In high school, I had an infamously strict music teacher named Nez. Many people described him as “old school” and “scary”. If you made a mistake in class, he would humiliate you by having you perform in front of your peers until you corrected your mistake. He also directed the marching band, where attendance to home games was mandatory. “If you’re sick, bring a bucket,” he told us.
If something about your performance in class wasn’t up to his standards, you could expect to be called to his office, where he lectured you to tears. Some people quit because they couldn’t handle the emotional pressure of being in his class. This, I imagine, was exactly how Nez wanted things. The pressure he applied allowed him to have a tightly-knit band. His priority was music, rather than the feelings of his students.
In Nez’s class, I was terrified to ask if I could leave for the restroom. One time I had to go so badly, but opted to try to hold out for the whole class, just to appease my teacher. I began to sweat and felt nauseous as the class persisted. Finally when I couldn’t take it any more, I asked to be excused. Nez looked me in the eye and probably saw that I was chalk white and sweating. He excused me without question.
Even though Nez used fear as his governing principle, many of his students loved him. Under Nez’s instruction, I believed myself to be a serious musician. It is because of Nez that I am never late to any event. Nez treated tardiness as completely unacceptable, and I inherited this outlook. I looked up to Nez, and felt like I understood that in order to be great, you must have unshakable principles. You must be consistent. Being liked was not necessary in order to be successful.
It is this relationship with timeliness that affects many of my friendships. I have great respect for those who arrive on time, and struggle with having sympathy for those who are late. Sometimes it feels like others do not understand the importance of punctuality. However, as I meet more and more people, I am coming to accept that punctuality is not culturally important in my circles of friendship. There simply aren’t enough incentives for people to arrive on time.
In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, the author states that Western parenting encourages laziness. Western parenting, as opposed to her own method of Eastern “Chinese Parenting”, coddles children instead of instilling any kind of work ethic. In the movie “Whiplash”, pressure is applied to students in order to help them achieve things they thought were impossible. The message in both cases is that high expectations yield exceptional results.
In college, my professors proposed a separate theory: happy students are high performing students. Students who have the materials available for focused play can achieve just as well, or even better than students who were put through an academic wringer. At Sarah Lawrence College, professors encouraged us to pursue our own interests, because that’s where “true learning” happens.
I agree. A relaxed, dynamic learning environment can aid a creative thinking process. However, there is also value of applying pressure to achieve results. All this said, there only seem to be benefits to being on time, except when no one thinks it is important.
Instead of using punctuality as a way to get things done, I now use it as a filter, perhaps in the same way Nez used it. Punctuality shows me that you are someone I can rely on, and someone that I am more likely to get along with. Being late doesn’t mean that you’re dumb, it probably just means that our thought processes are incongruous. I salute your Western parenting and relaxed learning methods. However, for my own sanity, I am on time in order to meet others who are the same, the people who grew up with similar pressures applied to them.