Thursday, August 21, 2008

Edumacational Response

I wanted to discuss my point of view related to yesterday's post as well as respond to those of you who responded. I have a little more inside information about the specific student but have views about the many angles such an email can be viewed from.
In my professional capacity, the part of my professional capacity where my role is as an academic advisor and as an employee and advocate for community colleges, I usually begin by reminding myself of the role we play in higher education. This is easier said than done because knowing the various curriculums as I do, it might seem on the surface that a student whose communications skills are as they seem in that email, impossible for the student to succeed.
It's too easy to read an email like this and make a judgement on just the words as they appear - it's unfair and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't guilty of it a time or two despite my passion for what I do and what education means to me. Fortunately those lapses in judgement only last a second and are often the result of pent up frustrations and 100% of the time they have passed almost immediately or I knew enough to pass the case to someone in a better frame of mind. I've spent many voluntary hours in training session on advising and one of the most important lesson's I've learned is that "one can not advise without listening and one can not listen while judging."
A key role of the community college is to utilize the open enrollment model to identify those students who wish to pursue higher education but are not quite ready yet - we need to get these students up to speed whether it be to improve math skills, reading and writing, language and communication, we need to bring them to college level before they can participate fully in a college curriculum.
For me, the best judge or whether or not a student (or prospective student) is ready to proceed is the student. I will often ask a student I am advising why they are here and what they hope to accomplish. Chances are that in most cases where the student is there by choice and has the desire to move forward, given all the information necessary to make such a decision, then they are usually ready, willing, and able to succeed regardless how or where they measure up - this desire can't be measured alone through the dreaded "standardized testing."
One of the most basic flaws in "no child left behind" is it doesn't take into consideration the student as an individual and the needs of that individual but groups everyone together by a present standard, a mere number that establishes a criteria for everyone without considering who that person is and what it may take to get them there. None of it makes sense considering all of the research and work that has been done in the field of education regarding learning styles and that ones learning style does not necessarily reflect the ability of one to learn, only how they learn it - something not reflected in standardized testing (which in my opinion is the government's way of controlling just how intelligent it wants the general public to be - how's that for a conspiracy theory?).
Looking back at how much I've run on, I'll attempt to summarize: the important lesson about the email I posted yesterday isn't so much it's lack of coherence, it's the reason it looks as it does. It is easy to make a host of judgements about the author by reading it and making assumptions but impossible to respond to in any way without actually considering the author and having a real conversation with them. in my experience, while the inevitable disappointments and shocking realities of some do exist, almost always the depth and complexity of a sincere and genuine student who is capable of every success they wish can be found and that after all, is why we do what we do in this business.


egan said...

Did someone lecture you about yesterday's post?

I have to say it's not totally fair to judge someone on a four sentence email, but I get it. The person clearly isn't a native English speaker. I'd be willing to put money on that one. I'm glad you said what you did on this post.

Here's my take on the matter. One of my brother's made a great observation about someone running. He said something along these lines: "sometimes you see someone running and you might rush to judgment about their form or how tired they look. Who knows though, maybe that runner just started running a couple weeks ago, maybe that runner is on the last mile of a 20 mile run, or maybe the runner is recovering from an injury, we never know".

For some reason that example of his always stuck with me. We just don't know someone's situation until we get to know them. Have I said enough? Maybe not, have a good weekend.

Chris said...

Egan - actually most of what I wrote was my response to someone who had an over the top reaction to the email. Not that I haven't bene lectured about saying stupid things, just not this time.

I like the runner analogy.

The particular student in question is not a native English speaker but a seemingly ambitious young man in the very short time I had to speak with him after his email.

Joy said...

Was it my dumbass remark? That came as a result of frustration with some high school students who refuse to learn some basic things they need to know. You just feel at the end of your rope sometimes trying to get it across. What I said was too blunt and unkind. I did mention that I thought the student did not speak English as a first language and was almost positive that was true. Writing a foreign language is the most difficult skill of them all. I don't do as well as that when I try.

I worked with kids and tried to help them learn all the ways I possibly knew and still do with homebound students. I never was one of those supercilious teachers who acted superior and put down students who had trouble learning something, even though my statement probably sounded that way.

I read your post after talking with teacher friends who were frustrated and was reminded of how that was. Sorry about what I wrote. Sometimes I type without thinking it through.

I like what Egan and his brother said and totally agree with them.

Chris said...

Joy - My dear friend, as a teacher and someone who has been in the trenches, the dumbass remark isn't so far fetched and not all that insensitive in the context in which you used it.

Teachers interact with many different types of students and I've even written here about my frustration with a few dumbass students of my own, those are the ones I've taken the time to know and have done everything in my power to encourage them to learn yet they still choose to be, well, dumbasses.

Our role is to give them the benefit of the doubt at the start and the tools to succeed - then it's out of our hands.

Joy said...

Oh, I thought you were talking about me when you said someone had an over-the-top reaction to the email since just Egan and I commented on your blog. I have such a capacity for guilt that I can apologize for things I didn't do. LOL Thanks for your response. Yes, we do know that we can lead the horses to water, etc.

See? I told you "Oh" was my most often used word. LOL