Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I should have said.

I gave an exam in one of my classes this week. One of the students - this is the person I talked about before who shut down when they couldn't quickly find the lab in the lab manual and accused me of not putting it in - claimed that she didn't like my exams because they were "too hard."

That led to a little eruption of griping - I needed to give more detailed review guides (oh, my children. Let me tell you a tale, back in the Pleistocene when I went to college...there were NO review guides. And there was no WebCT where you could look up class notes. No, my children, you were entirely on your own. And some of the professors were even mean! And some only had 2 hours of office hours all week and were never in outside of office hours!)

So anyway. I let them gripe and listened, partly because there's always the off-chance there's a genuine grievance in there I need to address, but also partly because I figured they needed to let off steam before the test.

(As for the "too hard" - this is a class that earned like a 72% average on the first exam. I don't think the exams are too hard).

Another person griped that "You expect a lot of us. This is a hard class."

Well, yes, I acknowledged. This is a class with a lot of challenging material and I understand that.

What I didn't say, but perhaps should have, is this:

"Yes, I expect a lot of you. But I expect a lot of you because I believe you can do these things. I think that if you work hard and apply yourself a little, you can learn this material. I have students coming back from their grad-school programs thanking me for being tough, because they are finding they are well-prepared.

If I didn't expect a lot of you - if I made the class a giant easy A, you should be insulted. Because what I'd be saying with that is, 'I don't believe you can work up to high standards, so I'll just pat you on the head and move you along.'"

I didn't say it, partly because I felt there wasn't time (and some of those things might have been a little harsh), but also because we've become so "student centered" that I could see someone taking it the wrong way and going to the dean. (And I really want to avoid our current dean as much as possible. Our current dean is a super-micro-manager who will make your life kind of miserable if they think there is a problem with how you "interact" with the students).

But it's true: from what I've seen of these students in class and in lab, they are ALL smart enough to handle the material. Some of them may not WANT to work as hard as it would ideally require, but they're all smart enough.

Another observation: A lot of this class is med-school-bound. If they think *I* cover a lot of material and expect "too much," then they have a big, bad surprise waiting for them.

"Do the hard things," kids. Anything worth doing in this life takes effort.


Dave E. said...

They're paying for an education, they should be happy that you are giving them one. I mean, if they don't want what they are paying for, why don't they just stay home?

Heroditus Huxley said...

I hated the easy classes. I didn't particularly enjoy taking classes with the students who wanted every class to be easy, either--too many professors gave in to the whining.

I honestly feel cheated in my education. Everything was too easy. I had maybe one or two teachers that challenged me, in six years of higher education.