Today was one of those days when your teacher lectures your class on the hopelessness of your generation, what a failure you all are.  Only it happened in not one, but both of my classes.

It began in my Poli Sci class.  Professor A got angry at the class for being nonacademic.  “This is a university,” he swore.  “You better act like it.”  Then, when a student asked that he was really so surprised at our immaturity (expecting adults to have low expectations for our generation), he replied with a phrase I’ve heard several teachers say: “The day I stop being disappointed is the day I resign.”

I never understood this phrase, but now I think I do.  When his expectations are so low that nothing surprises him, there is no hope for teaching students, no point to it.  That’s depressing, indeed.

Then, in my Eastern Mediterranean History class, Professor B handed back our prospectuses (plans for writing a research paper) silently, sat without speaking in front of our silent class for a full minute, then spent five minutes struggling not to be angry as he told us in no uncertain terms how disappointed he was with us and what a disgrace we are to the field of history.  When he finished his speech, he said, “I’ll see you next week,” and left–left us in shock, with little to go off of on what we did wrong, left me to drive home early and cry because of what a terrible student I am–a disappointment to my favorite professor so far at my new college.  Left me to wonder what I did wrong to make it seem like I only spent seven minutes on the prospectus, when for once I did not procrastinate, I spent hours of time and effort on the assignment, and turned it in a day early.

Then I was thinking, and decided Professor A’s saying gets its principle backwards.  Teachers should strive to have a realistic understanding of the level our students are at, so we can teach them  properly how to go to the next level.  Then, we’ll be surprised, not when they disappoint us, but when they exceed our expectations.  So, the day I stop being surprised–the day my standards are too low–will not be the day I resign.  No, the day I am surprised, by my students’ success that exceeds my expectations, will be the day I know why I really am becoming a teacher, after all.

And then I realized, the reason my professors get so discouraged (it seems each professor I’ve had so far has at least one rant on the depravity of our generation a semester) is because we are their only hope.  They look to the future generation for hope to better this world, and they, more than any others, have front-row seats as we mess up just as they messed up in their day.  Can I avoid following in their steps, avoid filling my students with shame, guilt, and despondence?  Maybe–if I remember where my true hope lies.  Only God gives hope that does not disappoint.  As Isaiah says, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall” (v. 40:30).  No matter how promising they seem, the coming generations will always let us down.

But my hope, my absolute expectation, is that my God is bringing about good, in time.

And I have to remember, for the future, that students are just that–students, not professionals or professors.  They are young, with a great deal to learn.  That is the teacher’s job, so when students struggle, I should readjust my methods, not get angry at them.

And ultimately, God is in control.  He is bringing about the fulfillment of His kingdom on earth, in His perfect time, and in this I place my trust.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, 

All other ground is sinking sand;

All other ground is sinking sand. 

When Darkness veils his lovely face,  I rest on his unchanging grace. 

In every high and stormy gale,  my anchor holds within the veil. 

His oath, His covenant, His blood  supports me in the whelming flood. 

When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. 

When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found!

Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne!”

~”My Hope Is Built”

One thought on “Hope and Despair: Reflections of a [Hopeful] Future Teacher

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: