Saturday, October 5, 2013

Quit Not Sucking

As a career college dean, I'm being perfectly honest when I tell people that I love my job.  I know, there are a lot of people in a lot of fields who will say that between clamped teeth, fake grin plastered across tight jaws.  Not me.  I love watching students with a desire to make something of themselves, some of whom missed the path when it presented itself right after high school, and some of whom never had the path in the first place, yank their courage out of their pockets, meet the challenges, and become professionals in the field of study.  I love seeing people who haven't had a job worth their time in years--decades, sometimes--go off to join new career-mates with smiles on their faces.

But there are some that make me want to eat my desk in frustration, yes there are.  And it's not because of lack of ability--all of our students, by definition from the outcomes of the admissions testing and criteria we apply, have the ability to complete their chosen programs.  And you know, sometimes life happens along the way, causing people to have to move away or stop studying for a period of time--just like happened to me before--and I understand that.  That's not what frustrates me so much.

What makes my face turn a frustrated shade of crimson is people who self-sabotage.  I mean, career colleges more than anybody else in the education field have honed our craft, using the data we have on both previous student outcomes and current employer desires, to create a process that is as near to a guaranteed path to success as is possible with the human mind being involved.

And they don't do it.  Most do, granted, and as a result I have a lot of very successful people on my Facebook page as well as my other social media feeds--folks who followed what can be a rather difficult path, who pushed through, who succeeded.  Folks who earned their success one quiz, one study session, one classroom exercise at a time.

At some point, it was because they decided/realized that it was more important to learn than it was to worry about not sucking.

I do know this.  I've got tons of data about why dropouts tell us they leave.  It's family issues, it's stubbed toes, it's hurt feelings when instructors call them out in front of class, and it's all the other, legitimate, life-happens stuff, too.  But there's a pattern I've seen over the past many years.  Way too many people are still caught in the "don't suck" fear-based mentality, and that causes them to stop trying when the chance to suck becomes very real.

You remember primary school, don't you?  You remember when everybody's hands would burst up and all the kids would try to answer the teacher's question, joyfully, because they knew the answer? 

You remember when somebody--you, perhaps--got one wrong, don't you?  Way wrong, in fact.  Wrong enough that people laughed.

Wrong enough that you sucked.

How'd it make you feel next time you wanted to answer a question?

Thing is, though, school is, or at least should be, all about sucking.  (no, I can't believe I just wrote that, either)  Learning is nothing more than the process of assimilating new information in with the old.  In order to do that, though, especially once you're of an age where your brain is already full of old information, you have to come to grips with what you don't know.  Come to grips, too, with what you knew that is actually wrong.  Come to grips with sucking, to put it basely.

"There are no stupid questions," right?  How many times have you heard that little lie?  Yes, it's a lie.  Yes, there are stupid questions out there.  But in the classroom, the stupid questions need to be asked.  If you're not asking the stupid questions, then you're not really learning.

The more complicated the learning you're trying to obtain--like, say, a nursing degree--the more you need to be willing to suck sometimes.  Because, you know, it's hard.  Nothing about nursing school should sound like it's easy to do, or to learn.  And when you try--really, truly try--you're going to make mistakes.  Yes, you're going to suck.

Hopefully, you'll learn from that, and you'll some day laugh at it as you recount how you became a professional nurse, be it practical or registered.

That's just how we learn.

Would-be novelists, y'all are the worst at this, though I haven't yet been dean over one of those programs.  Some writers are so afraid to suck that they don't write anything of substance.  Others will, and then they'll realize it sucks, and then they'll put it somewhere it'll never see the light of day again.

But writers, it's okay to suck.  I mean, granted, don't send sucky prose to an agent and hope to get picked up, at least not unless it contains sparkly vampires or repetitive bondage scenes.  (sorry, couldn't resist)  But so many people I run into tell me how much they've always wanted to write a book, except that [fill in the excuse here].  Over, and over, I hear this.  It's the same pattern I've noticed as a career college dean.  People have grown up afraid to suck, and so out of fear of sucking they never learn what they need to learn.

So go out and--um, no, I can't finish that exhortation with a straight face.  Just--just do it.


No comments:

Post a Comment