Defective Products?

I have the schedule from Hell.  I suppose it could be worse, but any sane people would see a worse schedule and stop the insanity.  I’m on the cusp of instanity, so it slid through.

I have classes MW 6-7:45 and TTH 10-11:45, 4-5:45 and 6-7:45.  Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2pm is when faculty meetings take place…every week.  So I have just about enough time open on those days to eat lunch.

Anyway, that’s not my topic.  I met my classes this past week and tried to impress them with how much fun they can have if they want to do so…and how much it would please their instructor if they adopted such an attitude.  Only time will tell me if I was successful in that.

Before and after my Java class one of my students expressed fear.  She’s taking the class again because she got a C- the first time.  And that’s where my topic has it’s roots.  My student expressed her feelings about having failed to learn a sufficient amount in order to be prepared for Java II.

I spent some time…I hope enough time, but probably not (we shall probably have to do this again)…trying to assure her that she was doing the best thing by deciding to retake Java I rather than continue into Java II, that she had made a wise decision and was displaying maturity in understanding that was what she needed to do.  I explained to her that we do not all learn at the same speed and that some of us need to go through the material more times than others and that there is nothing wrong with that.  The point, after all, is that she develop the skill set that she will need, not that she do them on a prescribed schedule.

She looked at me dubiously.  I have to admit that I was dubious about what I said as well.  Because the truth is that our system is not set up to accomplish what I listed above.  In her entire educational life, all her learning has been scheduled and if she gets behind schedule, she will be labeled a failure.


Why must education be such an assembly line process?  Why must we reject those who can’t fit on that conveyer belt like so many defecting cogs and perhaps damage them psychologically and/or socially for the rest of their lives?  Why can’t treat our students as individuals?

I’ve traveled down this mental path before in my 31 years of teaching…many times.  I’ve tried to battle against the process.  I’ve normally been beaten back and sometimes my frustration level has risen to the level where I have considered leaving the profession.  That I don’t do so is because I realize that being a teacher is the best means I have available to institute positive change in this reality through my efforts.  But I’ve got to wonder why I’ve spent these many years trying to push forward when the conveyer belt is headed in the other direction.

Am I really making a difference?  I don’t know.  But I will continue to tilt at this windmill as long as I am able.

Meanwhile I have some students I need to teach.  Ands I shall remember that they are individuals and what is important is that they learn…eventually.

Available at Daily Kos.


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    • Robyn on September 1, 2007 at 18:08

    It’s interesting how discussion of the same piece can go in different directions.


    • pico on September 1, 2007 at 18:33

    when I teach language.  We have two separate systems to keep in mind: 1. the university system, which says that anything higher than a C- average constitutes a passing grade and meets the minimum requirement for advancement to the next level of language learning, and 2. the actual language-learning system, which says that even some students who pull off a respectable grade may not have mastered one level sufficiently enough to perform acceptably at the next level.  Naturally we have to defer to the first, because students trying to meet requirements and finish on time don’t have the luxury of repeating (or the money to repeat) classes that they don’t “need”.  In a really bad scenario, we try to send the student overseas during the summer to make up lost ground, but that isn’t always possible.

  1. i try to impress on the youngins i encounter that they ARE where theyre supposed to be…when they say things like ‘im supposed to be in x grade, but…’ 

    its very important to a lot of people that they, and oh, my, yes, their children fit ‘the norm’.  if theyre ‘better’ than average, yeah, you can tell them that….

    and its really hard to get some to accept that a passing ‘grade’ isnt necessarily a good indicator of a grasp of something.  there’s a whole discussion in there about how students choose classes and how they approach the work…not to learn, but to achieve the appropriate grade.  if only learning made them feel as good as the grades do…..sigh… 

    • pfiore8 on September 1, 2007 at 18:41

    learning… they think it’s a recipe… here are the ingredients… the measurements, then stir, shake, blend, beat, fold, sift, then cook, bake, fry, grill, poach, steam…

    and viola… perfect every time!

    i always wondered what would have happened if the hunter types had had more input into the way we learn…

    it seems the gathers… the ones that stayed put… developed a system based on reproducibility: the sun comes up and it goes down… you plant now and harvest then…

    hunters, it would seem, would be more the ADD types… able to be distracted to hear danger rather than hyper focus… adaptability to situations and strategies

    just a thought…

  2. SO intense these days!

    My son (now 20) went from a very small ‘country’ school, where he did very well, to a 3000 student high school….where he fell apart under the pressure.

    Once we pulled him out of there and got him into an alternative school he began to blossom again. But one of the HUGE reasons he doesn’t want to go to college yet is that feeling of immense unbearable pressure, that we seem to put on our kids just when they are hugely vulnerable due to puberty and identity issues.

    We are a sick society…and only getting worse.

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