I keep needing to remind myself to simplify, simplify, simplify.
I just realized the other day that I haven’t been in a mixed-ability classroom since I was in 8th grade. In high school I was in all honors classes and my college self-selected highly driven, intelligent women. There were definitely mixed abilities in my cohort for my MSLS, but since it was an online program, I wasn’t really aware of how others were doing in the class, other than occasionally seeing their despairing/confused posts on the message boards. My father is a teacher, my boyfriend a math professor, and most of my friends are either working on their Ph.D.s or already in possession of a Master’s. I work at a college library. I’ve been surrounded by people who are not just smart, but love learning and academia, for half my life. My expectations of what students will have as prior knowledge are continually in need of being adjusted downwards.
And this is fine–I don’t think I’ll ever be in a place (as an instructor or librarian) where I’m only dealing with the creme de la creme. It’s just going to take practice. (It’s actually very similar to the way I coach my students to include transitional sentences and phrases and look carefully at the structure of their papers, because what’s obvious to them is not necessarily obvious to the reader.)
As a side note, a student handed me this note last week that warmed the cockles of my heart. This is why I love teaching:
“I am really glad to have you to correct my paper and have the opportunity to go over it. I am really beginning to feel some comfort with the computer. We are almost becoming friends. Thank you! It will be a great paper. I will give you all I have.”
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