Annie Coggan just sent me this “letter from your dance teacher.” It could just as easily be a letter from your architecture teacher, letter from your humanities teacher – the sentiment is still the same. Architecture, like dance, is an iterative process. Though there are often no right answers, there are plenty of wrong answers, and form is critical. It is the language. So a correction or critique is working to strengthen the form. It is a nice read. I used to yell a lot more, and I think I will return to that. It can be humiliating. But better that than to go about without a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Not to make anyone considering taking my class uneasy – I generally reserve this for those who are clearly not performing. I have sympathy for those who work hard but have fundamental disconnects.
This makes me think about another great piece of advice: get your shit together. Below is an incredibly funny email exchange that went viral a number of years ago. It is brilliant. What makes it brilliant is that Galloway remains a teacher, and taught this young man or woman important lessons. And he did it in overall a respectful and intelligent manner, never descending to name-calling or open insult.
As Galloway says, get the easy things right. Paying attention to deadlines, doing your homework, being aware of what is requested of you – these are the easy things. Most of the time we teachers are thankful for simple fulfillment of requirements, let alone going above and beyond. The converse of this is that there is often an expectation of high reward for simply doing the required. So for those who anticipate being my students in the future, be warned and encouraged. Be warned – you get out of the class what you put into it. My feedback will be in proportion to your effort. Be encouraged – success is a product of criticism, as Keesha Beckford says, so ask for the truth, always, even if it may hurt.
Get Your Shit Together – this is an email exchange between an unnamed student and Professor Scott Galloway at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
Subject: Brand Strategy Feedback
I would like to discuss a matter with you that bothered me. Yesterday evening I entered your 6pm Brand Strategy class approximately 1 hour late. As I entered the room, you quickly dismissed me, saying that I would need to leave and come back to the next class. After speaking with several students who are taking your class, they explained that you have a policy stating that students who arrive more than 15 minutes late will not be admitted to class. As of yesterday evening, I was interested in three different Monday night classes that all occurred simultaneously. In order to decide which class to select, my plan for the evening was to sample all three and see which one I like most. Since I had never taken your class, I was unaware of your class policy. I was disappointed that you dismissed me from class considering (1) there is no way I could have been aware of your policy and (2) considering that it was the first day of evening classes and I arrived 1 hour late (not a few minutes), it was more probable that my tardiness was due to my desire to sample different classes rather than sheer complacency. I have already registered for another class but I just wanted to be open and provide my opinion on the matter.
To which Professor Galloway responded:
Thanks for the feedback. I, too, would like to offer some feedback.
Just so I’ve got this straight…you started in one class, left 15-20 minutes into it (stood up, walked out mid-lecture), went to another class (walked in 20 minutes late), left that class (again, presumably, in the middle of the lecture), and then came to my class. At that point (walking in an hour late) I asked you to come to the next class which “bothered” you.
You state that, having not taken my class, it would be impossible to know our policy of not allowing people to walk in an hour late. Most risk analysis offers that in the face of substantial uncertainty, you opt for the more conservative path or hedge your bet (e.g., do not show up an hour late until you know the professor has an explicit policy for tolerating disrespectful behavior, check with the TA before class, etc.). I hope the lottery winner that is your recently crowned Monday evening Professor is teaching Judgement and Decision Making or Critical Thinking.
In addition, your logic effectively means you cannot be held accountable for any code of conduct before taking a class. For the record, we also have no stated policy against bursting into show tunes in the middle of class, urinating on desks or taking that revolutionary hair removal system for a spin. However, xxxx, there is a baseline level of decorum (i.e., manners) that we expect of grown men and women who the admissions department have deemed tomorrow’s business leaders.
xxxx, let me be more serious for a moment. I do not know you, will not know you and have no real affinity or animosity for you. You are an anonymous student who is now regretting the send button on his laptop. It’s with this context I hope you register pause…REAL pause xxxx and take to heart what I am about to tell you:
xxxx, get your shit together.
Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance…these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility…these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It’s not too late xxxx…
Again, thanks for the feedback.