Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And this is why...

I have to say, first off: we are not a highly competitive school to get into. I am fine with that; I have made my peace with it and accept that sometimes we get students who are, perhaps, less-prepared for college than they might be.

(In some cases that's knowledge-base wise, in others it's time-management wise, and in still others, it may be an emotional or immaturity issue).

You learn to adapt. And to value the students who ARE prepared and are high achievers. And to celebrate the improvements - even if they seem small by other campus' standards - of the students who have struggled.

And you try not to bitch publicly about the students when they frustrate you. (Or, I try to bitch about BEHAVIORS rather than individuals - because really, I have some students who are nice people but certainly have vexing behaviors, like not wanting to put a level of effort into their work that I think they are easily capable of).

Anyway. The other day, a certain individual on campus was very publicly complaining about how "unprepared" the students were, and how "lazy" they were and how "I would have higher expectations for a HIGH SCHOOL than what I'm allowed to have here."

Um, that might be partly why you are now forced to look for a new job?

As I said, you adapt. I am sometimes frustrated by the discomfort with/lack of experience with math that some of our students have, but I've just learned, you take a couple steps backward, you show steps you might not otherwise expect to show, you open your door for people who are freaked out and sit them down and make reassuring sounds and tell them, "You can get this eventually, it will just take some work" and you help them and sometimes, if it's true, you say things like, "I was confused by this the first time I ever saw it, let me try to help you."

Our student body isn't perfect. But after having TAed rich kids from the Chicago 'burbs when I was a grad student, I will take a guy who needs more help with math but who says "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" to me, and who thanks me when I help him, over someone who EXPECTS I help them and takes it as their due - and who seems to see college as four more years of partying before they have to join Daddy's firm and sort-of work for a living.

The thing is, the "unprepared and lazy" students in my department? When they do graduate (sometimes they take five, rather than four years to do this), they get jobs. Jobs in their field. We seem to be pretty highly thought-of by some of the state agencies. So I take that as evidence that our student body is actually pretty OK, and that we must be doing some good to prepare them.

I've been making a conscious decision to avoid the bitch sessions that some people have here lately; I find I'm happier and that may reflect in my teaching. It's easier to be contented and grateful for what you have if you don't hear other people talking about how "awful" it is.

Because really, truly, it ISN'T "awful." Having had other family members in academia, I've heard about "awful" departments and "awful" campuses, and compared to what goes on at some of them, this place is a paradise.


Dave E. said...

"We seem to be pretty highly thought-of by some of the state agencies."

That is a wonderful thing and one that should be cultivated; for your students, for your department, and for the institution as a whole.

Nurturing that should be part of the strategic plan for your department and school. It's big. Don't let that slip off into oblivion.

Anonymous said...

We kindred are.