The Pygmalion Effect

At the beginning of the semester, we were supplied with our course epigraph, the quote that would guide the remainder of the class. Derived from Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”, it reads, “If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.” After reading this, we began the first of many group discussions. To no real avail, we came to the realization that in order to get the full picture, we had to first put the quote into context. Spoken by the story’s protagonist, Gan, is a plea for T’Gatoi to give him transparency and respect within the partnership, even though she has power. It was from the epigraph that we bean to touch on the complexities maintained in partnerships. The epigraph remained crucial to our semester and served as roadmap for all our discussions and assignments, most recently the facilities and heating plant essay. Using the epigraph as a through line and changing our perspectives, we were able deepen the understanding of the relationships and the world around us. Similar to T’Gatoi, my new perspective on the world has changed me for the better.

Although I have grown throughout this semester, it is important to reflect on where the process began. Even before stepping foot into Room 212, I had already had an insight on Professor McCoy and the course itself. By calling on the precious experiences on upperclassman and my advisor, I learned that by the end of the semester they would have expected growth as a person and as a writer. But prior to this class, I believed I was already a strong writer, and therefore I had little room to grow. Being involved in clubs that depended on strong speeches like Mock Trial and Model United Nations put me in a closed mindset. Because I had always performed so well in both activities, I believed strong writers would always be strong and vise versa. I believed I had reached my peak, but after my first few assignments, I began to see how crucial growth mindset is. While I performed well on most essays, I kept receiving the same comments, “work to reduce wordiness” and “fix mechanical issues,” which was at times frustrating. In the beginning, I found that I wouldn’t take the time to properly edit my essays. After repeating my mistakes and seeing the comments enough times, I realized I needed a change in my perspective if I wanted to see real growth.

As the semester progressed, I found myself paying closer attention to the details and expanding my writing. I have to be honest, receiving the amount of comments from Professor McCoy was jarring at first but now I am in a place where I can thoroughly appreciate them. There came a turning point in my writing, and it happened during the Boodchild Essay rewrite. I used my growth mindset to not only fix my mechanical errors, but I really began emphasizing the “So what?” of my essays. I found in my writing that I would get close to relating the topic back to a real-world example, but I would shy away out of fear. Either fear of offending someone or receiving a lower score because I made it personal.  However, with my new perspective I found myself taking a risk, one that paid off in the end. In the facilities and heating plant essay, I stressed the importance on reducing the stigma of certain professions in our society and our perception of essential workers. It was time for me to address my perspective of the world around me and it would hopefully encourage someone else to do the same.

I find that in todays world, with a surge of information, it is imperative that we also add our own insight because you never know the impact it may have on someone. Being in this class has taught me that no one else in this world has your experience. This is a powerful tool because when you use a creative space, such as your writing to talk about your experience, you can be shaping someone else’s perspective on the world around them. I find that sometimes, we can underestimate the impact we can have on someone’s life. Ultimately, developing the growth mindset was crucial for me because I see that even our best skills can be improved, and I am grateful for the perspective change.

Throughout this course, we bore witness multiple perspectives concerning academic partnerships. These new perspectives were offered by some of Geneseo’s very own faculty. Having their perspective was important because it showed me that the complexities of academic partnership can be seen anywhere. We first had a conversation with robbie routenberg who acts as Geneseo’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. This conversation yielded insights on the balance between being “prosponsive” or “responsive.” The former calling for an open conversation about certain experiences on campus before an incident has occurred, while the latter is the response to an incident. robbie focused on striking the delicate balance on issues like your right to freedom of speech versus someone else’s freedom of religion. robbie explained that the best response is to have a meaningful conversation in which you try to educate and cast a new perspective. We also spoke to Joe Cope who acts as the Associate Provost for Student Success at Geneseo. His discussion opened our minds to the syllabus that frequently acts as a contract between student and professor. While some students may feel powerless in this partnership, he insures us that a Professor can be held accountable for making arbitrary decisions. For example, if a Professor never mentions an attendance policy but fails you for missing two classes, you can appeal your grade, this option maintains the balance necessary for academic partnerships. We lastly spoke with Dr. Sasha Eloi-Evans who acts as the Director of Multicultural Programs and Services. She provided insight to her navigation between the relationships of her students and colleagues where she emphasized the importance of open trust and consent. Successfully navigating consent, trust, and open conversations like the Geneseo faculty is imperative for every partnership.

At the beginning of this semester I remember hearing that Professor McCoy demanded greatness and growth from her students. But now, as my freshman year comes to a close the submission of this essay, what’s next? Who is going to help me grow, who is going to challenge my perspective every Monday and Friday? Well, this is when I pass on what I learned earlier this year called the Pygmalion Effect. It is the phenomenon whereby others’ expectations of a target person affect the target person’s performance, or more simply put, when you demand greatness out of someone, they perform greatly. I would then argue that this semester we were pushed to greatness by Professor McCoy, who made us revise essays and expand our perspective on a number of issues. But as time goes on, I think that we should demand greatness from ourselves. Geneseo’s GLOBE tells us as students we should, “gain practice in the ability to reflect upon changes in learning and outlook over time.” Being able to look back at my mindset and writing from January and compare it to now surreal. From this point on, we should begin assessing our own growth from time to time, in order to keep ourselves accountable for our growth. That’s why I hope you’ll join me by marking this date in your calendar to serve as a reminder to come back and re-read this essay every year. This course has given us the tools necessary to change our perspective, to grow and to ultimately never stop thinkING.

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