a reaction to The 4-Stage Response to Low Student Achievement
I read an article on the Chronicle of Higher Ed online today about the four stages professors go through after they start teaching introductory-level classes. The stages are in response to unexpectedly low student achievement, and are:
- contempt (aka passive acceptance or resignation)
The author shares his responses to each of the four stages and they’re enlightening and saddening at the same time. I have definitely gone through these stages myself (and urge you to read the article if you’re a new instructor yourself; it’s a quick, insightful read), but wanted to share the last paragraph, since it really struck me:
“Sometimes a lesson about consequences is the most you can hope for a student to learn. For professors, acceptance, in the active, constructive sense, means being OK with that outcome, once intervention has been attempted and failed. But if other students are capable of improvement, accepting their limitations means accepting that they need a nudge.”
When my students e-mail me about missed deadlines, or come to class saying they couldn’t do the homework because the site was down/their log-ins didn’t work (when we meet once a week and they didn’t attempt to contact me BEFORE class about the problem…), the compassionate part of me wants to say, “Okay, I’ll let it slide this time.” Or, “How about a one-day extension on your paper [that was assigned 3 weeks ago] since you had the flu?” but I can’t. Like the author, I’ve come to realize that, perhaps more than anything else, they will learn consequences in my class. College–especially a career college–is supposed to be preparation for the real world. If you don’t give a patient her medicine on time, she could die. If you don’t submit legal paperwork before the midnight deadline, you could lose your case. The IRS doesn’t take excuses if your taxes are filed one day late. Consequences must be learned at some point, and that point may be my class.
I’ve decided I’m okay with that. While I want my students to like me, I am not there to be their friend. I am there to teach them skills that will help them become productive workers and well-informed citizens. Taking responsibility for your actions (or inactions) is a small piece of that.
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