Honestly …. Sometimes I find teaching emotionally draining. I have worked hard at separating myself from my teaching standards. But teaching is personal… or at least it should be. I care about my students and their wellbeing. However, I encounter situations every day that challenge me as a teacher. In an attempt to relieve some of the stress from teaching, I will reflect about some of the major topics.
I realize that I teach upper level courses. Upper level courses by definition should require more thought, studying, and higher level thinking types of activities and test. Thus, the nature of my courses will be harder if you only compare them to lower level general-study courses. I have gradually become at peace about this reality. It is not me that makes the material hard… the material itself is harder. I have an incredible task to develop critical thinking skills, scholarly writing, and conceptualization. All of these task cannot be accomplished through straight lecture and memorizing material. Students have to apply the knowledge they have in ways they may have never done.
Because of this reality, some students think that my class is “so much harder” or “so much work”. In part, this is because this is true. Sometimes I feel as if I am asking students to walk in the snow barefoot up a hill… lol.. JK… but seriously… here are two stories to explain.
Scenario #1: Recently, a student said to me in class… “That’s just a lot of work to have to print out a journal article and bring it to class for in class discussion credit. Can we just print out the abstract?”
I paused… more for composure than anything… This was not the first time this student had openly complained about assignment directions. I replied “This is college. Do it or don’t do it. If you want credit, you will do it the way the directions read.”
I could tell this specific student was upset with my response, but I could tell that another student was pleasantly surprised. The other student added “It’s really not that hard to print off an article.” (I was so glad to have support from another student at this point.)
I stand by my comment to the first student. This is college… Do it or don’t do it. I hate to simplify my teaching philosophy to this level. But I think it is important for students to take responsibility of their actions (or in-actions).
Scenario #2: For the first test I do an in-class study session for all my classes. The requirement to attend the review session is that you come to class with a ¾ of the way completed review. I told them that the purpose of the review day is for them to get answers to the ¼ they had not completed and to ask me any question about the test. I emailed and told students that they would be sent home and not allowed to participate in the review if they did not bring a review. It also counted as a 10 point quiz grade. The purpose of review day is to teach them that they must start studying before the night before the test. This is also a great opportunity to build up their confidence before the test.
I had about 10% from each class that didn’t do the review. Those students showed up thinking I would not send them home. It was a sad day for that 10%. Just about every one of them left my class shocked and amazed. Did I want to send them away? No. I can only lead a student to a review day, I can’t make them fill out their review… So, 90% of all of my students got the benefit of review. In retrospect, that’s not a bad percentage.
Moral of the story:
Students may not always like you, but in the end they will understand and appreciate you for having high standards. I know why I have high teaching standards, and I know it will benefit students in the long run. I also know that it is not always pleasant to be the one enforcing high standards. I would not be the person I am today if it was not for all the teachers that set high standards for me.
Guide me in the best teaching practices. I am thankful you have put me in this profession. I pray that I will honor you with every interaction. Help me to be sensitive to student needs while also maintaining high standards. Be with me and my students as we are on this journey together. Help me to learn the lessons you would have me learn so that I can be the teacher you desire me to be.