After 6 years of teaching a graduate course at a local (and fairly prestigious university), I have stumbled upon some things that should be passed along to you parents. Basically, I am stupefied by some of the things I have “learnt” from my students. *it can’t be that prestigious if they are willing to hire me and then allow me to teach for them
Now let’s put this in perspective. I don’t have kids… so I have no idea what it is like to have overly active kids who would rather pick their noses than do homework. I don’t teach full-time. I teach one course a year (it pays for my vacation and golfing). It is a seminar course, which means the grad students are required to read (A LOT), then come to class and be prepared to discuss the readings with their classmates. I am there to basically supervise the discussion and keep them on point. I provide the readings, I assign the papers, I grade their papers and their participation. I do very little lecturing, at this point in their educational pursuits they are responsible for what they learn or don’t learn. I don’t give a shit if they learn anything at all, I didn’t pay their tuition and I don’t imagine I will ever be working for any of them. *I love throwing red meat (stupid or controversial shit) on the table in front of hungry students… blood in the water. It is even better when one of their classmates says something stupid… I very rarely have to point out their stupidity, their classmates attack like a pod of Orcas
To be fair, I give my students a pretty in-depth intro to the course, they get an idea of what my class entails and what is expected of them. A lot of them, however, don’t listen and here is what I have learned in the last 6 years.
– Undergraduate degrees must not hinge on the student’s ability to write a fucking coherent thesis, or even being able to string words together in what could be considered sentences.
– Proper grammar, in academic papers, must have gone the way of the dinosaurs because it is extinct in my students’ papers *yes I know my blog posts are full of grammatical mistakes, but this is a blog post not a report I write at work or a paper I am submitting for publication… in this medium, the author is allowed artistic license
– Plagiarism is rampant, I constantly have to determine if the student is stupid and doesn’t know how to cite sources or if they are lazy bastards who prefer to use other people’s work without accurately giving credit where credit is due *if I ever meet someone who works at one of those Internet companies who write papers for students (and for a fee), I am going to kick them in their jimmies… then find out how much it pays, cause if it pays more than my teaching job… well I’m just saying
– Students are scared to question what they have read or been told. Since when did the youth of this country become a bunch of blind followers. I love when a student calls “bullshit” and then coherently explains why they think it is bullshit. Even if I don’t agree, or know better, with the student’s logic, I respect them and know that they are thinking about the shit I assign. The best papers I get are usually ones I don’t agree with… it is such a joy to read a well written paper that counters what I think… I too like to question and like being questioned. *sometimes I will say complete and bogus bullshit just to see who will react… you would be amazed at how often my bullshit is accepted as the truth just because I am the professor
– Reading comprehension must not be part of the GRE, ACT, and SAT any longer, some of my students do the readings yet have no clue of what they read. I know they did the readings because they can immediately point out passages and quotes from the readings, yet are totally incompetent at using their own words in describing what they read. One day they learn to understand in a pretty manner.
So what can you do?
– Invest in books for the home. Get them kiddies reading, and reading early… one day it just might pay off when they are able to read quickly, and then understand what the fuck they just read. I am not talking about rote learning, I am talking about getting the major themes. A kid that can start seeing the patterns in reading will be a person who sees the interconnectivity of the world.
– Teach kids that stealing is wrong. Whether this is a candy bar or the scholarly work of others, it is all stealing. My professional writing has been pilfered a lot. *true story: a fellow colleague here at my full-time job brought me a paper from one of his students for me to review. This was a different course, different college, different professor. This student and used a number of passages from my reports in their paper. I wasn’t cited. My colleague figured it was my work but wasn’t sure. Student was busted… sucked to be them
– Teach them to read the instructions. If their teacher says 8-10 pages, that does not mean 6, or 12 pages… it means 8-10. 6 pages means they are lazy and assume I won’t notice, 12 pages means they can’t be succinct in their thoughts or their writing… in both cases it makes me wonder if they assume I can’t fucking count… I may be a product of Tennessee public schools but I do know how to count. *as I have taught longer and longer I find myself assigning fewer and fewer papers… it is a fucking painful to read some of these papers… horribly painful
– Encourage them to question. Questioning leads to only three things. One, it leads to affirmation of the original… faith based on facts is far more secure than blind faith. Two, it will lead to the actual truth. There is something to be said about finding the truth among the bullshit. Finally, it leads to the wrong conclusion… in this case your little scholar is probably not meant to be a truth seeker… in this case just pat their little curly head and give them some more candy. We can’t all be winners in the game of life.
– Teach them to take responsibility. I don’t “give” grades, they EARN them. If I gave grades I wouldn’t spend the time reading their horrible papers, instead I would give everyone an “A” and drink a couple more glasses of bourbon. Life would be a lot more pleasant for everyone involved.
– Inform them that no one, especially graduate school professors, likes suck-asses. Don’t let them assume their good looks, or their revealing clothing is going to get them a better grade. Don’t let them think that staying after class and engaging their teacher is going to make them seem smarter… it only makes them look needy. *my eyes stay above their necks… locking eyes, locking eyes… no, I don’t have a clue of what she is wearing
Thanks for listening… I am sure their future teachers will appreciate it too.