Saturday, March 24th, 2007
Something’s been bothering me of late. It has to do with college student responsibility. Why is it bothering me? A couple of reasons. I find more students not observing the time and date of my meetings with them. I did not determine these dates and times, though I agreed with them in consultation with my wonderful English Department chair. I entered class a few weeks back and found 4 students waiting for me. 4 out of fifteen, more if I count the roster.
I’ve been teaching in various capacities for about fourteen years, more if I count student teaching as TA and GA. I have, therefore, a span of time to work with in terms of tracking how my experience of the classroom has changed. It’s changed dramatically. At UT El Paso, I began teaching Composition courses. I would typically start out with courses full of students and end semesters with about the same amount of people. These days, writing courses start out pretty much loaded and I end semesters with less than half of students submitting portfolios. Not all of them will meet the requirements for success. Attitudes have not changed; behavior has.
One reason for diminished student success has to do with the amount of stress students lay on themselves during the course of a semester. I find that many more people are not participating in course work in addition to their lack of attendance. Lack of attendance and missed meetings stresses a student’s experience. Here’s a scenario. A student misses a class where I go over how to organize and deal with counterargument or I provide examples of analysis in a section of an argument. The object here is to provide practice. If a student misses this discussion, they miss the subject entirely or won’t pick up on its variations later on.
This is fine to a point. People can’t always attend. Stuff happens, and we work with students who have other responsibilities to balance.
Nevertheless, I find that behavior is affecting my own attitude and and my own ability to teach. If a few students miss, I can catch them up and see them to the next level inside the course. If many students miss, I have to move to the next level and hope the students somehow catch up. I have to rely on several students staying alert with the readings. If not, I’m essentially teaching to an empty room and speaking to people who really don’t know what I’m driving at. My main technique is the Socratic method. I enter, ask questions, play with the responses, and build to deeper questions that leave students wanting to find out more. But this method–lecture, debate, discussion–needs a variety of opinion and a variety of response. If the majority of students don’t read on the subject, questions about the topic have no context.
Most faculty, I would argue, put a lot of preparation into what they do day to day. Their time between teaching–what some people call breaks–is taken up with prep, catch-up, field work, and revision. The good teachers I know never stop what they do. They’re also adding to their approaches with weblogs, wikis, xml technology, database use, new emphases to teaching approaches, and the ubiquitous upgrades to equipment. Councilors and other support staff hold long hot hours, bolstering systems, and working with students to get them where they want to go. Throughout the year, most faculty fulfill their responsibilities; many I know break their backs on behalf of students.
We have our duds, too, people who give colleges and universities a black eye, who take advantage, who ruin. We always will have them. I have my own horror stories about the faculty member who fucked up by forgetting to challenge. And I can still see the eyes rolling in the room when Dr. Whatshisface opened the book and started reading from it. I also remember meeting up with other students to make up for the loss.
It’s my belief that liberal education at college should remain a choice. Literature courses should be offered at colleges and universities. Hopefully students will want to take them, or, if they have to take then, as directed by their degree requirements, they should channel their best efforts towards learning what a course has to offer because that costs nothing. It is also my belief that students who do not want to take a literature course should not do so, even if their degree requires it. To extend that logic, people who don’t really want to attend college, should try something else out for a while, or find success on another life track (college isn’t the only game going). However, if a student, regardless of reason, choses to attend, then they must understand that certain expectations come with that choice.
The Fallacy of Subjugation
People often have odd reactions to form in essay writing. They see a 12 point font or MLA requirement as somehow taking away from their creativity or from some other area of their time. My answer to the typical “Why do we have to do it this way?” is, “You don’t.”
“What is the MLA’s reasoning” is an entirely different question.
1. Form can be learned.
2. It doesn’t require much time.
3. It can add to depth of study.
“Why in CSS is border:none non compliant?”
Everyone must deal with form: in law, politics, engineering, and architecture. The larger point here is that we all must learn to negotiate with a variety of forces external to us. Citation requirements, reading lists, and academic demands are simply three examples of such learned negotiation. But if a person doesn’t want to comply with simple forms or read, then they don’t have to comply.
What follows is a list of ethical position I think students should take in a college environment. Each one of them embeds a related ethic for college and university personnel.
1. They should take on an aggressive urge to learn things. This one is key because it costs nothing. There are 24 hours to the day. It can be taken up with work, worry, study, or any other activity. Over a three month period, a person can study and get a lot out of a design course or not attend and get nothing from it, all within the same time span.
2. They should demand a rigorous curriculum. Carpentry is not easy.
3. They should seek out opportunities to apply learning and to question what we think we know.
4. They should try to beat the learning environment at its own game. All the good teachers I know want their students to challenge them and their discipline, to push them and it forward. I want people to provide different readings and reflections of Othello, to acquire and use their growing knowledge in meaningful and new ways.
5. They should expect to earn the right to a hearing. This ethic can’t be purchased.
6. They should seek out complexity. Not because atomic structures are complex, but because people are.
This is a duplicate post.