During my second quarter of college since returning from a church mission, I met with the professor who taught a difficult German literature course. The quarter before, I’d taken a grammar class from this same professor. She was known for being tough on missionaries. She thought many were lazy in their approach to learning German and relied too much on their conversational skills while not spending enough time learning proper grammar.
I didn’t want to be one of those lazy students so I studied hard for the tests and turned in all my assignments. I wasn’t a model college student by any means, but I wanted to prove her assessment of missionaries was wrong.
I earned an “A” in her grammar course. But one week into her literature course, and I was ready to wave the white flag. My concern with the class had to do with the amount of reading she required. I’m a slower than normal reader, and I felt dropping the course now and picking it up during a another quarter when I was taking fewer credit hours would be a wise move.
As I explained this to the professor, she got up from desk and paced the room. I figured my reasoning was solid, and all I needed was her signature to drop the course. When I finished listing my reasons, she returned to her chair and didn’t say a word. She wasn’t happy. That much was clear.
Then she stood up and walked around her desk to me. She told me she was disappointed that I was giving up after only a week. She dismissed each of my excuses. And she said something that stung:
“Given how well you did in my class last quarter you’re the last person I expected to see in my office ready to give up. Guess you’re just like the others.”
She said she expected more from me. If I needed help, why wasn’t I there to ask for it instead of begging for her signature? She wanted answers. I had them, but they were not the answers she was looking for.
But then she did something that I’d never seen a college professor do: she offered to meet with me as much as I needed if I would remain in class. She said the only way to improve my reading speed was to read more. That’s not what I wanted to hear, but she was right. So for the next two months, I met with her at least once a week to discuss works such as Parzival and Die Verwandlung.
She never once made me feel as though I was imposing on her schedule. There were several instances where she worked around my class and work schedule to meet with me even it meant she remained in her office well outside of normal office hours.
At the end of the quarter, I earned a “B” from the class. Even with the help, I struggled to finish the reading assignments. Initially, I was disappointed with the grade because I’d aced her grammar course while putting in far less effort.
But looking back, I learned a lot more than German literature that quarter. I learned to ask for help when I needed it. I learned how to build a solid relationship with a professor and gained a respect for the work they do which oftentimes goes unnoticed.
And I learned a lot about myself. I was still early into my college years, and learning to work through a difficult situation would prove to be beneficial many times over.
Without a doubt, it was the proudest “B” I’d ever earn.