I recently resigned my position as a faculty member at a well-known online university. I actually taught classes at the local campus, and not online. I had never planned to do anything like that, teach college courses, but when they contacted me through Linked In, I was unable to pass up the challenge of trying something new, just to see if I could. It was an annoyingly long process to become faculty, and loads of work. But I did it.
I really enjoyed teaching. Even though preparing for classes was hours worth of (mostly underappreciated) work, the interaction with the students, seeing them grasp concepts during discussion, and just stepping out of my comfort zone into something new was fabulous. I never saw myself as a “teacher,” and certainly not expert enough to be considered knowledgeable enough to teach at a college level. I have always been slightly terrified of public speaking, so it was also intimidating in that sense.
But then came the papers. I tried. I really did. I tried to impart what I could on the students, and remember that they were still in their undergraduate schooling. And I think it would have been fine…if they had been the least bit willing to learn. Some were, but the vast majority were…I can’t think of a nice way to say they acted like spoiled children.
These students would not show up to class, or take any of my suggestions, or take my offer of help, and then when they received their low grades (which were actually higher than they should have been in many cases), they complained to me. They were suddenly worried that they wouldn’t get the credits, or that they would have to retake the class. After how many weeks of me trying to help them, they didn’t say anything until final grades were posted, and then they weren’t asking for help so much as demanding a grade change, because they paid for that grade, dammit. Except they didn’t. They paid for an education. They CHOSE how to use what they were given.
I see that same attitude in writers sometimes. The vast majority of writers I have met are incredible people. Smart, funny, and some of the kindest people in existence. But then there are those that feel they are entitled to things. They are the ones who badmouth agents who reject them. Who assume that their work is perfect and that they need help from no one else. Who are unwilling to put the work in that is needed to accomplish their goals.
I think we’re all guilty of that sometimes. It’s hard to take criticism, or accept help. Writers, by nature, are generally an independent breed, happy to be alone and do things on our own. I know there are times when I don’t want to send my work off to my CPs, because what if they want me to change things and IT’S PERFECT HOW IT IS THANKYOUVERYMUCH.
If teaching taught me anything about writing, it’s that everyone can use help. Everyone can benefit from the expertise of someone who has been doing this longer. And the only possible outcome is a better product, and an expansion of knowledge not possible alone.
We all get by with a little help from our friends 😉