Saturday, October 15, 2016

Compromising in Education

It has been a really weird week for me. First the Trump tape came out which really struck a nerve with me, then the debate where Trump lurking behind Clinton, then I gave the exams in my two classes. Both classes pretty much bombed it even though they had 5 days to study for barely two chapters. I just wanted to go in a cave and not show my face. I felt terrible as a professor, as a woman and in general as a human being.

I thought deep and hard for two days before I had to face my students to give their exams back. What would I say? How would they feel? Could I control my temper? I did not want to give a pep talk. I feel the pep talks are over rated. Students know what they are doing - they just don't think about the consequences of their actions.

Then I kept thinking of my evaluation.  All the administration wants to see is student success from me. I am the sole person responsible. No one wants to see the quality of the students or the burdens they have while going to school.  No one asks them to be responsible for their learning.  The employers want the people they hire to be ready to work, the administrators want student success, the students want to pass the class without really studying ..... so the only person with any moral dilemma is me! I am the one holding everyone back from their goals - except the employers. They will never get a "job" ready employee because the whole system of making that employee is broken.

As I said, this last week was really hard. I had this discussion with myself on quality vs student success. And then I thought why am I being so hard on myself? If both the students and administration want the same thing then who am I to stand in the middle? These students have so much pressure outside school - work, family, time issues.  I never had to study under these circumstances. I will never understand how the richest country in the world cannot provide cheaper education.  And the can they not pay for their children? Its too much burden on a 20 year old, to go to school and pay for their own education.

So then I decided to change my style. I decided to change my exams from what "I" thought the students should know to what the "students" think they should know.  After so many years I decided to give a second chance on an exam to my students.  I know of so many instructors who don't cover all the material, so many who give open book exams...why am I busting my behind to make life hard for my students? Why should they have to suffer just because they have me as their professor? They can do better on the exams and feel better about themselves and I will feel good that they are doing good. So what if I don't cover all the chapters? So what if they don't all become as ready as a chemistry undergraduate will be...these are not chemistry majors. Most are going on for other professions, so most don't even care about chemistry as I would want them to.

Somewhere inside a small part of me will probably die. I already feel like I am cheating my students by not challenging them more. I want them to become more competitive in the world....but they don't see it this way. Ultimately the compromise is everyone's: mine - for not teaching to the level I think I should; the student's - for not challenging themselves to reach their potential; the administrator's - for making a poor product; and finally the biggest loser is America itself - for thinking it's investing so much in education but not getting the quality worker it needs.

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