It’s the start of another semester. You receive the list of your classes and are faced with a decision to make:

Will you take the ‘easy A’ prof or the ‘legendary terror’ prof?

A Lesson from Alice

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice was lost and found herself at a crossroads. She looked around and asked for help.

The Cheshire Cat emerged and Alice asked which road she should take. The Cat in turn asked where Alice was going. Alice said that she does not know and had no particular destination.

The Cat replied, “Then it doesn’t matter.”

This interesting part of the story is a good way to deal with the question I posed earlier. The answer to the question is another question:

What do you want to achieve in the first place, not just with the prof’s subject but with the semester that you’re in, even with college as a whole?

The ‘Easy A’ Prof

I’ve had my fair share of ‘easy A’ profs when I was in college. Hey, I wanted to have down times too, and I was not a masochist.

I enrolled in their classes when I was being strategic about my schedule and load for particular semesters.

For instance, since we were operating a food business inside school during our senior year, I deliberately chose easy professors for some of my subjects. I was editor-in-chief of my home org’s publication in junior year, and hence I made sure that my academic load would permit me to do my duties for the org. My subjects during a semester in my sophomore year were loaded with math—something that I was not great at, so I decided to choose easier teachers for my other subjects. I was burned-out one semester, so I decided to choose some easy professors.

The ‘easy A’ profs then, looking back, were just means to achieving a greater end. And we determine that greater end, according to what we want at that time. Sometimes, the greater end could be because we simply want to relax and have fun.

Did I learn anything from these profs’ subjects? Yes, but not much.

Was the subject memorable? Not so.

Did the professor make an impact in my life? Sakto lang.

The ‘Legendary Terror’ Prof

It was my junior year in college. It was time for us to take one of our required humanities subjects. We were looking at the list of teachers and there was one whom everyone seemed to avoid and fear.

You see, he was a legend for these reasons: he is a terror inside the class; he assigns long and difficult readings; he expects you to do well in recitations which he does à la law school; he gives the (in)famous ‘eight lines, eight minutes’ exams every Friday; and he does not give an A as a final grade unless you do a special paper, even if your class standing after the finals is already an A.

I was fascinated so I decided to take his class. And boy, did he live up to his legend status.

There was one time when he sent half of the class out for not having the reading material. And when they went to his office to apologize, he howled at them. His readings were long and tough, and when oral exams came, it was like meeting and facing God himself.

I got a B+ in his subject because I did not do the special paper. I got homesick, so I went home to my province after the finals. To this day, this teacher calls me ‘chicken’ for opting out of his final paper.

Was taking this legendary terror prof worth it? Definitely.

Did I learn a lot? You bet.

Will I recommend him? For sure.

The Uphill Climb

Now what makes these ‘legendary terror’ profs worth it?

You see, having a legendary terror prof is hard for obvious reasons. It may be likened to choosing the more difficult route—the uphill climb, even when there’s a flat, paved one.

Yet there is value to the uphill climb, as my dad would always remind me. He says, “While the flat, paved route is easy, it is quite boring. Why? Because you see all or almost all that there is. There’s no excitement.”

“But as hard as the uphill climb is, there is excitement and anticipation because you are motivated to see and know what lies on the other side. And in the process of climbing it in the face of the difficulty, you are given the opportunity to dig deep, stretch yourself, and discover that you are more than what you thought you could be!”

This is what makes it worth it: we allow ourselves to be pushed beyond our comfort zones, to be measured against higher standards, and to muster the resolve to be disciplined, patient, and focused.

And because it is hard and there are times when we feel we could not do it, we all the more put ourselves in a position of faith as we make room for God and ask Him to intervene and fight our battles for and with us.

In the end, we develop of our character, leading us closer to the kind of person we are and will become.

So, will you take the ‘easy A’ prof or the ‘legendary terror’ prof? What do you want to achieve? Do you know what you want to achieve?

Because otherwise, it doesn’t matter.

Now, in case you did end up with a terror prof, here are some tips for you.

  • Win the battle in your mind. Do not see the professor as your enemy, but as someone from whom you can learn.
  • Come to class prepared. Read the assigned material. Do the assignments. Study well.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Make use of their consultation hours. Teachers teach because they love to teach, and a student who’s eager to learn will always be welcome.
  • Be the first one to say “Hello” or “Good morning” to your teachers whether inside or outside class. Do not avoid them.
  • Take the opportunity to thank your teachers for what they are doing. This is not being sipsip, but just being appreciative of your teachers. Remember, being a teacher is not the only thing they do. They have other responsibilities, and it’s always great to be appreciated.
  • Remember that not all Easy A or fun professors leave you with less learnings. There are professors that are fun, generous in grading, and teach really well. At the same time, not all terror professors leave you learning more. There are professors that just give low grades and maybe give you a hard time in learning stuff, so choose wisely and listen to the stories of your upperclassmen!