Monday, December 6, 2010


Well, Hell Week is here. It’s the last week of the semester, so the Writing Center will be overrun with students desperate to finish their hour-by-arrangement requirement, and tempers always flare when they realize all the appointments are taken. Of course, it’s no one’s fault but their own. They have an entire semester to complete their lab assignment—it’s not even graded. They just have to do it, and then they get 10 points. If they don’t do it, they lose 10 points—but as always, it boils down to which of your students have self-discipline, and which ones don’t.
The ones who don’t swarm the Writing Center during the last week of classes, sitting there for hours on end, hoping they can be squeezed in if an appointment ends early, or if someone doesn’t show up. As they sit there, they get angrier and angrier, and it never fails to amaze me how they manage to blame us for the situation they find themselves in. We aren’t open long enough; our hours aren’t flexible enough; we don’t have enough staff; the lab requirement is stupid. Anything but, “I should’ve listened to my teacher when she told me to finish my lab early because the lab is slammed during the last two weeks.”
And then I wonder if these kids are the same ones who’ll grow up to always blame things outside themselves for problems of their own creation.
Sometimes I think the real benefit of college is less education in book-learning than it is early practical experience in living in the real world as an adult.
Of course, some never do learn. The German economy collapses after World War I, and the Nazis blame the Jews. The American economy collapses due to the unmitigated greed of Wall Street, and citizens blame illegal immigrants. A student fails an English class, and the student blames his unreasonable bitch of an instructor.
Sobriety has been a blessing, for in looking over my life in completing my Step work, I’ve learned that many of my problems were the result of taking others’ nonsense personally, when I was way too willing to shoulder blame that either I wasn’t at all responsible for, or only partially responsible for.  People learn quickly who is willing to shoulder the blame for their own failures and are only too eager to pass the burden off if you’ll accept it.  It seems to be the way of the world, and it can swallow a sensitive person up. Me, I coped by trying to drink myself to death.
Not anymore. I am responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own feelings and actions. Nothing more. Those are the only things I have any control over.
I don’t accept responsibility for your mistakes. YOU made them; they’re YOURS.
Some students learn, and they don’t repeat the mistake next semester. Others we see in the Writing Center at the end of the semester, over and over again, every semester, until they finish their English course sequence.
And some we never see again.

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