The following is a hypothetical situation, but I think you’ll find it helpful in understanding my performance in class and how we can work together for our mutual benefit.
Let’s say I’m taking a class, the purpose of which is to equip me with a certain skill. For this exercise, let’s call the class “Literary Analysis in Arabic.” This class, like any class, is built upon the relationships between the student, the professor, and the material. In order for the class to successfully equip me to analyze literature in Arabic, one of several scenarios must happen (combinations are also possible):
A) I enjoy the professor and want to excel in order to make her proud.
B) I am passionate about Arabic literature and as such am driven to do well for the love of the material alone.
C) I am a mindless slave to grades and would sacrifice everything in order to get an A, regardless of my relationship to the professor or the material.
However, in this theoretical class, something interesting has (theoretically) happened. Not only do I not enjoy the professor, but I am also not particularly interested in the material, which is made up primarily of reading novels in Arabic, an act that takes grotesque amounts of time. Indeed, in theory, I determined while sitting in the very first session of this theoretical class that my time was better spent elsewhere doing something I enjoy and find useful instead of honing this skill which will likely go unused in the future and wasn’t all that lucrative to begin with, personally and financially.
At this theoretical juncture, it is clear that I’m not motivated to excel by the material itself or the professor, who theoretically I find overbearing yet absent. The only thing left to compel me to do well in this hypothetical course would be the promise of a good grade, a letter on a scrap of future-trash that means nothing to the rest of the world and to me would only signify the hours I wasted earning a clearly meaningless letter. Actually, I have theoretically found grades irrelevant and am no longer motivated by them.
Indeed, the only reason I have to continue attending this theoretical class is the desire to avoid personal embarrassment complete withdrawal might cause in addition to administrative issues that are not related to the subject matter or professor. In short, my theoretical motto for this class is, “I’m here but not interested. Please do not disturb.”
For that reason, the lackluster professor should theoretically avoid doing things like assigning a surprise presentation and then adding with a flourish that it will be done, “for a grade,” because theoretically I would sense a challenge. “What if I just didn’t do it? What if I just sat here and stared? Will you fail me? FAIL ME ALREADY!”
So in theory we should avoid doing that. But there’s nothing to say this theoretical situation could be a positive experience, with each one left with less work to do and more time to do the things she loves. In theory, this could be the best of every world.
Thanks for taking the time to hypothesize with me, Professor —–. If you have any questions please let me know. See you in class tomorrow!
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