Saturday, 5 April 2014

Not cute...

Many years ago, a student came to see me to complain about one of her lecturers. The lecturer, according to her, was treating students like small children particularly in the way he talks and gives instructions. She claimed that the lecturer’s tone and choices of words were rather condescending, which to her were not appropriate to be used to university students.

My response to her was to reiterate the point constantly mentioned in psychology books – every individual is different, and different individuals have different personalities. This is what makes life exciting and this is in fact what the real world is. Some lecturers are strict and rigid, others more lenient and spontaneous. Some are very organised, others only slightly, while a few others are not organised at all.

When we venture into the outside world, the people we meet whether in the workplace, in the neighbourhood or others, are of the same variety too. Thus, the experience of dealing with various lecturers with different personalities is a real-life introduction to what students shall soon endure in the future.    

Students back then (less than a decade ago) were able to accept that explanation. But students today?

I am currently into my 7th week teaching at my new work place. Before this, the last class I taught was an executive-postgraduate class in 2010. My last undergraduate class was about a year before that. So, I was away from teaching for almost four years. 

Many things have changed since then. If before most students will be taking notes in class, now almost everyone does not. What they bring to class are their tablets and smartphones. They take photos of the slides and type down notes using the various apps (at least that’s what they claim they are doing). Whichever, as long as they know what they are doing and can handle all the assessment criteria, I’m ok with it.

What is not ok is the attitude of some students who think behaviours such as being 30 minutes late for class, talking loudly in class while the lecturer is teaching and playing games and facebooking during the entire lesson are acceptable and cute behaviours. Doing these once is perhaps tolerable but continuing to do them after repeated and various kinds of reminders is just… crazy!

On one hand, all educators like myself, should realise and concede that we are dealing with a different generation of students whose attention span is rather short.  As a result, they get bored very quickly. Hence, teachers need to develop and practice different teaching methods and strategies. This, I wholeheartedly agree.

What I don’t quite agree though is the inadvertent expectation that all teachers should be entertainers. While this wasn’t exactly spelled out, the suggestions given to teachers these days seem to point to that direction. It’s either that or you become ultra strict by resorting to acts such as locking out students who are late to class, calling them by their names and forcing them to answer your question, and pointing your finger at them. These have been suggested but I haven’t yet come to the point of doing them.

My stand so far remains that college students are adults, hence they should be able to think on their own what is right and what is wrong. Or, am I wrong to assume that?

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