This message is from Chris Martin in Math.
Why does anyone go to college, anyway? If you ask a teacher we will say things like “To acquire new knowledge and learn new skills.” Ask a student and they’ll invariably say “So I can get a good job.” The truth is we’re both right. If we all do what we’re supposed to do, both things will happen. It’s possible that the current…situation…has shaken your faith in this idea, but as we enter week (feels like 100 but is only) four of our new reality, it’s becoming clear that everything is going according to plan. Sort of.
I teach math at Clarkson, primarily to Freshmen. Maybe you had me for Calculus once or twice. I tend to find the hardest thing for most freshmen to learn is not math, but how to college. You see, before you came to Potsdam there were always some “responsible adults” that were held to varying degrees of accountability for YOUR education. Failed a test? Bad teacher. Didn’t do the homework? Call the parents. Then you get to college and that dynamic shifts. You, and you alone, are in charge of your education. We try as hard as we can to make that transition more gradual, let you adjust, help you learn how to learn. COVID-19 had other ideas. Now you all find yourself in the deep end of the pool and some of you didn’t get the swimming lessons you deserved. It sucks.
The thing is, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You are crushing it. Seriously. There’s something special about the students that come here, and a pandemic doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on that. Every day I’m learning about the incredible obstacles, hardships, circumstances, and chaos that you are all fighting through to make this work and I am simply in awe. I complain constantly and I’ve got it easy. You’re the one with the impossible task of not only learning but teaching all of us how to help you. It’s inspiring. Please keep doing it.
One last thing before I go. Going back to the whole “get a job” thing. A good friend of mine (who has had the pleasure of interviewing and hiring a lot of college graduates) always tells me that companies don’t really care about your grade in some class or other. What they really want to know is who you are. “What’s your story?” is the question driving every job interview there ever was. Now there’s going to be a new chapter. You’ve been given the challenge/opportunity to take control of your education in a way that is completely unprecedented. What are you doing? What’s your story going to be?
Chris Martin, Math Dept.