Monday, April 25, 2011


One of my greatest challenges as an instructor is to maintain perspective. I may find the subjects I teach to be fascinating, if not riveting, but as I look out across the classroom and I see students with their heads down, buried behind a computer screen, or trotting in late to class, it gives me reason to pause. Have I not made my classroom expectations clear enough? Am I really that boring? But I have to remind myself to stop short of asking: Who the hell are these people? Don't they know this is important?

I came across this post recently and had to pause yet again. I have to strongly disagree with the blog's author; the scenario as it's laid out is not about email etiquette, or about student ethos, this is a scenario about professors/instructors taking a moment to ask a question: What else is happening in my students' lives? What choices do they have to make and to what extent am I prepared to help them?

In this particular case the student is asking permission to go on a hunting trip. But it just as easily could have been a student asking for time off for a shift at work, taking care of a sick child, or no longer being able to pay for the bus fair to campus to even attend class. I sympathize with the bruised ego of the instructor (Why should I do extra work so you can go on vacation?), but I blister at the idea that the student doesn't care about class. I would argue the contrary, a student that communicates respectfully, who suggests alternatives and asks for help is the one who does care. Life is complicated, and messy, and volatile for both students and instructors. It's a matter of perspective.

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