When I was a sophomore in college I signed up for an Introduction to Web Development class. I did this because my roommate told me it was an easy A. I had very little interest in website stuff but I had a lot of interest in classes that gave easy A’s. I anxiously awaited the start of the new semester and a guaranteed boost to my GPA.
However, as luck would have it, when I entered the computer lab that first day of the spring semester I immediately knew something was wrong. I expected to see a young hip-looking teacher. Instead I was greeted by a 50-something sweaty man with a mustache straight from Super Mario Bros. My roommate was usually spot-on with her descriptions; either she had left out a few critical details or this was not her same teacher.
The optimist in me did not panic. This class could still be an easy A. As my new teacher introduced himself I began to relax even more. He was from the music department, pulled in last-minute to teach this class. While he was professionally trained in music, he enjoyed web development as a hobby. I began to tune out as he continued, assuming my A was still safe.
Two weeks later, I could barely breathe as my teacher handed me his critique of my first project. The very foreign letter “F” was staring back at me from the top of the page. I quickly hid it under the table before any of my classmates could see it. My face turned a bright shade of purple as I tried to keep from losing it completely. How could this have happened? How could I have possibly failed the project? I stole another glance at my paper, he cited several grammar mistakes and a few broken links.
I walked back to my dorm that night carefully calculating how I was going to bring my grade out of the toilet. I studied the syllabus and calculated exactly what I would need to get on every project to still get an A. It doesn’t take a math major to know that it meant and A or B on all remaining projects and tests. My easy A class quickly became the hardest class of my semester.
I visited my professor every time he was in for office hours. I brought him my work and asked him to check it before the due date to make sure I was on the right track. I took notes and asked questions during class if I didn’t completely understand the assignment. The teacher had no people skills. He was rude, unkind and, I’m pretty sure, completely annoyed every time he saw me walk in his office.
The class consisted of other people who enrolled thinking they signed up for an easy A. By midterms, the class average was well below a C. When people complained about their grades and how unreasonable the teacher was, he singled me out as an example that passing the class was possible. I wasn’t well liked in the class.
At the end of the semester, as I sat down to take the final exam, I marveled at my progress. I confidently answered the questions knowing that I knew the correct answer to every single question. A week later, I received my final grade for the semester. It was an A+.
Ten years later, I still remember the concepts taught in that class. I’m no programming genius but I can hold my own while reading basic html code. This past week I’ve worked on a new website for my job. I had to go into the html and fix things that weren’t working. I knew how to do this because of the work I did in his class.
I don’t remember my teacher’s name. I never went back to thank him for the A+ because, frankly, I didn’t like him. I would not want to take another class taught by him. He is the man responsible for teaching me html but he also taught me a few other things. He taught me that in the real world there are people that will not hold my hand and do not want me to succeed. His indifference towards my success taught me to value the mentors in my life who believe in me and support me. His angry disposition taught me that I might not always like the people I am forced to deal with and I should consider myself extremely blessed to have a boss that I also consider a friend. Most importantly, when he failed my first project, he taught me that when I fall down I can stand back up and be a stronger person because of it.