The Admiring Ignorant
January 31, 2012 - 3:00am
When I first began teaching — as a master’s student, with one section of English composition capped at around 20 students — I was as optimistic and idealistic as you’d probably expect. I was going into the noblest profession, and I was going to make a difference in the lives of young people who might not otherwise learn to appreciate literature or express themselves through writing. Although I was nervous on that first day of classes — sweating in my suit and tie on an unseasonably hot late August day — I was excited nonetheless. I promised myself that I would inspire my students the way the professors at my beloved alma mater — St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York — had inspired me.
Of course, by then I knew some professors who weren’t so inspiring. I had overheard complaints about student apathy, about administrators who just didn’t get it, about being overworked and underappreciated. One senior professor tried to caution me against academe, telling me that he actually regretted how he’d spent his life. Each year, he warned, the students seemed lazier, the job of teaching them harder. And much less rewarding.
I thought, "Clearly, this is someone who needs to retire to make way for some new, more enthusiastic blood." Specifically, my blood.