Life Is Not Fair

I have been teaching public speaking at Georgia Southern University for a few years, and about six weeks into every semester, I send my students a Google form, asking them to evaluate the semester thus far. It helps me gauge how the course is progressing and whether students have any suggestions for how we might proceed for the rest of the semester.

This semester, a couple of my students noted that they were annoyed with the “participation grade only” speeches required at the beginning of the semester. I use these speeches as a low-stakes way to get students up in front of the class. They are not graded on their performance—the only requirement is that they get up and do the short speaking assignments.

The students who objected to this said they had worked hard on preparing their speeches but got the same grade as the people who slacked off and did not perform well. I had to reassure them that their hard work would pay off, because the same people who slacked off on those speeches would be the same people who slacked off on the graded speeches—this happens semester after semester.

We had our first graded speech this week, and sure enough, it happened again. It never ceases to amaze me how some people choose to not work hard.

I came across this quote recently from Thomas Edison, and it sums up what I am thinking:

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”

That has proven true for my students. They want the opportunity to better their lives, but they do not want to put in the hard work to create that opportunity.

They don’t seem to understand that even though we do not all start even in this life, if you hold yourself accountable and work hard, you can even it out. Conversely, if you do not hold yourself accountable, you will fall behind.

The students who do not work hard are falling behind because they are not holding themselves accountable to a high standard. They are not working hard enough to provide themselves with opportunity. They are going to end my class, and likely their entire college career, with a middling grade point average and then complain that they do not have as many opportunities as they would like.

The truth is, these students could have great opportunities if they worked harder. They all are smart. They all have tremendous potential. They all would be ready to seize any opportunity that came along if they worked hard enough.

I will continue to emphasize the importance of hard work in my classes, but in the end, it is up to each student to choose to do the work.

It is up to them to work hard so they are ready to seize opportunity.

It is up to us, every day, to work hard so we are ready to seize the opportunities that come our way.

Posted in