Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Work Ethic

I am planning on writing a post about comfort zones that wll formally introduce what I have been doing for the past month and a half, but for now, I must write about work ethic.

I am currently teaching at a couple community colleges in South Jersey and Southeastern PA, respectively. Though the two schools are like day and night, one thing that is constant is how the work ethic of my students differs greatly from my own. Yes, this is a generalization - most of my students' work ethic is just fine, but others are a complete nightmare.

I had a student email me today and ask me, his professor, to print his paper for class tomorrow. This is the exact same student who sits in my class and talks to the person next to him the entire time. When I told him that he needs to print it on campus, he asked me where. I referred him to the library. Hours later and still dissatisfied with my answer, he said "It would be gratefully appreciated if you receive this before class and print it thank you." [sic] Really? I don't know about you, but I am not 100% in love with his tone. I wrote him back and reminded him that I am his professor, NOT his buddy, and that there are several ways around getting a paper printed out when you don't have a flash drive.

I have another student who has not purchased the required text for my class and who will, most likely, fail the comprehension quiz I am giving them tomorrow. Likewise, she told me on Friday that she would not be able to type her paper or print it out. I, again, referred her to the library. Naturally, she had some sort of retort for that and I told her I didn't know what to tell her.

The problem here is the lack of a strong work ethic in these particular students. The one is clearly lazy and the other would like to hide behind poverty. Here's a little antidote about work ethic and poverty:

My first year of college, I went to the bookstore and purchased books. I spent $550 on textbooks. I spent all of my savings. Dazed and confused, I thought there had to be a better way. There was. I got a job at the library and learned that the library is required to have every book that is sold in the bookstore. I worked there for 5 years and never bought another book. I emailed my professors weeks before classes began and requested the list of books. I read them all and took copious notes then returned them to the shelves before classes began.

True, you aren't supposed to do that, but the books were REQUIRED. I knew that getting an education was the only chance I had to make it out of the hood and to secure my future. I did what I had to do.

I have always been the kid who had to work her ass off for everything. I have been working since I was 14. I often had to walk to work and back because I didn't have reliable people to come and get me. When I got a finally car, it was a piece of crap, but it was what I could afford. For the most part, the six lemons I purchased got me to work and back.

The point is: I never stopped. I never gave up. The horror stories I could tell you would stop a normal person dead in their tracks. I am not sure how I made it through all of the shit I've been through, but I did.

My life right now is not perfect, but it is damn near close. I have a job that I love and I got here because I worked hard and sacrificed for my education.

Why can't ... why won't some of my students do the same?


  1. "...the library is required to have every book that is sold in the bookstore" : I WISH that were true in all libraries! I suspect that if we tried to do that it would total more than our yearly budget.

  2. I feel your frustration. What happened to drive and determination? The sense of entitlement is too great. Unfortunately, the way the world is today-- fast paced, relentless, ever-changing -- one cannot afford to harbor such an attitude, exhibit such behavior; the consequences are too great. Not only will they be passed by but mowed over in the process. Recovery may not be an option.

  3. Unfortunately, they will learn the hard way.

    Olivia, nice name! :) It was an academic library. I believe an extra copy was always ordered when the bookstore ordered books. As we all know, college bookstores are raking in the dough. I don't think it was much of an issue for them. Thanks for the comments!

  4. Nice article. I don't think it is so much entitlement, as operant conditioning. Many students slide through high school with well-meaning teachers doing "everything" possible to help them. What they forget is that, sometimes, the best way to help students, is to let them fall and learn to pick themselves up with their own two hands and feet. It is often through honest failure, that we learn the most.

    Ask any successfully recovered addict how they finally stopped using. They will tell you the turning point was when they hit bottom.

    If someone had just given you the books, you wouldn't have discovered a way around buying them.

    We have to let our children and our students fall, as hard as it is to watch, or they will expect us to carry them all the way through life.


Have a comment/advice/rant? Leave it here!