The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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What I Have Learned About Teaching By Being A Parent, Vol. 1

Axiom: You can’t teach anyone anything without intentionally or accidentally modeling humanity for them. It isn’t enough to adequately convey information to students or take care of the mechanics of teaching – this is just feeding and changing diapers. You have to choose or (more properly) cultivate the form of humanity you want to perform/become/become through performing/perform through becoming.

Corollary 1: The most important and humbling thing that any teacher must learn is respect for humanity that fundamentally differs from yours. If you are studious and a hard worker, you have to avoid the temptation to identify with and reward your students who are studious hard workers. If you are a charismatic and eloquent speaker, you have to resist the urge to cut your charismatic students more slack. This is above all true when this identification with your students flatters your own (perhaps aspiring) identity in some way.

Corollary 2: The first corollary to this axiom does not follow logically from it, but rather contradicts it. This is just and proper.

Corollary 3: The Latin word for both this axiom and its first corollary is caritas. It means both charity and love.


Theresa says…

but those students who are studious hard workers will be rewarded. i find the temptation to reward those with challenges in their lives (which affect their schoolwork). this past year i finally began to see the various levels (at least for me, at any community college). some examples are:

“A” students who have time to devote to school and therefore succeed. “A” students who have challenges to overcome, less time to devote to school but still succeed, “B” students who are B students because they don’t need As, “C” students who work very hard and come to class daily but have ESL obstacles or learning disability obstacles, “C” students who should be “A” students but miss a lot of class, have a baby at home, work full-time, had a death in the family, etc. Etc.

I should clarify – if your conception of yourself is that you’re a studious hard worker, you shouldn’t DISPROPORTIONATELY reward students whose PRIMARY virtue is that they’re studious hard workers, as opposed to active participants, original thinkers, funny, attractive, etc., and punish those who fall short of the standards these students set for diligence.

I think I’ve become better over the years at reaching out to students who are shy, awkward, and insecure, and not to assume that they aren’t engaged, that they don’t have anything to say.

Context of course matters. I’ve taught math at a state university, and now writing at an ivy league university and an art college. Even with my Penn students, the engineers are so different from my business majors, and my art school dancers are VASTLY different from my painters, who are different still from my graphic designers or animators.

There are variables in some contexts that just don’t exist in others. I’ve also taught high school and middle school students, but even my remedial college algebra students at MSU were more privileged and had more time to devote to their studies than your community college students.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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