Right now I am enrolled in an Elementary French course at Fairfield University. My summer trip to France in 2012 spurred my desire to learn more about the language and culture. French is such a beautiful language, and I hope to use it one day when I return to the country.
Naturally, as with all courses, I am eager to learn. Being in this type of class means that I would surround myself with freshmen, so going in, I expected everyone to be clueless, but open to learn. I’ve noticed that such students exist, but I am appalled to find others who act entitled and are ignorant of common manners. On the first day of class, one student had the audacity to say that she was taking the class for an easy grade, stating that she had more than ten years of experience with the language. I remember our professor, a French woman, being rendered speechless. I couldn’t believe someone would say that. No wonder some foreigners tend to hate Americans!
However, I mostly hate those who feel they are more knowledgeable than others. One student is lagging behind. That person freezes up whenever asked a question. A few students in the class get impatient and point out the answer condescendingly.
“C’mon, —-.” And they laugh.
The fact that some students act this way infuriates me, and yet, occasionally, these same people get answers wrong, too. Don’t you ever remember being that kid who didn’t get something the first time?
I clearly recall the third grade when I participated in a class spelling bee. At that time, I still struggled with spelling and I had let myself think that I could never learn. It was my turn in the spelling bee, and the teacher requested that I spell “beyond.” But I spelled “beyond” as “beyonded.” Everyone starting laughing at me. The room seemed to shrink. I felt my self-esteem crumbling right there. My crush even laughed at me (at this age, such occurrence seemed to damage your entire being). Tears came, and then I ran out of the classroom and into the bathroom. I stayed there, on the toilet, surrounded by random graffiti that kids left behind on the walls, wishing there was toilet paper to actually use.
I could have been emotionally weak back then, but I’m sure other people have felt the same sting, but can hide their reactions better. I returned later and the teacher made everyone apologize, and all was forgotten then. But I still remember this incident – even when I can’t remember much else of my past – because it injured me in such a way that it took up to middle school for me to see that I can learn, as long as I ignore people who put me down for their own pleasure.
To the student who is struggling: Don’t believe you are incapable of learning. Reach out for help from people who don’t judge you. Talk to the professor. Don’t give up.
To the bullies in the classroom: Criticism is good when it is done to help an individual. When criticism is done merely because you feel superior, it is bad. Have patience. Remember that you can be on the other side. Remember how you feel then and promise not to treat another person the same way again.
We are all learning. Sure, you can say that humiliation motivates people to learn faster. But humiliating another person just because you are impatient makes you look like an asshole.