1.5 haters*. I’ll take it!

Finally sorted out some access issues for my teaching evaluations from ETEC565A Fall 2010. In general UBC’s CWL system gets a bit verklempt when someone has multiple roles. As one who avails himself of his tuition waiver (otherwise I feel like I’m giving the university free money. Weird, I know), I am one such confounder.  But the amazing folks in CTLT who keep our CourEval system running tickety-boo stepped in and stepped up. Thank you! Merci! Go raibh míle maith agat!

I’ve never been the sort of teacher who wants to be popular. The best teachers–and mentors–I’ve had have been tough and fair. I try to be too.  Some folks who’ve taken my courses think I’m the most inflexible, unreasonable, anal jerk in Canada; others in the same class think I’m compassionate, nurturing, and supportive. Which camp is right?

Neither, really. When it comes to things like concessions I follow a few principles:

  1. My Dad was a detective; I’m not. And won’t be
  2. Sometimes my Mom figured out I was struggling and stepped in.
  3. When Mom didn’t see it for herself, she could only help if I asked.
  4. If I complained about this she told me to grow up.
  5. If she didn’t give me the help I thought I deserved, see #4 above.

If I had been five, that’d’ve been mean. At 12 it peeved me, but there’s a life lesson in there from Mom: you cannot realistically expect help from anyone unless you ask for it. And sometimes the help needed–especially when shown  a bit and told me to try harder figuring out the rest–wasn’t the help I felt entitled to. Mom no doubt got this wrong sometimes.

As, no doubt, have I as a teacher.

In this round of evaluations one of the students clearly wasn’t at all happy with my approach to the course. Another took issue with my inflexibility regarding due dates. Actually I’m very flexible…if the person is forthright, approaches me before I have to chase them down, and it’s not an ongoing pattern.

Oh, and the reason isn’t “I’m working and taking classes and I’m having a hard time managing my time.” Because everyone in this program is.

The deductions for lateness are relatively small in my course: folks can elect to ditch 5% of the grade on an assignment if they want an extra day. Or more

But in fact, I can be very flexible–and have been known to apologize to a student when, upon reflection, I see I’ve been a bit too rigid. I start out trusting everyone at the beginning of term, but nothing erodes (temporarily, hopefully) that trust than someone who refuses to take responsibility for their work. Whose else’s responsibility could it be? When someone rather aggressively argues for flexibility without compelling reasons (like illness, death, family issues), no I’m not granting an extension: the entire term’s deadlines are available on day one of the course; within each module there’s 2-3 weeks of flexibility in terms of much of the deadlines. Folks want to book a holiday during the term? They can either get their work done earlier, work a bit on their holidays, or take the lateness deductions.I only have the middle option, by the way: I’ll be marking assignments in a tiny hotel room in Novi Sad in June.

All of this trickles down to one core concept: how well am I preparing these mid-career professionals to assert expertise to their colleagues? I think pretty good, actually. So do the vast majority of my students.

(*yeah I know they’re not haters, probably. But it’s an attention-grabbing headline, innit?)

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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2 Responses to 1.5 haters*. I’ll take it!

  1. Noah says:

    You should be following my FB friend Olivier Ferlatte, who’s teaching an introductory sexuality class at SFU. His reporting on the demands of the whiny undergrads is always hilarious. Like, “I had to miss your class the other day. Could you e-mail me a set of notes covering the material?”

  2. John P Egan says:

    That’s actually a reasonable request, if their missing class was legit. Even if they blew it off, there’s usually a few unexplained absences allowed each term for each course. An instructor who didn’t share their notes afterwards would be in trouble! I know Olivier from The Summit™

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