On Being Human: Teaching Expectations


I’m about to embark on my 20th year of teaching. I cannot believe it. It seems like just a few years ago, I was a graduate student. But, it’s been more than a few years. I love teaching. One consistent thing that I’ve witnessed though, is that I cannot get sick or have a family emergency. A small percentage of my students, must think that I live under my desk and have a super immune system, but alas occasionally I do fall ill. When I do get sick, it’s a whopper of an illness. Oh, like whooping cough and coughing so hard that I pass out or a terrible flu strain for almost three weeks.

I have had an accident, family emergency, and illness affect my teaching life three times in the last twenty years. Each time this meant that I returned grading a bit later than usual. It also impacted my office hours or availability. I did not think that it was a big deal, as I was honest and clear with the students. However, each time it was clear that a group of students did not find my personal situation relevant and were quite brutal on the official student evaluations, that one rate your instructor who you love/hate site, and in office hours/email communication.

I know this might sound like a whiny post, and perhaps it is. I would like some breathing room, so that when I get really ill every seven years I can get back in the classroom and not have a barrage of negative feedback about how my illness impacted their ability to come see me or better understand the assignment that is explained thoughtfully in the syllabus. Professors are people too, and sometimes we get sick or are family members get sick. There, I feel better.

The image is from interwebs–Yik Yak. I’ve never used my iClicker as anything except its intended use. My use of it here is cheeky.

Reminder: Breathe

Mid-terms are about to begin and I’ve been struck with a few things. I can announce things in class, send messages via our on-line learning platform, hold office hours, and attempt to hold G+ Hangout office hours. But, there are those moments when students just do not pay attention. It’s not yet important, as the assignment or exam is weeks away. Then, snap, suddenly everyone needs me. I had to remind myself of a few things in the last week.

1. Keep the hockey schedule in mind. Some of my students are avid hockey fans and my office hours cannot conflict with the game.

2. Remember that instructors need to remind students. They are taking three to five other courses and have multiple deadlines and are juggling so much. The majority will need the reminder. Move on.

3. Be more patient around this time of the term. Students will appreciate the patience and the last thing they want is for you to chastise them. Really–do I need to put any emotional energy in chastising students? No. I have other places to expend my energy.

4. Related to the previous point, I need to also be more available the week of the mid-term. I am also juggling multiple projects, but my first job is teaching and I know that this week my students need me.

This short  post really serves as a reminder to me–patience, compassion, and support. These are the three things that I must have this week. Wishing all students good luck on their mid-terms. And, sending an extra deep cleansing breath to other instructors, mentors, and ancillary staff who work with students. Ommmm!

These post its work for this week!

These post its work for this week!