Like many other college students, I started classes this week, and while it was brutal getting back to the mindset of having to use mental energy constantly, one of my classes stuck with me. Introduction to Literary Study, which I’m taking in pursuit of my literature minor. It started off differently from the rest, even considering it’s my only English course this semester.
The professor arrived punctually, with a beaming smile, and positive energy just rolling off of her. You could tell that she was energized and happy to be back, teaching us about literature. While none of my other professors arrived with bad attitudes, I could tell there was something different about this one. She almost seemed excited to be there, like she was looking forward to the class and interacting with her students.
We’ve all heard that saying “Attitude is everything,” but I don’t think that I really truly understood what that meant until this week. After witnessing my English professor, and re-experiencing the beginning of college classes and going about them with a new, more neutral, and sometimes even positive attitude, I feel like I better understand the power of the attitude you bring to the table.
Shifting back to the focus of the impact of attitude on education, it’s important both from professors’ and students’ perspective that we bring a good attitude with us to class. If a professor comes to class and seems bored with the material or indifferent, chances are their students are going to pick up on that attitude and react with the same attitude, which significantly hinders both teaching and learning.
Similarly, when a student or group of students come to class with an attitude not conductive to learning new material and asking questions, this can hinder their learning as well as the professors’ ability to teach everyone.
On the other hand, when professors arrive to class excited for the material and interacting with their students, that attitude has a really good chance of influencing the students in that class and getting them excited to learn the new material.
While this topic may seem trivial to some, I don’t think we fully understand the influence that a “bad” or ineffective teacher can have on all of us. We touched on the surface of this topic regarding the teaching of literature in my English class, and some of the responses I heard were interesting and thought provoking.
The gist of the discussion was that literature can be interpreted in different ways due to everyone's unique life experiences. No one way is correct or is the “hidden meaning.” There's really no such thing as hidden meaning, because the author usually doesn’t have one “correct” or “right” way to understand their writing, unless it’s factual or some type of puzzle they want you to solve, or other similar situations. For the most part though, it seems that authors wish for their readers to get whatever it is they want or need from their writing, not necessarily what they themselves got out of writing that piece.
This belief that literature is interpretable and unique to every reader seemingly isn’t widely accepted in many high school classrooms. This may be due to teaching for standardized testing rather than enjoyment, discussion, and understanding. Which is a very important, but also very separate topic from this article.
At this point you might be wondering “Why should I care? Why do words and stories matter?” Well, my professor wanted to know our perspectives on the same question. Here's my response: Words have the power to make people think about and question things which then cause them to either stick more strongly to an opinion or develop a new one. These opinions drive the world, and we make decisions based off of them each and every day. Words have power, and stories even more so. Stories connect the human aspect to and breathe life into words. They cause us to feel and empathize with others, both from the past and the present.
Going even further, it’s important to have teaching that includes reading for enjoyment, discussion, and understanding, because it provides us with important life skills that can be widely applicable to many different life situations.
Overall, I simply wish to impart on you how important it is to be self-aware when it comes to attitude and how that may be affecting other areas of your life, including that of education.