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Of the many things I’ve learnt about teaching

7 May, 2012

I am pretty sure that this is a very true one:

Huge numbers of student crises could be avoided if people… read the syllabus; listened to me when I went over assignments; read the assignments carefully; came to office hours if they had questions; didn’t wait till the last minute unless they had demonstrable proof that they could pull an A out of the ether; paid attention; showed up and did the assignments.

I’m just saying.

One thing I don’t get:

Students who simply stop showing up without dropping.

Another thing:

Students who keep showing up, but turn in no work.

Yes, I am in grading jail, and am giving one final exam and one set of final presentation critiques tomorrow. Or maybe it’s two finals. This has been an incredibly good semester in terms of the students I’ve taught. There were some issues, but I was able to work with some truly cool and bright people. I learnt a lot about teaching, and I taught in a new field which solidified a lot of my ideas about whether or not what we do is political and how. It was also, it turns out, very difficult. There was a lot in the course and in our discussions that ended up being very triggery, and made some parts of my life more difficult. Having said that, I really hope that my students found the semester as rewarding as I did.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 7 May, 2012 7:44 am

    It would be fabulous if students read the the syllabus, or the assignments, or even (gasp) the texts. I’m not sure if it’s reassuring, or scary, that we seem to have the same problems on this side of the Pacific…

  2. 7 May, 2012 3:06 pm

    All so true. So I do this little song and dance (literally) at a couple of points during the term: Students have choices. Those can be informed choices, or uninformed, but that too is a choice they make. I’m not responsible for those choices or the predictable outcomes of those choices (like bad grades). It doesn’t have much impact on them, but it has surprising impact on me: I feel better about letting them feel the consequences of their choices. No impulses to pull them out of trouble. No guilt or bad feelings at their earning(s) of the F.

    Amazing the poor choices people make at 18-24.

  3. J Liedl permalink
    7 May, 2012 9:14 pm

    I feel the need to make more email macros to address these perennial questions although “the answer to your question is in the syllabus” would cover it all.

  4. Kath permalink
    8 May, 2012 12:10 pm

    It ain’t perfect, but getting my first years to blog their thoughts and queries in the lead up to each tutorial this semester did seem to improve the average ratio of prepared to unprepared people in the classroom. And when I did get repetitive questions which should have been answerable by consulting the syllabus, I posted a big answer/reminder to everyone, rather than responding individually to each person. I think this encouraged a general attitude of looking at the blog for information rather than coming to me, because few of them did that (except some serious cases needed guidance and reference to more professional counselling help than little old me). It may have meant that the syllabus itself became redundant, and I really hope it didn’t therefore compound the overall problem(!), but it worked in my class anyway… It probably helped that I reminded them every week about the blog, in subtle ways like congratulating someone for a really perceptive comment, and in sledge-hammer ways like taking them to task for failing to comment when a fellow student had composed the post. Managing the blog meant more work for me than usual during teaching ‘down time’, but it meant that on the day our class interactions were actually productive and not difficult to facilitate, so I guess in that sense it was an economy.

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