It’s week 1 day 3 of classes. As many professors do, I’m getting visits from several students who have “missed” me over the break, and are excited to see me. Is it okay for me to admit here that I didn’t miss all of them? (I kid – kind of, Oh Tosin stop!). Then there’s Jay. Jay is special – I’m sure you know a Jay – maybe YOU are a Jay.

He is an introvert, and normally I have to coax a conversation out of him. Today is different. He has this big smile on his face and he starts the conversation. Two things are on his mind: 1. His mother’s cooking, and 2. Maintaining a 4.0 grade point average is no longer a priority of his. WAIT A MINUTE! What? Jay is no longer going to be stressing out about maintaining perfect grades?!

[Background: Jay will be 18 sometime this spring, he is a Sophomore Industrial Engineering major with a minor in Biology. That glorious combination (which I don’t quite understand) is because he isn’t yet sure if he wants to be a working Engineer or if he wants to go to Medical school. So far, he has maintained perfect grades and is probably on track to keeping that through graduation. He strikes me as a young lad who doesn’t really need to study as hard as he does to maintain perfect grades, but oh, he studies. He studies and stresses, and studies and stresses. He is that kid who is stressing out about his grades even before he sits the exam. Then stressed out after receiving the grade and it’s a 97/100. “Why is it a 97? I did everything perfectly, there is nothing wrong here. Where did the other 3 points go?” I, yes me – I am the one who gets to hear his rants and not the professor who kept the 3 points for themselves!]

Stressing out about grades isn’t a good longterm solution to college success.

“Not that I don’t agree with this new decision of yours, but what has stimulated this?”

“Hmph. You would like this Dr. T.” He sits there smiling and nodding his head for a short while and adds, “I watched the News.”

He stopped, waiting for me to get it. In my head I say, ‘Nope, I’m not in your mind Jay. I don’t get it.’

“All of it. I’ve just been watching all of it and I’ve been having a range of emotions. Two stories really shook me. The first was the video of that middle school kid beating up a fellow classmate who was determined not to hit back after being bullied – and all of it was on tape! Then the whole case with the gymnast doctor, Dr. Nassar?!

“Wow.”

“I got angry Dr. T., … and sad. I kept fluctuating between all these thoughts and emotions and somewhere in between I realized that perfect grades are not the most important thing in my life and constantly stressing out about it, surely is a waste of time.”

Clearly there was an awakening going on within Jay, and it didn’t really have anything to do with grades. I suspect that he is still going to make perfect grades, but thankfully he is not going to be constantly stressed out about it anymore – that is good.

“I don’t exactly know what I’m going to do affect these happenings around me. And I know I am just one person. But everyone of us has got to contribute our little bit to make things better. I have to get out more, meet people, be in a space and time to make a difference, to contribute to changes, so stand up for someone, do something, and only staying glued to my books isn’t going to do that.”

Observing what was going on with Jay was spectacular.

Even in the current climate of unmentionable cruelties, there is hope.

I still hadn’t said anything. My brain was exploding with different levels of excitement and pride that I still can’t articulate. Hope. That’s what came to mind, hope. As long as we have different Jays experiencing awakenings that lead to helping humanity, there is hope.

Students who have had me as a professor are probably saying, “Yeah, Dr. T., Now you know, you believe in good grades!” What I believe in, is you giving your best and on some days that’s a C, other days it could be an A. Your best, that’s what I believe in.

Just before Jay left my office he said, “And I can’t promise that I’m going to stick with Industrial Engineering. Who know’s what I’ll do – I may be the president of Michigan State University some day.

I smiled. This is going to be an another amazing semester – I am excited! 💙.

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