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Feb 17, 2019
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Boring classes are good for you

The first day of class is a boring, repetitive orientation. Every class has them – don’t cheat, don’t miss class, study for your tests.

A lot of classes themselves are boring, repetitive routines – show up, try to take notes and not to sleep during the lecture. Then you leave after an hour –or two or three – just to come back the next period and do the same.

We’ve all had our share of tiring, repetitive orientations. Sometimes, they’re job training in various degrees of useless.

Imagine my glee when I heard I had a week full of it for my student-teaching.

I’ve been to this sort of common sense training before, at my summer camp.

There, the training was also sort of weeklong crash course, dependent on pointers and life-saving tips. Sometimes, I thought parts of it were the most frustratingly boring experience in my life both times I suffered through it.

Compared to student teaching, the summer camp training was cake.

The first week is four days of three-hour orientations, each beginning at 8 a.m. One of these orientations explain why student-teacher sexual relationships are bad. Another explained why bilingualism is more than just Spanish.

One local school administrator – snorting despite herself, she’s laughing so hard – tells us about an English teacher fluent in Spanish.

“She thought she was set for life,” snorted the administrator. “Today she has two Russian kids.”

Yet another – and this one is my favorite – explained how we were going to find time in our busy schedule to write one-page reflection papers.

I liked this the way oil likes water.

“Some kids are kinesthetic learners,” the special education instructor said, as we stared blankly at one of four walls. “If they’re sitting in a chair for hours at a time and I’m just talking to the class like I am at you guys, my kinesthetic learner is freaking out.

“Pretty soon, he’s standing up and throwing things.”

The leg of the guy next to me is jittering up and down. I’m pretty sure I’m ready to throw things, too.

Who can blame us? We’ve been staring at the same part of the presentation for about half-an-hour now. It lists the required texts for the class.

The titles looks like whoever wrote them was given a word limit and paid by the syllable. The prices look a lot like my quarterly income. Before taxes.

After the first day of training, a professor in a later class explained how to use PowerPoint not as a form of torture. She introduced a series of rules, the first and most important relating to not having too many words on each slide.

The first thing I noticed on the second day of training? There are a lot of words on these slides.

Full, uneditited quotations of oversmart academic language, with uncondensed citations with every publication detail – down to the author’s shirt color.

For whatever reason, why there’s such a teaching shortage is exceptionally clear. Putting up with the presentations for the first week is a Sisyphean ordeal.

The comparison is appropriate to an absurd and unending uselessness, though I really just wanted to say “Sisyphean ordeal.”

Just when it seems like we’re done with the meetings, PowerPoints and orientations, out comes another series. We’re 12 rounds against futility as it only now breaks a sweat, winding up for the knockout.

At this point, I’m all for giving in. Unconsciousness would be an improvement.

It’s then we remember to keep the eyes on the prize. The ultimate goal of any boring orientation is to prepare you for whatever challenges you might face.

In the end, it’s preparing for, facing and overcoming the challenges – especially the immediate ones – that make us successful and satisfied.

For the time being, we just have to put up with our frustrations – buying books, that parking ticket you have to contest, putting up with professors’ often-inane demands.

We’ll be the better for it.

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