Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Things We Forget to Tell Our Students

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while – about all the things we do, and yet we tell our students not to do… Been collecting them (happy to add more):

Procrastination and Deadlines
Even though we tell our students not to leave work til the last minute, many of us teachers/faculty have very busy lives, and often do leave things til the last minute. Even though many of us like to give students deadlines, refuse extensions (not me, though), we sometimes ask for extensions from others (yes, all those conferences with extended CfPs coz they didn’t get enough? All those special issue journals with extended deadlines? All those journal special issues that come out late?)

Truth is, there are people who do well under time pressure, and they manage to prepare in their head before they sit down to actually write/create something deliverable. If you are that person and no one else is depending on you, if you have complete control over your time (e.g. Don’t have unexpected events like sick kids to worry about) then fine, occasionally, it’s ok to leave yourself til the last minute. It’s not the end of anyone’s world. It’s just more stressful all around. But if it’s gonna stress you out more to meet a deadline early, then by all means leave it til the last minute πŸ™‚ as long as it gets done.

Following Instructions
We hate it when students don’t follow the instructions we spent so much time and effort writing. We assume they got lazy and didn’t read them thoroughly. I personally blame myself when my students don’t follow my (pretty loose) instructions. I must have been unclear or complicated or took too long to express. I suddenly realized that lots of academics are not good at following instructions either. Either because we didn’t read them well, or decided to ignore them, or reinterpret them, or subversively chose to not follow someone else’s instructions. All of this is fine with me, as long as we are conscious of not following the instructions and what the consequences might be (e.g. “Your paper does not fit our journal”).

We’re Not Always Critical
I know, I know. We’re probably more critical than the general population. But we’re always pushing our students to be critical all the time, and yet we are all human and occasionally uncritical. In my view, as someone who’s done PhD research on critical thinking, there are things more valuable than traditional critical thinking (see my chapter on critical thinking from a multicultural perspective in the Palgrave Handbook on Critical Thinking in Higher Education – just sticking this in).

I also like Foucault’s view on critique, because it shows how critique is a creative non-linear process; it also shows why it is impossible to do it day in day out every waking moment or we would go nuts

A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought, the practices that we accept rest…. Criticism is a matter of flushing out that thought and trying to change it: to show that things are not as self-evident as we believed, to see that what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such. Practising criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult. (Foucault, 1988, p. 154)

(I just read this quote earlier this morning in an article on post-qualitative research by Elizabeth St. Pierre (thx GZ) but I copied this longer version from here)

We don’t always know what we’re doing
And that’s kind of ok. I thought about this while listening to the recent HybridPod episode on play in education. They were talking about what it means to experiment with pedagogy, not knowing for sure what might happen (do we ever, really?) and that it might be a good idea to tell the, what’s happening ahead of time and assure them it won’t affect them negatively if things don’t go well. I know I took a big risk with my students letting them display their educational games, the imperfect ones they designed, in our university library, inviting people to play and critique. There were risks for them (e.g. Someone being rude in their critique; people totally ignoring one game and going for others) and risks for me (people looking at the student work and saying I wasn’t rigorous enough in how I worked with them). They seemed willing to embrace it, though, and had enough “outgoing” members in each group to make it work.

Personal priorities interfere
We tend to assume all our students should do the same work in the same amount of time, regardless of what’s happening in their personal lives. Unless it’s a huge thing like a death in the family or their own illness, we’re unlikely to care if someone just broke up with their girlfriend, or something like that. But we should. I understand that we don’t want to create space for lying and excuses, and that we shouldn’t be nosy about students’ personal lives if they don’t want to share. But we do know that life does get in he way, and it happens to us, too.

More?
I keep not writing this post because I am sure there is much more I am missing – but maybe this can be the beginning of a conversation, not a blogpost on its own…. Do you have one?

3 Comments

  1. I really love this post. I want to write my own reply to this – to continue the conversation, as you suggested – when my school year is over in June, and I have a bit more time to think.

    My seniors’ “final exam” is to write a cover letter to their portfolio of work; the idea is that they explain how they have grown as readers and writers over the course of the year, while citing evidence from their body of work.

    This post has made think that I should write a letter to my students that explains what I have learned as a teacher. I especially want to talk about what you’ve written about deadlines – how arbitrary we can be with our deadlines as teachers.

    • I like your final exam for seniors πŸ™‚ looking forward to reading your additions to this πŸ™‚

      • I have about a dozen blog posts that I want to write when I have more time. :-/

        I wish I could take credit for the final exam, but it’s part of the course that was created in a collaboration between high school teachers & Cal State professors. πŸ™‚

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