Today was frustrating. I walked into English class simply to watch a little play being enacted, a power struggle between teacher and student. Despite the fact that our English teacher has been kind enough to extend the due date for his paper by a full two weeks, a particular student wanted more. She felt she had to inquire as to whether she could submit revisions for the paper and thereby earn back credit. The teacher thought about it- he is a truly nice man- and then said no. But the student wouldn't leave it alone. She actually had the gall to argue with him and try to accuse him of not being fair. She explained that she isn't an English major and she's very worried about this paper because she's not sure that she'll be able to give him what he wants. And therefore, or so her argument went, he should feel sorry for her and not only keep on extending the deadline but indeed allow her to correct her paper so that she could receive a higher grade.
Is this not ridiculous? I find this behavior to be childish, immature and indeed, a form of chillul Hashem. The girl would know better than to try this on an experienced teacher, but since my English teacher is new and has a tendency to be kind, she tries to take advantage. I find that to be disgusting. Indeed, I find the sense of entitlement that many students to have to be completely offputting. What entitles you to this special treatment- why do you deserve an extension, to be able to revise your paper? And if the teacher says no, how dare you continue to push the issue for another fifteen minutes? Fifteen minutes worth of telling him that you disagree with his pedagogical methods and that you personally believe that revising a paper that he has already corrected for you is better than learning from your mistakes and simply implementing your new technique on the new assignment.
We spent at least forty minutes, all told, on this issue. Forty minutes while I sit there, angrily contemplating the various ways in which I would like to strangle this student and the others who rise to her defense and all lend their voices to a whining, complaining cacophony of sound. Finally I mutter (intending the teacher to overhear, as he stands right in front of me) "Just deal." The teacher looks at me, smiles and says "Could you repeat that, please?" Hadn't expected that but did so. "Just deal," I said loudly and the subject was closed.
This is a phenomenon I have only encountered in Jewish schools, although perhaps it is more widespread. There is this strange belief that the student doesn't need to take responsibility for her actions, decisions or choices. There is this sense of entitlement- obviously the teacher needs to give me an extension to make things easier for me, obviously the whole purpose of this exercise is to allow me to get the better grade. Such maneuvering and whining and complaining to get out of doing homework- why? This is one of the best things about North Shore. We were assigned homework (and plenty of it) and people just took it. You took it, you understood you had to do it, maybe you complained to your friends but you didn't spend half of class arguing with the teacher. You dealt with it. That's what you had to learn to do.
I make it a point of pride never to ask for extensions on anything. There are certainly times I could use extensions. But the fact remains, and this has been drilled into me by my family, that I'm the one who needs to take responsibility for my own actions. I'm the one who needs to manage my time. If I choose to go on a Shabbaton or participate in an extracurricular activity, I'm the one who has to figure out how I am going to get my schoolwork done- not my teacher. The responsibility rests on me. This is my problem, not theirs. My parents would be ashamed of a child who fought with a teacher about homework, who argued that the teacher was somehow being unfair in not handing them grades on a silver platter. You have to learn how to deal. You take something on, you agree to do something- you do it. And if you have problems or you can't hack it, you figure out what to do from there. But the fact is, you deal. You don't whine. You don't complain. You shut up and take it and get whatever it is done.
Let me make a distinction between whining and complaining to friends and family and complaining to teachers. My parents know that I will sometimes call them with a list of things I have to do and complain that it is impossible and that I am going to die. They will hear me whine that I don't want to do my homework or study for my test or whatever it may be. They will listen politely for a little while and then my father will tell me to get back to work. The fact is that they know that I will do the work and that I just need to vent- I need someone to understand how crazy everything is. So it's not truly whining- it's not truly asking someone to give me something or feeling entitled to something. It's simply part of my homework process.
I have even been in the ludicrous position of having teachers offer to give me extensions because they see that I am going to have a nervous breakdown otherwise! I hate taking up such offers. There have been only two occasions where I have taken an extension. In the first scenario, I did not end up using it and instead had my paper finished by the original deadline. The second occasion had to do with the newspaper, and though I owed the editor two articles, I made sure to get her four others a full week early, so I didn't feel bad about it.
I simply find it amazing that people think it is more productive to waste an entire class arguing with the teacher about how he is being cruel and unfair by refusing to spoonfeed them than to simply get down to work and get their paper done. See, I don't mind if they waste their own time. But they are wasting my time by having this argument in class. And I value my time. I did not come to class to have you talk back to the teacher and effectively prevent him from teaching any new material today.
Then the girl had the chutzpah to suggest the reason I said "Just deal" is because I'm an English major and it's easy for me to write papers. But if it were science or math apparently I too would be trying to find out ways to get better grades and talking back to the teacher and making this his problem rather than mine. Sweetheart, that's not the way I operate. I do my work. I do my work whether I want to or not. You think I wanted to wake up at 5:30 in the morning the day after the Medical Ethics conference and write a paper? You think I couldn't have gotten an extension if I'd told the teacher I was going to be there all day typing up notes so that he and others could benefit? Oh, I know I could have gotten an extension. But I also knew that it was my own fault for not having managed my time properly and having written the paper in advance and therefore I was the only one to blame. It was upon me to resolve the situation and I did.
Accepting responsibility, blame, the consequences of one's actions and learning how to deal are all very important parts of adulthood. If you're in college and still whining to your teachers, you might want to reconsider your eligibility to be here. Perhaps you truly belong in second grade.