The beginning of the year is hard for everyone, students and teachers alike. It’s a time when we set the foundations for relationships the rest of the year.
Every teacher teaches differently, and as students, our job in the first few weeks of school is to figure out what that looks like. We learn the structure, schedule and aesthetics of each class and try to figure out how to meet demands and deadlines. This is also when we start to learn which teachers we can trust, and which we can’t.
If someone tells me how they want things turned in, the difficulty level of the assignments and how they want to be addressed, I have no problem adhering to any of that as long as the instructions are clear. I have a big problem, however, with teachers that try to act intimidating on purpose.
There are few things more irritating or off-putting to students than teachers telling students how most people who take their class fail. Students tend to take this in one of two ways: they immediately stop caring about the class, or they panic. As a “panic-er,” please stop doing that to me.
When you stand at the front of a class and tell your students you have made the class ridiculously hard, the only ones who will take you seriously are the ones who were going to anyway. We are adults, and though we range in age, we need to be treated like adults who are expected to do their work, rather than children who have to be frightened into it.
I fully understand it’s not your job to coddle us or affirm every one of our worries, and that’s not what I want. Managing stress is one of the things college is designed to help us learn. If a field is going to be stressful, we should know about it without sugarcoating.
As someone entering the highly competitive field of theater, I know I’m setting myself up for a lot of hard work and rejection to get anywhere at all. I appreciate teachers who are honest about that upfront and give me assignments that reflect it.
There’s a distinction, though, between being upfront with students about the kind of coursework they are taking on, and puffing yourself up as someone who is too good to deal with student mistakes. We know you’re an expert, or we wouldn’t take your class.
We are also taking your class because we hope to grow in that area (or we need the credit, in which case you didn’t have us from the start). Thus, intentionally making your class so hard that only a few people manage to pass at all rigs us against getting anything worthwhile out of it.
We expect to grow by the end of the class, especially if the material is difficult. It’s your job to teach us how to do that. If “nobody passes your class,” please teach it better or nobody will learn anything at all, except that they don’t want to take any classes from you again.
This isn’t high school, and we are here on purpose. Please pay us the respect of understanding that we are here because we want to get something out of our time, and don’t be cruel to us just because you feel like it “prepares us for the real world.”
Yes, the real world will not take kindly to shoddy work, and we know that, but there are plenty of people out there compassionate enough to support new employees and not give them an unattainable standard. A realistic view of the working world would show us both sides: the difficult, time-consuming side, and the side that makes our field worth studying at all.
Photo courtesy of uccs.edu.