Look in the Mirror

A colleague suggested we cancel our highest-level seminars because “they are too hard and students don’t want to sign up for them.” Of course, my highest-level seminar this semester is over-enrolled but it’s easier to generalize and make assumptions about students than wonder if it’s not the course but yourself that they are avoiding.

In my experience, students don’t come to a course. They come to a person. I’m teaching Cervantes this semester. We simply do not teach anything harder than that. Plus, I have a charming habit of scheduling my courses on Friday mornings when nobody else wants to teach or come to campus. And yet I never worry that my classes won’t make minimal enrollment and will be cancelled. I worry that everybody who wants to sign up won’t fit into the classroom.

The same colleague complains that students cheat and use Google Translate. I have the same students but they all hand in honestly written essays with tons of mistakes. I can’t remember when anybody handed in anything written at above their level of language proficiency.

9 thoughts on “Look in the Mirror

  1. “on Friday mornings when nobody else wants to teach or come to campus”
    Does that mean that at your university many teachers enjoy a four-day week? Is this common practice across the United States?

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    1. Four??? Nobody teaches 4 days a week. I’m one of very few people who teach 3 days a week. Everybody else does 2.

      This is a system of very spoilt people who don’t understand that their lifestyle is utterly unsustainable. For his long can the system exist in which people teach intro-level, very basic courses for 3 hours twice a week for 7 months in a year, do absolutely nothing else, and make $90,000 per year + the best free healthcare imaginable + full retirement at 56?

      This is our system, and who’s surprised it’s falling apart?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wasn’t aware. Now I understand why US academics feel so entitled. The picture also gets much clearer as to why Wokism and Wokery originated and developed in academia. Thank you for throwing light on something that had escaped me so far.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly, it’s the entitlement. I try to tell people that this is not normal. It’s a model that’s doomed. But all they do is pout. Coming to work even just twice a week was deemed too onerous during COVID. These are people who are incapable of objective thinking.

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      2. When I was in college, this always seemed so unfair. Profs could choose to work just two or three days a week, by slotting all their classes into the MWF or T-TH schedule. But what that meant was that as a student, you almost certainly had to attend five days a week to maintain a full courseload, because the maths profs were doing three days a week, the English profs were doing two, etc. If it was set up so that the profs had to do BOTH– like, offer a MWF class AND offer a T-Th class, then it would have been possible to set up a schedule that allowed me to work a fairly decent part-time (or even fulltime!) job on the off-days.

        Given the difference in pay rates between profs and students, it seemed like it would have been a reasonable courtesy to require the profs to work five days, so the students, who were much more likely to need an off-campus job, could more easily work. I know it doesn’t actually work that way. Still.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Our students all work, and it takes them 7-8 years to graduate because our schedule shrinks constantly. We killed all evening courses, for example. Evening courses were great for those who work full-time. Now it’s all gone. At the same time, we are told that we have to speed up students’ graduation. That’s completely nuts.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “…students don’t come to a course. They come to a person”

    Yes! The only people who don’t understand this seem to be the bad teachers. Most university professors have sufficient command of the material they are supposed to teach that they could, at least in principle, do a good job. But teaching is not about just vomiting content at students (or, more likely, droning on next to PPT slides at students). There is much more to it, and most of it is unfortunately not transferable. If you are an engaging, charismatic presence, if you organize the material and lecture in a way that flows logically and challenges students, they will want to come listen to anything you say. People want to feel fired up, engaged, and most of all they want to feel like they can rise to a meaningful challenge. That’s why none of your students cheat — they want to show you and themselves that they can rise to the challenge. A vast majority of my undergrads don’t cheat for what I believe is the same reason — the classes I teach are objectively hard, and I am notorious for teaching the hardest incarnations of the classes, but my enrollments are always full and I have a waitlist. Part of it is that I apparently do explain things better than most (so I am repeatedly told), which honestly I think ties to the above — it has to be engaging and they have to want to show up and listen to you — but part of it must be that even though the classes are hard, I communicate to students that I wouldn’t assign what I do if I weren’t absolutely sure they could rise to the occasion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “students don’t come to a course. They come to a person”

      A few years ago I was complaining that the really awful timing of an elective course I was offering meant there weren’t as many students as I was used to…
      “There are only about twelve…” (I was used to closer to thirty at that time)
      “Shhhhh said a sympathetic colleague… (big wigs in the department whose courses were very favorably scheduled) only have three or four students each”
      So I shut up. The numbers approved a bit and when I redid the course a couple of years later I was back to around thirty…. but a few years later new “regulations” and other adminsitrative factors meant I don’t get to do electives at all… (maybe after this year, we’ll see…)

      Liked by 2 people

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