For those of you just heading downtown, I am sure “wrapping up” doesn’t even begin to describe your day (come back to this post when you are ready to curl up in bed with your laptop and peruse blogs!), but bear with us as we provide some perspective and well deserved credit.
Today was a day that put students to the test. For the lucky ones at York or UTM or UTSC, the test didn’t apply. But for U of T St.George or Ryerson or York Region District School Board secondary school students, there was a big examination. It was an examination that tested your commitment to your education.
Did you pass?
In keeping with U of T stickler-fashion, St.George campus decided, against all adds and 30cm of snow, to stay open. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I discovered at 6AM that, indeed, I had to get downtown for 9AM. At 7:00, you would have caught me still sitting on my bed,with the radio and news on and up loud, anxiously hoping the campus big-wigs would change their mind. No such luck. So I dragged by but out of bed and left – half and hour late, mind you, but I left because I felt the class was valuable and I should attend even if I was going to be late.
Let me give you some perspective about what kind of commitment that took: on a good day, my commute takes 1.5-2 hours, one way. I take three different transit systems, often don’t get a ride to the Go station, and live quite north in Markham. I only spend 15 min in the subway, which means most of that 1.5-2h commute is above ground, squashed in traffic. Thats on a good day. To get myself outside the house at 7:25 AM, on a day like today – with wind, and cold, and snow and delays – took an incredible amount of determination.
This may surprise you, but all the reasons to not go to class today were unjustified. The TTC and GO transits were working miraculously well – people were stunned that the GO trains were running on time, but the ticket-masters would just smile mysteriously and tell incredulous passengers that everything was running smoothly (guess they planned in advance). The City of Toronto really stepped up – they’ve had snow plows out early, so that my rindky-dinky yrt bus made it to the station with perfect timing. In fact, I left home half an hour late, at 7:25, and managed to get to class right on time – actually, 5min early. Go figure!
So, transit systems as an excuse were out – so was traffic. At 7:30 (which is smack in the middle of 9AM rush hour), people were driving slowly but steadily, and it took me the same amount of time today as it would have on a good day to arrive at the Go station. What really kept the pace today was people were being patient and understanding, there were no accidents, and the plows had come out early enough that many of the main roads were clear and easy to drive on.
Without traffic and weather to excuse missing school, what does that leave? The weather I guess. “How bad was it?”, you ask. Honestly? Not that bad. I dressed normally – winter jacket, track-pants, boots, etc. – and I was fine. A little chilly at one point (hats and gloves advised!) but I actually thought it was similar weather to last week. The weather network says -9 (feels like -17), which is actually a bit warmer than earlier this week (which felt like -20). So weather and coldness weren’t really a factor here either…at least, not any more so than any other day. I’m not saying it was summer weather, I’m just saying it wasn’t worse than the rest of the week.
When I got to campus (still amazed I was on time), I was expecting to see only a few kids – especially because my prof was hanging out outside the classroom, waiting for more kids to show up. Guess what? Out of the 30 kids in my class, 24 showed up. My prof was amazed – her plan to just lecture us for an 45min blew up into a whole lecture, with valuable advice for the assignment. It was a regular class. While she promised to post some powerpoint slides online, I thought the lecture was worth coming for, as the slides didn’t cover a lot of what she did.
I was very impressed that most of the class showed up – and that got me thinking about the caliber of students at university, and what kind of student we each choose to be. Today, in spite of the odds, the majority of students rose to the occasion. When I looked at the class, I was proud of U of T for staying open and not letting weather get in the way of education (especially because transit systems were on the ball today and commuting really wasn’t an issue), and I was even more impressed that people bothered to show up – it says something about how we respect the education we get. When I saw the campus populated with students, I was proud to think that this is my university. For all of the things I absolutely loathe about St.George campus (and trust me, I can be hugely anti-U-of-T), today, the school and the students stepped up.
And that gets me back to that test I was talking about earlier in the post, and whether you chose to be a student who valued their education enough to step. I have a friend at Ryerson who has gotten into this new study-craze, and has a sudden interest in picking up his grades; he keeps cancelling on me because he says he needs to study or do one thing or another – which is at least progress from his extra-curricular and pub-saturated life. His insistence at turning over a new leaf was tested today in light of the snowstorm. Today, when Ryerson remained open, he had the choice to go to school. There was nothing holding him back – not weather, not the transit systems – nothing; except his own excuses and his insistence of self-imposed denial that allowed him to believe today was too challenging to leave home. Today, he chose to let those excuses hold him back – and in doing so, he proved that he was all talk and no action; that when it really came down to it, and he had to do a little work to get to class, he decided to bail. In the end, not attending was his loss.
The next time he tells me “I can’t meet, I need to study because I am committed to doing well in school”, I will just smile at his nativity (and hypocrisy) and think of the hundreds of other students who really did honour their commitment to education, and got their asses out of bed to make the commute. We’re not saying you gotta spend 3 hours on the subway system just to get to a tutorial, we are not saying to swim through mountains of snow; but on a day like today, where the campus was open, transit was not delayed, and most actually people did make it, you owe it to yourself to impose an honest reality and have the decency to admit that going to school or not going to school was a choice within your hands. When hundreds of students went downtown to U of T and Ryerson, this concept of “impossible!” is defeated with living proof of the possible.
It comes down to choice; who you choose to be when the going gets rough and whether you are willing to stick to your commitments – whether it is for education, or family, or friends, or a relationship or work or any other aspect of your life. That’s what we were trying to say in our tough-love post on getting good grades in university: you can choose to be committed, you can choose to surround yourself with good influences, you can choose to go to class even if you are late, you can choose to work in advance and not fall behind, and you can choose to be an active participant in your education. Its your choice. There are students who decided it wasn’t worth the effort to go to school, and thats a personal decision they made for whatever reason. But this post is a salute to those who did – those who decided to stick by their commitments to education with action instead of words, who braved the cold because they see value in every class they attend, those who don’t just work hard when it is easy, but work hard even when its hard.
I’m proud of you. Today, for the first time in a long time, I was proud to be U of T St. George student, and I salute those of you who attended school today, at any time of the day, and for any class. I was there, I know how hard it was, and I am proud to be in the company of people whose actions, and not just words, really prove that they value their education. Today, you were inspirational.
From the Surviving Studenthood Team