Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Another thing necessary for success

But not just in college. In life.

And that's the ability to take freaking RESPONSIBILITY for yourself. To man up (or woman up) and go, Okay, I have x number of things to do in the next three days. I am going to budget my time and do those things. And to say, when you screw up, "I screwed up. What can I do to fix this?"

It is not being responsible to sit down and not do those things and then whine and moan that it was too "hard." It is not responsible to find someone - anyone - else to blame for your mistakes/failures/lack of preparation.

It IS responsible, if there really is no way to do everything, to either ask for an extension on something, or, sometimes, you just have to half-ass stuff. I hate half-assing stuff but I admit I do it sometimes. More often than not it's stuff like yardwork or cleaning the house or preparing food - stuff that mainly only affects me. Or I'll beg off a meeting where I really don't have to be there to give input. I hate doing that, but sometimes you do have to say "I'm sorry, I'm really overwhelmed but I need to cancel, is there something I can do to prepare for a later point in time?"

What you don't do is wait until the last minute, and then whine and complain about how unfair it all is, or leave people hanging, or get someone to be your bully for you and call someone and tell them you need an extension.

I had a student needing an extension. He finally fulfilled it, but not without telling me at length that (a) the project was too hard, (b) he had to stay up all night the night before it was due, and (c) I wasn't there to help him when he "needed" me.

I have an answer for each of those:

a. Yes, it is hard. But hard work prepares you for life in the competitive working world. I've had students do this project over the past 10 years; you are the first one ever to demand a week's extension and then whine about it. (I have, in the past, given extensions of a day or two. Or, once...in really serious circumstances, I gave an incomplete and let the student finish the paper in the summer. BUT. She came home one day to her soon-to-be-ex husband throwing all her stuff out on the lawn, and he had stolen and hocked her laptop, on which the project was. And she showed me the police report. And she didn't whine, she just said, "Is there any way I could have more time? I have some issues right now...")

b. You know what? You have my sympathy. But that's life sometimes. I've had nights lately when I did not sleep but it was not because I was working, it was because I had insomnia. The physical effects are much the same. Yes, sometimes you have to pull an all-nighter and it sucks. (I don't remember ever doing so as a student, however). You did know about this assignment from Day 1 of the class, and you did know in the last two weeks of the term that you were not as close to being done as you should be. You could have asked for help or an extension earlier.

c. When I asked you, "When did you come by?" you named times when I was in class. Or when it was late in the day and my office hours were over. I'm sorry but I hold 10+ hours of office hours a week and people cannot expect I will stay in past 5 pm when I arrive on campus around 7 am. I have other things I must do in the time I have. I am also happy to make appointments. In fact, I seem to remember you making a couple appointments....and not keeping them. Funny how that didn't come out when you went and complained to one of my higher-ups about my lack of availability.

All I can say to this dude is, best of luck in the working world. You'll need it. Most bosses don't put up with "I didn't feel like it" as a reason for not doing something, or "But it's too hard" as a refusal.

Alternatively, I hope you learn how to be responsible. It's a tough thing to learn and best learned as a child, I think. But I know of adults who have really grown up in a short period of time and went from slacker to decently responsible person, so I know it is possible.

I get so fed up with people who can't take responsibility for stuff. People for whom everything that goes wrong is everyone else's fault but their own. People who expect others to pat them on the head and go, "Oh, poor you! How about we remove all the deadlines and responsibilities you have?"

Okay, my one bit of responsibility here? Perhaps I should have ridden the students harder, perhaps I should have required multiple progress reports rather than just one. But you know? Chronologically speaking, all my students are adults and I think it would be insulting to do too much hand-holding. But maybe that's how it is in the Brave New World in which we inhabit - soma holidays for everyone, and a minder to tell you what you need to be doing when. Fine. You can have your Brave New World; I'll take Galt's Gulch.

No comments: