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Opinion

Classrooms lack civility, professionalism

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November 4, 2010

A few days past, I sat in a pensive state staring out the door of one of my classes, listening semi-intently about the injustices of the Jim Crow era. Thinking back to what life might have been like in the early 20th century, I silently thanked the women of centuries past for giving me the opportunity to sit in a dark classroom at 9 a.m., practically freezing to death. Oh, and the ability to vote, better wages at work, easier access to education, etc. Suddenly, a person walked past the door and consequently broke my sarcastic thoughts of gratitude.

Shivering from the cold, this tallish guy casually ran his fingers through his gelled hair to make sure his hat had not put a damper on his ‘do. However, I will say that perhaps he should have been more focused on pulling up his sagging sweatpants (seriously, it is now 2010; belts are definitely back in style), or maybe zipping up his backpack before he lost all his books. But why does it matter what I think; obviously, he is way too cool to give two flamingos about anything. Long after his footsteps had faded down the hallway, my mind continued to ponder his lack of panache.

Of course, he is not alone in a sea of inadequately dressed undergraduates, but I can’t help but wonder what this carelessness says about students today. How does this reflect on our generation? Does it make us seem lazy and slapdash? Conceivably, all these questions point to one: when it comes to professionalism, are we found wanting?

To answer this question, we must first define what it means to be professional. Although the Oxford English Dictionary has many definitions, I think that the following fits best: “professional, adj. and n; II. Senses relating to or derived from (the conduct of) a profession or occupation; 4. Of, belonging to, or proper to a profession; d. That has or displays the skill, knowledge, experience, standards, or expertise of a professional; competent, efficient.” Basically, a professional, by definition, is someone who is capable of completing a task or job in a resourceful manner, but without haste.

I would agree with this definition, but I think that being professional is more than simply doing your job well. Famed television personality Alistair Cooke once said, “a professional is someone who can do his best at a time when he doesn’t particularly feel like it.” Cooke had it right; being knowledgeable of one’s profession is expected, but continuously going beyond what is expected in search of paramountcy is what makes a person professional.

My apologies for beginning to sound like such a textbook; definitions are dull. It is with interpretation that things get interesting. Personally, I think it is not enough to model a professional off of someone who exudes expertise and overcomes laziness to achieve a job well done. Any person who finishes a daily to-do list is capable of this. A professional is someone who takes pride in their work. A professional knows the facts and can back them up with hard evidence, research and understanding. A professional only gives credit where credit is due, and never criticizes. A professional conveys confidence enough to know when they are right and will stand for it; conversely, a professional knows when they are wrong and will freely admit it.

What do you think UW-River Falls?

Do we as the not-too-distant future measure up; can we call ourselves professionals? How many times have you sat taking notes in a class when Joe Schmo walks in ten minutes late? How many times have you heard the girl next to you complain about her professor because of a less-than-perfect grade when she was the one who neglected to study?

Of course, we are all human and, as Dale Carnegie would say, “creatures of emotion.” As a result, we are prone to off days, lazy days, cold days, ad hoc days and my-alarm-did-not-go-off-this-morning days. Nevertheless, we should permanently keep professionalism in our minds and strive to do our honest to goodness best. With this said, I truly hope sweatpants guy walks by the door during class next time wearing real pants, his book-bag zipped up. I hope he has a stride that shows he cares enough to give two flamingos (whatever that means).

Ashley Cress is a student at UW-River Falls.