It’s easy to forget that I too was once a student, and too often I observe my much more experienced colleagues who abuse their power as “Professors” to go on a power-trip.
From shutting down cellphones in class, to kicking out students for giggling — I can empathise, their class is disrupted and their egos get diminished.
I for one, can’t seem to forget the fact that I was once a student; because I find that with every new group of students, I find myself learning more from their experiences thus far.
It’s important to remember that we often like to be “heard” but aren’t really that great at “listening”; something I struggled with myself, as a student.
It isn’t a surprise though, that my colleagues would happily see me depart because I fail to succumb to the proper etiquette of educating students and disciplinary standards; and often assume that I’m trying too hard to be Robin Williams chanting “Carpe diem!”.
Thing is though, I never had access to proper education; my parents travelled a lot and being a troublesome student meant up until university, I was mostly privately educated and rather detached from society.
I can’t complain, for it taught me to embrace solitude and develop self-discipline.
Yet, to this day, university does remain the best time of my life; it allowed me the exposure to different cultures, plenty of joyful memories, and much broader perspective on the limitations of what could’ve been had I lived an isolated life.
As educators, its the delusion of “wanting” to be heard that we often forget our job is to “invigorate knowledge” — make it exciting, as such.
Engaging with students is not a crime and neither is allowing them a little freedom — we live in an age where shutting down every smartphone isn’t quite the possibility.
One just has to put their ego aside and learn to empathise, “communicate” in a language that students can relate to.
Whilst calling myself “Dr.” feels damn nice when I order my morning coffee, I’m also quite aware that I sound like a total douche.
I don’t “need’ to announce my “title” to earn respect, far from it.
Leading by example is how students absorb knowledge, or at least that is how I did — and I found it to be a success.
But what happens when a student comes up to me and asks, “In your opinion, is Uni worth it? I’m thinking of dropping out!”.
Well…do you NEED a degree?
Does you career aspiration require you to have one?
What is the likelihood that you’ll even pursue a career in the degree of your choosing?
This is where I put myself on trial,
I majored in Architecture, earned a Masters in Computing, and a doctorate in Data Analytics and Cyber Forensics.
None of which I ever really used to make any money…
Hence, why the fuck did I drop half a million dollars into degree I never used?
Well, simply because the subjects themselves were interesting enough to pursue.
I already knew what I wanted to be, and it wasn’t something that could be taught; in my humble opinion.
My career aspiration was simply a craft, it was to “write” for a living.
Yet, realities of life being as they are, I was aware that a career in “writing” itself would never sustain me; should I ever be so lucky.
Hence I had to make do with my degree to earn a living to support myself in pursuing what I loved.
I can’t give the same advice to someone who wishes to be a surgeon.
The University asked me to stay on as a Professor because of my Research credentials and my ability to discuss Philosophy; which is really the only reason I’m still around — but it’s also because a dear mentor once saw an ability in me, which I never recognised.
An ability to understand what people needed to hear.
An ability to empathise due to my battle with depression.
An ability to be honest and guide someone who might be battling with similar consequences that I once did.
These abilities allowed me to see clearly, and be honest — when asked, if University is really worth it?
Financially, I do not know — fair disclosure, my parents made damn sure my education was paid up until I graduated; and I’m grateful for it.
Yet, I do not hang my degree up in frames; they stay locked away in my safe — and are hardly ever looked at.
Sure, I do cite them on my resume — yet even then, rarely does anyone ask me to provide them a visual glimpse of my academic victories.
I didn’t attend my graduation, because I was asleep and quite frankly didn’t think it was worth paying $500 to have my photograph taken on a stage in a dreary gown.
Instead, I enjoyed an evening with my friends who I possibly wouldn’t see all together in one room again; and I do not regret the decision.
Going to college / university; is meant to be an experience.
Not one where a student is drowning themselves in survival, barely holding on.
Most of my students have to work alongside university, in order to support themselves; a luxury that I was afforded thankfully to my parents.
It does make me privileged, but it also earned a great deal of respect within me for students who thrive despite working a job — and it would be hypocritical of me to deprive them of the little time they do have, to enjoy themselves.
Hence, there is nothing more depressing than the sight of students in a lecture theatre who look absolutely miserable because they couldn’t get a good nights sleep in — know that I am well and truly aware, you can’t wait for Happy Hour at the College Bar.
University, is meant to be an “experience” — an opportunity to be truly free.
Outside the confines of it, is the unknown, the unpredictable, and we cannot control it; though we’re often convinced we can.
I’ve witnessed students who “hate” partying and often ask the most questions in lectures; know that I am aware you’re trying to prove to me that you’re intelligent and superior, also know that I was once a student who probably pulled pranks on your kind.
Also know that the students that asked the most questions and aspired for the “next” opportunity; were the ones that ended up being most disappointed with their lives after graduation.
They’d built an imaginarium for themselves; one filled with a beautiful office with an amazing view of the ocean — a title that read “Chief”, and a house free of mortgage.
Know that those dreams crumble, because university education had very little to do with practicality.
On the other hand, the students that were often half asleep during lectures because either they were too tired from their jobs or hungover from a night of partying; did find their way in life — and much to the amazement succeeded.
Prime example, your dear lecturer standing before you.
Once a skateboarding stoner and class clown; now a suited Professor with the title “Dr.” attached to his name.
I didn’t get to where I am by burying myself in the library, I learnt how to balance my life and embrace the experience.
Embrace the unknown.
Know that I could not control the outcome.
And that life wasn’t worth living if it was simply spent through torturous amount of time devoted to meeting assignment deadlines.
Know that this is the best time of your life, and the future is uncertain — as such, be aware that this time will never return and university lectures don’t cost a damn thing.
Hint: You don’t have to be “enrolled” to attend lectures at a university.
Much to the amazement of my students, I rarely ever attended the classes meant for my curriculum; instead I attended guest lectures in the field of Film Study, Philosophy, Computer Science, Music, Drama, and yes even Aviation.
Everything that had very little to do with my graduation, but everything to do with life experience.
I never made any friends within my cohort, instead most of my bonds of friendships were built at the university bar — which I was very punctual in attendance at.
Hence, dear Student — do not dread in misery, learn to live a little.
It’s okay to accept that unless your parents are Hedge Fund managers; there is no such thing as “Job Security”.