Nope, it’s all a Metaphor for Life

Note from November 2009 Lesson Plans:

Things to remember in college:

  1. Frontload your work
  2. Take notes while reading
  3. Thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph
  4. Cite sources
  5. Topic sentences and transitions are important

There was also an exclamation point at the end of that last bit of advice. I should probably have included a line that read, “Don’t use exclamation points.”

I remember thinking that when I first started teaching, there was going to be a steady stream of moments of bliss in the classroom. Moments where my students would stand on the tables, screaming “Oh Captain, my Captain!” and all I could do was try to get through each quarter before my students caused such a ruccus that I would get fired, leading to a riot on campus.

Instead I get shit like the above note in my lesson plan.

You see, the reason why I cared so much about what my students learned wasn’t because I wanted them to ace their exams, learn some key point of rhetorical history, or be able to talk about T.S. Eliot while eating scones and bitching about interest rates.

I did it because I wanted them to succeed in life.

Those bits of advice I wrote? That was just thinly-veiled life advice.

  1. Frontload your work: Get your work done in the morning; you can take the afternoon and/or evening off, giving you time to relax. The students that wrote papers early usually got stellar grades, too… Just sayin’.
  2. Take notes while reading: This is all about being mindful. Present. All that New Age stuff… A mindful person is usually not as classically conditioned as the rest of us. He or she is able to think clearly, and that’s a necessary step towards evolution of the species (I probably need a source for that).
  3. Thesis statement in the first paragraph: Don’t beat around the bush (oh god, one of my old rhetoric teachers just had a heart attack for my use of that horribly sexist cliche); get your point across; you can spend the rest of the time supporting your points.
  4. Cite sources: Don’t cheat or copy someone else’s ideas, copyrightable or not. If you steal stuff while on the computer, you could get locked up or something. It’s just bad form.
  5. Topic sentences and transitions: Most of the time, it’s just good form to let people know what you’re talking about before you actually talk about it. Sure, it lacks poeticism, but it’s okay.

The college classroom, for me at least, was a great place to work. I always tried to get my students to love writing as much as I did, and I still exchange emails with several of my past students. I never wanted them to become “writers” though… I wanted them to be thinkers.