25 August 2010

I Feel for Students

I feel for students who find out when they arrive at college that they've been duped. They're confounded because they were in AP classes in high school and need math and English remediation. They fail entry level courses although they had a high school GPA of 3.6. Sure grade inflation is one culprit, but it doesn't happen in a vacuum. What's going on?

I don't have kids, and I'm currently not teaching, so I get all this from colleagues who have kids of their own and teach. One colleague told me he feels like everyone is in a bubble. He teaches Freshman a required GE course, and is regularly astonished at how astonished students are when they're failing. And all the kids on his kids' baseball teams get trophies, he said. It's like no one wants the(ir) kid to not-be-good. Or maybe it's that no one knows how to give her corrective feedback.

In another situation, at faculty training workshop about online writing resources, an instructor was lamenting that her students (grad students in teacher ed) wouldn't use the tool unless it "was made more palatable" for them.
Huh? I thought.
She continued that they wouldn't see the value of content not directly related to the course.
Here's the value I'd propose. "Take the diagnostic test so you know where you stand. It's required in this class. And just so you know, the test often reveals that students have more weaknesses than they think. Then consider this: If you want to be a teacher, you must know how to write. If you want to do be anything other than a fast-food worker or janitor, you must know how to write."

This instructor seemed to be in that bubble. I found it astonishing that she was unable to see this value herself, not the least in light of the fact most of her students, and she herself, are non-native speakers of English.