I’ve been teaching journalism at the college level for 10 years and, trust me, I still have a lot to learn.
Yesterday I helped organize our college’s new faculty orientation, where recently hired instructors and counselors meet to learn about the campus, the expectations and the basics about the job.
But this time we tried something a little different.
One of our colleagues invited students to share their experiences and offer advice to the new faculty. And what they said was, well, helpful.
One student told the new instructors to answer e-mails promptly. Another advised they meet their own standards. And still another emphasized showing excitement and passion for the subjects they’re teaching. “If you’re not excited about it, why should I be?” he said, rhetorically.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been a student, and as a teacher, sometimes we forget what that’s like. We tend to blame the change of attitude in or higher demands of this younger generation and not self-reflect as much as we should.
I mean, maybe it’s US!
So I’m asking you to dig deep — some of you deeper than others! — to back when you were in high school or college and find some tips or advice I can pass on to these new faculty members.
See the good in every student. Even the one who grates on your last nerve, EVERY day. As a former teacher (I got out because I lost sight of what it was I was trying to do) I look back on my time as a teacher and I think about what I would do differently, and I realize that I needed to see the good in every student, not just the ones who were super smart and did all their homework, but the ones that ended up being the real jerkfaces too. Took me about 3 years OUT of teaching to realize that all these kids needed was someone to care about them. As a teacher, and especially a YOUNG teacher, you can be that person. Be that mentor, that one that the student can go to, because you never know if you’re the best or only role model they have. That’s my advice.
Agree. Kids work hardest and do their best work for teachers who seem to care about them as people. They may do good work for other teachers out of fear, but it isn’t their best work, and it is the fear that the students will remember, not the subject.
always believe the words that come out of a students mouth. No just kidding, but something along those lines. In high school i passed the AP English composition test, but apparently its not accepted at UH Manoa. I contested that, and battled with the english department because after taking their writing placement exam I was placed in ENG 197, Introduction to University Writing. Sounds great yeah? Well in order to take ENG 100, which most people get placed into, I had to pass ENG 197. I started that class telling the instructor that I didnt belong there but she actually told me “well obviously you do since you got placed here”. Long story short..I didnt belong there, the UH english department is dumb, and sometimes the dog really did eat the homework
Tell them that it’s normal to NOT be able to master every element in a field – that sometimes, the gracious and true response to a student’s question is “I don’t know,” to be followed up immediately by, “But let’s try to figure it out,” or “I’ll look it up and get back to you next class.” This makes the class more interesting (“oh, this field isn’t dry and set in stone”), models a spirit of curiosity and inquiry (“if I don’t know something, it’s ok to ask”), and makes the instructor more credible (“s/he’s not going to BS us if s/he doesn’t know something, but will help us find the answer.”).
its a brave new world. For both sides. Cant compete with the fancy new electronic gadgets and social media sites. In other words……turn the damn phone off,pay attention, and lets engage in face 2 face dialogue.
Always understand that students come to college with a story. Some stories are good and some are not so good. Yes, it is important to enforce discipline but it is also important to know when to give in a little. One student my first semester begged me for more time to get something done. My boss said to just flunk her… she needed to grow up. Thought that was a bit harsh so I took her to lunch, instinct told me to do it. Turned out the day before school started her best friend was killed in a head-on collision. She was supposed to go out with the group that night but decided at the last minute not to go. She was having a hard time of it. Went out of my way to help her the rest of the semester… she passed with a C+ and if truth be told it should have been a D-. Convinced her to take some time off and come back which she did. She’s been a President’s List student since she returned. But there have been those that never came to class, didn’t do their work because they thought they could get away with it. It is oh so hard to figure out who is who in these cases. So I say try to get to know the students as best you can and listen to what students say about each other, it helps figure out who is real and who is not.
I agree with a previous post that says try to see the good because we live in a society hell bent on finding the bad and making sure everyone knows it. It was my mission in life to make sure the kids knew I would help them anyway I could and I wouldn’t change that. every now and then some jerk takes advantage of generosity but the good ones are worth it.
But seriously the administration will be your worst nightmare. and I have never understood why that is. There are more little fiefdoms in academia than any place I have ever seen. At times it seems everyone is suspicious of everyone else. And the scariest people at most institutions are the ones who have tenure and abuse it.
CAT: In my time I had 2 or 3 very enthusiastic teachers that made a difference in my life. For that I am grateful. Having a passion for the subject is infectious and helps the student do better. My thing would be to try and relate why the subject matter is important. At a young age, few realize the importance of the subject material only that it is a required course. If there was more relating how the subject matter fits in later life it would be taken more seriously. I think contemporary students believe that they should be “entertained” like a video game by their teacher. I guess being a teacher is like show biz since you are always “on stage” except for test time.
When I was a student, my friend described me as an “academic punk”, because that if I didn’t like the teacher I would try to get under their skin! For example, One of the American lit. teachers constantly lambasted European writers, so I would spell British in my papers. He accused me of plagarism. The point that he missed was that it didn’t matter about what I felt about him personally, it was more his close-mindedness & inflexibilty that I found distasteful. I hope as a teacher, you have the requisite dedication & continuing interest in the entire process. If you have an academic punk in your midst, please consider them as perhaps testing your teaching mettle.
btw, a question I would almost always ask would be “Excuse me, I have a dumb question to ask…”, the response would normally be “there is not such thing as a dumb question”, but a teacher, whom would gain my highest regard, answered in the typical manner but added “but there is the dumb guy asking the question” heh, heh
Once a student said to me ‘I have a really dumb question’ and my response was ‘Will it top the one you asked last class’ to which everyone laughed. Then I explained to them that everyone says there are no stupid or dumb questions, my take is that it is all a matter of degrees but in this class there is complete freedom of expression. You can asked the most mind numbingly clueless questions and that will be OK because we all come from different places and one persons stupid is another’s Einstein. We can all laugh at it but no one is allowed to make fun of it. We had some rowdy discussions and those discussions help make the point. Most classes I would get the students arguing about something before I got to the material. Loved to walk in and say something like, ‘The Bruins looked like a bunch of figure skaters last night’ or ‘The Lakers offense is so bad the celtics don’t need to play defense’ and five minutes later or less someone would offer up something that was related to what we were there to talk about and away we would go. academics take themselves too seriously for my tastes, always have, always will. I’d love a student to ‘mess with me’ in class because of the fun I would have with them during the semester. Believe me when I tell you I was an academic pink when I was a kid and that is why I recognize it so easily. and frankly if a teacher can’t see it and use it to make the class moe interesting they should be doing something else for a living.
Hello Cat, show that you really care about your students and try to know each students names.