My classes begin tomorrow morning for the spring semester. I just sent my students one final email to make sure they understood what I wanted from them. I figure I might as well let them know upfront. Here is what I told them:
Tomorrow morning at either 9 or 10:30 a.m., we will meet and Intermediate Accounting II will begin. Over the past few weeks, you have received quite a number of emails from me talking about this class – why it is important and what it takes to do well. By now, one question should be rattling around in your brain: What does this guy really want from me as a student? Clearly, this class is not exactly like other classes and the teacher is not exactly like too many other teachers. What am I looking for from you over the course of the next 3 1/2 months?
Last year, in downtown Richmond, my wife and I went to a play (Equivocation) about William Shakespeare. At one point during the first act, a young actor comes up to Shakespeare and asks (or almost pleads): “You said I was brilliant. Did you really mean that?” Shakespeare looks at him for a long time and finally responds: “You are brilliant, at your best.” I leaned over to my wife at that moment and whispered “that’s what I want to tell each of my students. That is the essence of my teaching.”
I am convinced that you can be brilliant over the course of this semester. But I am equally convinced that you are only going to be brilliant on those days when you are at your absolute best. That is my one and only goal – to bring out the best in you. You don’t know what your best really is. I don’t know what your best really is. So, we both have to push and challenge and work and debate and argue in order to get you to a point where you are at your best. No matter what I do in class, whether it seems funny or mean or insightful, I have only one goal: To bring out the very best from you (not the person beside of you or the person behind you or the person on the other side of the room from you but just YOU). And that’s because I am convinced that you can be truly brilliant, not average or mediocre or even good but truly brilliant, but only when we are able to work together to get the best from you. My guess is that you’ve had enough average in your life. Surely, you are sick of mediocre. The world has a lot of troubles. It needs more people willing to step up to the challenge and be brilliant. Isn’t it time for you to see what you can actually accomplish when you are at your very best?
I look forward to starting to work with you tomorrow morning.
PS – Here’s a movie clip that you might enjoy. It has one of my all-time favorite quotes: “It’s the hard that makes it great.”