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Teacher ego

9 April, 2006

Teacher ego

Sorry folks, but its the class again. End of week two. And still, several students have not contributed to a single Blackboard discussion. I’m torn. I really want to take these students aside and just tell them to drop now, because they will likely not pass this class if they don’t contribute — it’s just too big a part of their grade. But it’s really too small a class to lose any students (am I a cynic because I’m pleased that, if they do drop, I still get credit for not having lost FTEs?). So I’m angry with them. And I feel terribly guilty that they won’t do the work.

But they are supposed to be adults. They knowingly signed up for a class that has a significant online component. It’s been made abundantly clear that this is not an optional part of the class. If they choose not to do the work, it is not my responsibility. So … why do I feel so crappy about this?

Teacher ego.

I admit it. We all know far to much of my personal identity is wrapped up in my academic identity. Not that I’m different from a lot of us who have been fortunate enough to get to live the academic life. And you know, it’s important to me that, even when students hate my class, they like me. I like the bit on the evaluations where the students say I’m always there to help, accessible — all those mentor-y (and kind of traditional femme-y) qualities that seem to make a big difference even when they are complaining about the work load, etc. And when I can’t get the students to play along, it feels like they don’t like me.

I should worry more about whether they are learning, but it’s hard. And if they aren’t doing the work, are they learning? Hmph.

My other class, OTOH, is a joy. We’ve got a great conversation going on online (not as much participation there as should be, but far better) about ethnocentricm that I’m going to tweak into a conversation about presentism, since they are so closely related. It’s a very oddly composed class — one woman in her 30s, a bunch of much younger women, some wtill in high school, and four guys, two of whom are originally from (I think) East Africa and are probably Muslim (I’m going by the names). One question on sexuality in Classical Greece has provided so many good teaching moments, and I’m so impressed at how these students are willing and able to have what are clearly difficult conversations in such a gender-imbalanced, culturally imbalanced classroom. I feel no sense of success here — the fact that they are good and involved and interested has nothing to do with me. So If I have no problem taking no credit for the good class, why is it so easy to take the blame for the bad class?

Teacher ego. I think. Maybe as I publish and present more, and broaden my own academic persona, these things will be more balanced, too. Something to think about.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 April, 2006 9:58 pm

    de-lurking to say: not your fault these kids (I know they’re supposed to be adults, but students=”kids” to me) are jackasses. Maybe in another week or two you can scare them with interim participation grades?

  2. 9 April, 2006 10:35 pm

    Yep — I’m grading the weekly discussion by Mondays, so they’ll see where they are … and usually give a midterm class participation grade.

  3. 10 April, 2006 2:37 pm

    I hear you on the wanting to stalk them and remind them that they’re not doing well. And then I remember that I’m *supposed* to have something better to do than be their mothers. But I can’t stop that first impulse from happening.I, too, hope it’ll be better once I build more of an identity as a scholar…Good luck – hopefully the midterm participation grade will wake them up…

  4. 10 April, 2006 4:09 pm

    Also de-lurking to share some wisdom I’ve found comforting–and that’s kept me from exchanging my “you can do it!” cheerleading uniform for a mommy “please learn for your own good” apron. A fave prof once told me: “Students have rights. It is wrong for you, as the instructor, to interfere with students’ rights. One of those rights is the right to fail. Students may exercise that right, and you should respect their choice.” Alright, so this is harsh, but it helps me remember that I already have done what I can, and students are making informed choices to ignore my instructional efforts. It keeps me from writing Johnny and Peggy Sue emails pleading that they embrace their educational experience. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog–and congrats on the job!!

  5. 10 April, 2006 6:25 pm

    Thanks! and welcome, Meluseena!

  6. 14 April, 2006 11:10 pm

    It seems to me that when we are asking students to do something with which they may not be so familiar, we need to guide them a little more. That being said, there are limits. The idea of an interim mark is a good one, and possibly a stern but general admonition to the class. But after that, they are on their own. Since you wrote in a previous post that you tend to explain your expectations pretty fully, you have done all you need to, or should, do.

  7. 15 April, 2006 1:14 am

    Thanks, Scribblingwoman. I do know that, but it’s just kind of depressing. And I looked at my one ratemyprofessors eval from this school, and it says I don’t explain the assignments — I do to anybody who actually reads them and then asks questions …

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