A few years ago my mother was leaving the Town Pump restaurant and happened to see Mr. Croughan, my former English teacher from Brawley Union High School. My mother stopped to say hello and to tell him her children often complained how hard his class was, but would praise him for how much they learned from him. After reading another letter this week praising Mr. Croughan, I reflected on how important he was to my life.
As a teacher, I often encounter students who are overwhelmed by the rigorous scholastic demands of college. Poverty, language difficulty and the demands of family and jobs are all valid explanations for mediocre or poor performance. But I firmly believe one of the fundamental hurdles to classroom performance is an unfamiliarity with excellence.
Students who are unaware of, or have not been properly exposed to, excellence are often unsure of what exactly is expected of them. Unfamiliarity with excellence has nothing to do with material disadvantages or familial obligations.