Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Classroom is not the Front Line

Over the past four years I have taught “traditional” college-aged students in their late teens to early twenties, as well as “adult learners” and “mature students”; these are all labels that don’t necessarily seem to translate inside the classroom: they are all students.

My students are individuals with a drive for individual success, a sense of responsibility and a set of needs that lead to expectations that I hope to meet and exceed if not the first class, by the last.  Not all of my students are happy about being in a classroom; they don't all want to be there. But the battle is not between them and I; it is not personal.  And so I will teach them--but I won't fight them. I don't picture myself forcibly injecting knowledge or administering academic CPR.

Though I struggle with names, I hope to build relationships with each student and learn their personalities, goals and needs in ways that make sense to me: I learn about people through their words, mainly through their writing. As an instructor in various forms of writing, I teach students to write effectively to reach not just me, but their target audience in whatever arena they are in.

I’ve been reading a lot about mental health in education; about students feeling isolated, depressed and lost.

A few weeks ago my daughter saw a young woman step in front of a bus: grades had just been released.

A reminder to my academic colleagues: give students the grades they earn and help them work through them. Give constructive, positive feedback and be available to provide assistance, an ear, a light. If academia is a battleground for you, if this is your opportunity to “weed out the weak”—consider another line of work. My job is to provide tools and to teach students how to think critically and creatively; to build up a generation of thinkers.

Am I asking you to be a therapist, a psychologist, a friend?

It doesn’t matter what name you put on it be a human.

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