2018-1-31 14:22

I taught my first class at Columbia University’s M.F.A. program this month, and even though I’ve been teaching college writing since 1993, I initially felt a little intimidated by the school’s regal campus. That, and regretful.
这个月,我开始在哥伦比亚大学(Columbia University)执教一门硕士课程。尽管我从1993年起就开始教大学写作,但一开始,这个堂皇的校园还是让我感到有点惧怕。而且有点遗憾。

I enjoyed going to college at the University of Michigan, an hour from home, but my secret humiliation is: I was the type of mediocre student I now disdain. As a freshman, I cared about my friends, my boyfriend and my poetry. Or, I cared about what my boyfriend thought of my friends, what my friends thought of him, and what they thought of my poetry about him. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done differently:
我很享受在密歇根大学(University of Michigan)上学的时光,它离我家只有一个小时车程,但我秘密的羞耻在于:那时候,我是我现在鄙视的那种平庸学生。大一时,我关心我的朋友、我的男朋友和我的诗。或者说,我关心的是,我的男朋友对我的朋友们的看法,我的朋友们对他的看法,以及她们对我关于他的诗的看法。以下这些是我希望自己当初知道并照做的事情:

A’S ARE COOL AND COME WITH PERKS As a student, I saw myself as anti-establishment, and I hated tests; I barely maintained a B average. I thought only nerds spent weekends in the library studying. Recently I learned that my niece Dara, a sophomore at New York University with a 3.7 G.P.A. (and a boyfriend), was offered a week of travel in Buenos Aires as part of her honors seminar. I was retroactively envious to learn that a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher at many schools qualifies you for free trips, scholarships, grants, awards, private parties and top internships. At 20, I was too busy freaking out when said boyfriend disappeared (after sleeping with one of said friends). Students certainly don’t need to strive obsessively for perfection, but I should have prioritized grades, not guys.
得高分很酷,而且能让你获得特殊待遇。我上学时认为自己是反体制的,我讨厌考试;我的平均成绩只能勉强达到B。当时我以为只有书呆子才会周末去图书馆学习。前不久,我得知我在纽约大学(New York University)上大二的侄女达拉(Dara)平均成绩达到了3.7(她也有男朋友),作为她的荣誉研讨会的一部分,她可以在布宜诺斯艾利斯免费旅行一个星期。我现在才嫉妒地得知,在很多学校里,如果你的平均成绩能达到3.5或更高,你可以获得免费旅行、奖学金、助学金、奖项、私人派对和顶级实习机会。20岁时,我忙着为前文提到的男朋友(在和前文提到的一个朋友睡觉后)离开我而崩溃。学生们当然不需要过分追求完美,但我应该优先考虑分数,而不是男生。

SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP If a class was boring or it snowed, I’d skip. My rationale was that nobody in the 300-person lecture hall would notice and I could get notes later. Attendance barely counted. When I went, I’d sit quietly in back. Yet as a teacher, I see that the students who come weekly, sit in front, and ask and answer questions get higher grades and frankly, preferential treatment. After 15 weeks, I barely know the absentees or anyone Snapchatting the term away on their iPhones. It’s not just that these students flush $300 down the toilet every time they miss my class; participating can actually lead to payoffs. I reward those who try harder with recommendations, references, professional contacts and encouragement.

CLASS CONNECTIONS CAN LAUNCH YOUR CAREERAs an undergrad, I rarely visited my professors during office hours. I didn’t want to annoy teachers with what I considered triviality. Besides, I thought I knew everything already. In graduate school, on the other hand, I went to the readings of a professor I admired. Eventually, I’d go to his office just to vent. Once, after I complained about a dead-end job, he recommended me for a position at The New Yorker, jump-starting my career.
同学关系可以推动你的职业生涯。上本科时,我很少在办公时间去请教那些教授们。我不想用那些在我看来琐碎的事去打扰他们。此外,当时我认为自己什么都知道。而上研究生时,我去了我钦佩的一位教授的著作阅读会。最后,我还去了他的办公室,只是为了谈谈自己的感想。有一次,在我抱怨当时的工作没有前途后,他推荐我去做《纽约客》(The New Yorker)的一份工作,让我的职业生涯从此起飞。

But it’s not just your professors who will help your life trajectory. Several classmates of mine from graduate school wound up working as editors at other publications, and they have since hired me for freelance work. Years later, I’ve helped students and colleagues where I teach, at the New School and New York University, land jobs, get published and meet with editors and agents.
不是只有教授能帮助改变你的人生轨迹。我的几位研究生同学毕业后在其他出版公司做编辑,他们雇我做自由撰稿人。多年后,我在新学院大学(New School)和纽约大学(New York University)任教时,也帮助学生和同事获得工作,出版著作,与编辑和经纪人会面。

PROFESSORS ARE PEOPLE, TOO As a teacher, I’ve kept all the letters, cards and poems of gratitude I’ve been sent. It’s nice to be appreciated, and it makes a lasting impression. After one of my intro sessions, a freshman from Idaho blurted out: “Awesome class! It’s like you stuck my fingers in a light socket.“ I laughed and invited her to speed walk with me around the local park — an activity I take part in nightly as a sort of active office hours — and we workshopped ideas that led to her first book. And when a student confided she was dying to take another class with me but had lost her financial aid, I let her audit. In retrospect, I should have been more open with the instructors I admired.

FIND YOUR PROFESSORS ON SOCIAL MEDIA I answer all emails, and while I may not accept all friend requests, I respond to students who follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. More important, social media is where I post about panels, job openings and freelance work. Checking out students’ social media feeds also allows me to see new sides of their personalities. Naked beer pong photos may not impress, but witty posts and original ideas do. Several students have developed book projects from their blogs and Instagram pages, and I promote their work, charities and events on my own social media feeds. You never know if the college president or your professor might retweet or repost your work.

YOU CAN SOCIALIZE BETTER SOBER Drinking and smoking eased my social anxiety and seemed like fun. Until I couldn’t stop. Getting clean — smoke-toke-alcohol-free — led to a huge upswing in my life. Instead of partying, I’d do movie nights, dancing, yoga, aerobics classes and readings with friends and dates. I was surprised to see that my work greatly improved, as did my relationships. I know many students who get into big trouble when they are under the influence, and I still worry about what I missed, wasting so much time wasted.

YOU’RE NOT STUCK Don’t be afraid to ask for emotional support. It was a graduate school professor who recommended my first therapist to me: She was a fantastic listener who charged on a sliding scale. Therapy can be cheap, fun and easily available — not to mention lifesaving.

And if it turns out you’re in the wrong school, don’t worry. A third of college students transfer before graduating. If you’re unhappy or not thriving at your school, take the long view. I couldn’t have made it in Manhattan as an undergraduate, but four years later, graduate school at New York University offered me a chance to live in my dream city. It took me only three decades of work to make it to the Ivy League — to teach one class, at least.