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The Professor Who Saw What No One Else Saw

standard July 21, 2011 5 responses

In France, college is structured differently than in the States. Instead of having four years to figure out what you want to do with your life, you go to college to study a specific profession.

I started out with the mistaken idea that I wanted to be a doctor, but it turns out I’m not a fan of being around sick people all day. And I’m really, really, really bad at math and physics, two subjects my med school professors were all hung up about.

So, I finished out the first year of med school and signed up for law school. I had no real desire to actually be a lawyer. I was just lured into the program by promises of no math and no sciences. As a bonus I was accepted into the parallel English Lit program, which I joined because, duh, easy for this little American girl to ace an English program in France.

To make a long story short, I loathed law school. I mean, really hated it with a passion. All the professors wanted us to do was learn stuff by rote and spit it back out verbatim. There was no creativity whatsoever involved in any of the classes. It crippled me and I really struggled through the classes.

There were almost 4000 of us in that program. I was one of many who was failing my way through the classes. Each TA had hundreds of students assigned to him. And they definitely had their hands full with the students who actually showed some legal promise.

It almost goes without saying that most of the TAs and professors wrote me off without a glance back. What was extraordinary is that one man didn’t. His name was Mr. Nguyen. I would drag myself to his class, sit in my chair, and despondently open my book. I’d look at the cases spread out in front of me and not make heads or tail of anything. They could have been written in Chinese and they wouldn’t have been any less clear. He didn’t yell. He didn’t hound. He sat with me and walked me through cases. He kept me after class and helped me with the homework. He took the time to explain stuff.

It was like slogging through a dense bog. Even with his help I struggled.

One day he stopped in the middle of explaining some archaic legal point and said “I know you’re ready to give up, but I also know you can do this and I’m asking you not to.”

I don’t know how he knew. I actually had been on the verge of giving up. I was, that very day, on my way to the office to ask them to pull me from the law program and put me in the English program full time. I was officially done with floundering my way through my classes. It felt like not only would no one care, but like no one would even notice.

His words stopped me. I didn’t drop out that day or even that year. I passed his class and, thanks to him, I passed most of my other classes that year. I was held back due to failing History of the Law and Economics 101. And sometime during the following year, since I finally had time to focus on my other classes, I realized that English Lit wasn’t just an easy A it was actually what I loved.

Today, I am clearly not a lawyer. I remember nothing that was taught in those classes. (All the law I know I learned from CSI and Law and Order.) But I can still see Mr. Nguyen’s face and how he believed in me that year. I try to always remember that there’s always someone who believes in me even when I feel invisible and insignificant. And it’s never who I expect.

This post was inspired by a prompt I posted on a new blog I just launched. I thought I’d be writing about my husband, my sister, or my mom when I came up with “Who believes in you?” as the first prompt, because all three of them not only believe in me, but push me to be a better writer and better person every day. Then I remembered Mr. Nguyen who wasn’t family or even a friend and who still believed in me beyond the call of duty. I wanted to say a silent thank you to him for being there exactly when I needed him and for helping me get through the toughest year I knew in college.

If you’re ever in a blogging rut or in need of a little bloggy inspiration, I hope you’ll stop by Kick In The Blog to see what prompts I’ve posted.

Come give your blog a kick!

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5 responses

  • This is a fantastic post, it says so much about you and makes the reader think about other people in our lives who believe in us, even the ones we may not have realized at the time, but do now. I am excited for your new blog, I am going to go check it out now!!

  • I love that he believed in you. I had wonderful teachers that believed in me and I loved them.

  • What a great post! I was lucky enough to have some amazing teachers throughout my life, as well. I love when people acknowledge their teachers because they don’t get enough props.

    Thanks for the “Kick in the Blog” site and for coming over to visit me at WildRumpusing!

    Also, noticed your comments about “Tiger’s Curse” – I know the author. She used to work with me sometimes as a sign language interpreter. I’m so proud of her and her books seem to be going GANGBUSTERS!

  • Hello, I just joined your blog hop and wanted to say thank you for hosting.Your post struck a cord with me as I went through similar when I trained as a chef.

  • I love this post. I think we all want someone to believe in us not because they “have to” but because they honestly believe.

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