I took a Business Statistics course one summer. It was highly condensed, incredibly fast, and the instructor was definitely a brilliant person. The first day of class they informed us that they did not believe in giving out As. That As were for exceptional people and that only people like Thomas Jefferson were exceptional. That we, in turn, were not Thomas Jefferson, thus none of us would be receiving As.
He also didn’t believe in writing tests that you could conceivably finish in the allotted amount of time. He admitted this. He said he was not only testing your Business Statistics capabilities, but also your abilities to test strategically.
I’ve never been more proud of a B+ in my life. Truly.
However, the thing he taught me that sticks with me the most had nothing to do with statistics. It had all to do with life.
Apparently one year the university asked him to analyze the responses for the student surveys. Each semester the university sends out survey links for students to rate their professors. This professor told us that by large, even if students were given an incentive to complete the surveys, those that chose to take the time to fill them out complained. He said that his analysis revealed that it was remarkably rare for someone to fill out a positive survey if they were not solicited by extra credit (not extra credit for a positive survey, rather to just fill one out). This saddened me. He said it was reflective of society in general though. That we rarely take the time to speak of the good of someone, but we’re more than willing to take that time to speak of the bad.
So about a month ago when I got an email inviting students to nominate faculty members for “The Last Lecture,” I decided I needed to take time to speak of the good. I didn’t nominate that professor. I instead nominated this Economics professors I had the first semester back after I’d taken a break from school. She’s a wonderful person who did something no one had in awhile. She’d gotten me truly excited about something. There was definite good in that. Especially considering the fact that as a Sociology major and Business minor I have had classes all over campus in multiple departments. There’s such good in being able to excite students and get them passionate about a topic (and life). She also allowed me to do independent Economics research with her the following summer (actually the same summer that I took my Business Statistics course).
Well, she didn’t win, but they had a reception for the finalists and she was among them.
She emailed me to thank me for my nomination and asked me if I were going. i hadn’t planned on it, but decided to. I didn’t stay for the whole thing, but she hugged me and told me how thankful she was that I had taken the time to do that.
Such a simple thing. Yet it clearly meant a lot.
Here’s to speaking the truth, but making sure that also includes the good.
*for those that don’t know. The Last Lecture is a reference to a Carnegie Mellon professor who gave his last lecture about a topic unrelated to his course – about realizing your childhood dreams. His lecture became a phenomenon (and was turned into a book). Certain universities are now continuing it by having students nominate professors from whom they would like to hear, “The Last Lecture.” Essentially professors are asked if this was their last lecture what would they talk about. What are the things that they would wish to pass along to their students?