Mem-entum // Un-Sent: An Un-open Letter to a Professor

–This is keeping me awake and unsure why, I ‘m choosing to process this in the open, with the directee omitted.

Words really can haunt us.  By now I feel I know all the reasons they were spoken, but still…  I sincerely believe you were trying to help me.  You saw it was dis-honest to affirm my performance on your assignment and I appreciate that you took the time to offer your opinion.  But then…

I do n’t like how my mind wants to turn this into some grievance.  An apology is n’t what I want, and as such I do n’t plan to give it so much air.  It is n’t honestly your approval that I want; absolutely not after that display.  I had some respect for your course — I have far less over a year away from it.  That can’t and should n’t diminish that other people find your work helpful and engaging, but I could n’t find it much less so.


Unwinding a bit, I recall the thrill of an opportunity of joining your class.  This was before then, but I do n’t expect you to remember (as I expect you ‘ll never find this).  There was some (I believe superfluous) pre-requisite I wanted your help with.  Actually, I had filled the requirement, even as it was, but could n’t get my previous ‘place of learning’ to process it properly.  That you never offered to help, even though you were responsive, is now something I ‘m left to struggle with: should I hold the blame for not pushing harder?  I thought it your responsibility to know the requirements and dispense with them judiciously.


This is the difficult part: who else should I blame for the loss of momentum?  This did n’t start with you.  It started before I finished high school.  I believed that it was my responsibility to pay attention, read, and spit back material.  The rest would take care of itself.  This misunderstanding delayed many lessons.

Work and the rest will take care of itself.

When I studied abroad I glimpsed how little I knew and how beautiful study could be.  I read as though there were an expiration date on my studies.  I tried to learn from my mistakes and be more active when I started graduate school, but I still was n’t a good self-advocate.  I ‘m still not.

**Day by day my momentum was running out.  I put all my energy into my first assignment, then realized I did n’t care about the class.  I was on my own to challenge myself in that class, and I saw no value difference between A or C.  Our history class had high standards and I pushed harder, somewhat proud of earning a B+, but when I saw my papers were improving but not my grades I began to see the TA culture at work.  The dream of straight A’s had faded, and the value of the education itself was diminishing at its own pace (which all started with a disparagement of Kierkegaard as too individualistic).  I needed out.

A return to the scene of inspiration taught me the value of a tutor and caring about what I was trying to communicate.  I still held some hope of shining in my graduate degree — just let me get away from these introduction courses — and gained confidence again when I churned out 30+ pages in 24 hours.  Better I was reinvigorated and ‘breathing‘ again.

My friends were different when I returned — some.  I should say I was different and only a few could be supportive.  I took extra classes to get ahead, just to fast forward through the non-sense.  I only cared about one of those papers — and about mastering the art of splitting infinitives in another.  Just get through it.  All I wanted was engagement and everywhere I found introduction and summary and too many students who could n’t wait to speak out on trivial matters.  But my trivial matters I pent up.

And that ‘s when I e-mailed you first — when I wanted your class to lead me out.  When I wanted something so very different.  But what happened, no matter whose fault, was another piece of dream died.  I needed a challenge, but would n’t get an opportunity with you for 6 more months.


This process continued — hope was reborn with each course registration period and died a week into each class.  I hoped for something different from your class still.  But yours was exactly the same.  It was great for some people; it could n’t have fit me worse.  I could n’t find your philosophy much less helpful, and I do n’t plan on copying your pedagogy.  I got a few helpful notes from your class, but these are n’t worth the momentum lost.

**May-be I ‘m writing this letter to myself.  I wanted something so very different.  I wanted great ideas, inspiration, a challenge.  I could n’t fill out your assignments because I saw no purpose in doing them well or poorly.  I wanted to — because that might ‘ve led towards the career path I want(ed), but the cost was too much.  It almost mattered.

I ‘m a teacher now — not as famous, nor as credentialed.  It rips at my heart to have to honestly evaluate my students’ weaknesses, but that is with a view to their becoming strengths when I offer critiques.  I hope I give my students a better chance to match my feedback to their goals than you did, but I might yet fall into the trap I accuse you of falling into.  In such case, thanks for offering the warning.


But ultimately, I must accept responsibility, for I still give others the power to lose track of my well-being.  As such it is naturally de-valued.  I hope this to be one thing I can both overcome and never pass along to my students so we both can renew our momentum.


One response to “Mem-entum // Un-Sent: An Un-open Letter to a Professor

  1. Disappointments experienced in academia… Not being heard, well guided, or fully appreciated is such a loss.

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