Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dancing without a partner

Doug and I agreed that our postings to the blog would be limited to stimulating prompts and the occasional responses to intriguing comments. Now that we're closing in on mid-term, I'd like to take the liberty, once again, to share some thoughts from the other side of the desk.

Nothing delights university teachers more than a class of engaged, eager minds. Conversely, few things fill us with more dread than teaching the disengaged. It isn't the amount of work involved in teaching the latter group that we dread. It's the fear that what we, as teachers, have devoted our lives to leaves our students cold and we fear the lengths to which we'll go to warm you up.
Imagine you're at a party when a tune comes on that you really like and nobody will dance with you. You make a pass by all potential partners, but no takers. Your choices are clear. You can stand by the wall, nodding your head and snapping your fingers in a desperate attempt to keep the groove alive or you can go to the middle of the room and, with total abandon, spin around like a dervish, hoping that somebody will join you or at least those who turned you down will envy your joy.
Too often professors are the party nerds dancing without partners, even in a room of 200. To be fair, sometimes the class can't figure out the rhythm; it's too complex. Sometimes the beat is too fast, or too slow. Some instructors will break a sweat going over the steps. If after all this we still get no signs of life, we will change the record, hoping another tune will get you out of your seats.

Some instructors resort to theatrics or treats: execute handstands, enter the classroom on a skateboard, dress in period costumes or pass out pizza slices. Still others scream, curse like soldiers on furlough or pull on hand puppets -- just to raise a pulse in their students.

Dear bloggers, should it take all of this to get you to dance with us?


Blogger Graeme said...

Literally, yes. Figuratively, no.

Students and teachers share a bilateral relationship, one which needs cooperation from both sides of the spectrum. It is the responsibility of the teacher to teach us in a way that is fair, academically correct, and interesting. On the other hand, it is the student's responsibility to perform their part via tests, participation, etc....

Many people in academia would probably disagree with me on my following opinion: If a student shows no concern, interest, or respect for the professor and their class then, to put it not-so-politely, screw 'em. Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the student. It is their choice to be in higher education in the first place, and if they don't give a tinker's damn about it, what can you do? Why should the time a professor can allot to an engaged student be sacrificed to go out of their way for some disinterested pupil? It shouldn't.

However, to be fair and balanced, I do believe a professor should do everything in their power to a help a student who is giving their best effort though they may be struggling. I know, I've been there. It can make a student's day to be shown a professor cares about them and wants to help.

And above all, please be interesting. There's nothing worse on a student's part than to sit through a lecture class whose professor could have quite possibly taught Herbert Hoover.

We're not babies anymore. As trite as it is, we are now old enough to make our own decisions. For those who care, show us the way; for those who don't, show 'em the damn door!

12:14 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

in a world where we all have become sooo desensitized to everything around us i'm sad to say that yes, it does take extra effort to get our attention. however, i don't mind dancing by myself once in awhile. eventually someone will join you. and i think those are the people who you want to be around in the end anyway. even if this does require you to stand on your head or run around the room or bring in guest speakers ;o) haha. isn't is worth it when you see the success that comes from it?

1:25 AM  

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