By Nick DAngelo
Theodore Roosevelt had a lot of advice about work ethic. After all, he knew a bit about it. The man rarely slept, and he drank about a gallon of coffee every day. As his son put it, he was “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” Told to take it easy from a young age due to a weak heart, Roosevelt refused, becoming remarkably athletic and pushing the limits of his physical ability. As president, he often led foreign dignitaries and high-ranking officials on dangerous hikes and expeditions, always with one simple rule: when confronted with obstacles, go over, under or through—never around.
But some may wonder how the Rough Rider of San Juan Hill would have faired in the environment of the 10-week term. As Roosevelt himself said, “Let us run the risk of wearing out rather than rusting out.” By week eight though we are more than wearing out. And why is that? We have already conquered 80 percent of our term, shouldn’t the final push be a quick finish? Hardly.
One of the most basic problems that students often face is the Herculean frenzy of assignments that seem to emerge in the final stretch of the period. For some reason, we find ourselves writing just as many papers, reading just as many books and having half as many classes, as the first portion of the trimester.
In some way, professors must be partly to blame for their weak organization. We have all had those classes where there is both a final paper due and a final exam to be taken, merely days apart. Or those that have a second exam week eight, a third essay week nine and a final exam following week 10. Multiply that by two or three classes and wearing out is the least of your worries.
What becomes even more frustrating and problematic is that your high mark, carefully preserved for two months, is now destroyed by a single poor grade. Can students be expected to produce the same quality of work when they are doing twice as much in half as much time? Apparently they are. Often times with little direction. While our all-knowing professors pile on the readings and writings for us, they are unable to keep pace with the amount of work that must be graded. Meanwhile, here we are writing another essay when we really have no idea how to improve from the last one. There’s no doubt that, to many students, this is the most frustrating realization of all.
Of course, professors are not the only ones at fault. Students too become disorganized, complacent and comfortable. The Trimester Bell Curve, a build up during the first five weeks towards midterms, followed by a dip, is a well-known danger. With spring break on the horizon, it’s easy to jump ahead, ignoring present duties in exchange for premature pleasures.
Perhaps, on another note, we are not checking out early, but simply burnt out. Attempting to fit the material other schools use 15 weeks to cover into 10 is a fast pace. In an environment of rapidity, slowing down means you will never catch up again. At some level though, the hardship of the final two weeks should be seen as a challenge for students, a challenge Colonel Roosevelt would no doubt accept.
One of Roosevelt’s most famous speeches came after his presidency, during an overseas trip to France in April 1910. Referencing both Spanish bull fighting and Roman gladiatorial combat, the 35-page speech is remembered for a single line: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” “Citizenship in a Republic,” most commonly known as “The Man in the Arena” speech, clearly outlines the Roosevelt ideology, and is perhaps a helpful inspiration for all of us students as we face the finale of winter term.
We are all in our own arenas. All we can do is fight, and keep fighting. And after March 21, if we put all we have into all we do until then, we will either bask in the comfort of achievement or face failure with pride.