Recently Oxford Academic posted an article about Jane E. Dmochowski’s affection and respect for her students. This is what she loves about teaching. And I am so glad for her.
Quoting from the Chronicle‘s article, “Affection and respect do far more to improve student behavior in the classroom than snark and irritation.”
Snark? What a profound academic term. Few teachers go into teaching, I would venture to claim, without an initial affection and respect for students. That is a foundational belief right up there with “all moms love their babies”, apple pie and baseball.
The article goes on to list eight more things she loves. A college professor, she had previously posted “10 Things Every College Professor Hates” on her website (lifted from an unnamed “sociology professor at Occidental College”, another problem of our lack of educational self-respect, forgetting to give credit where credit is due). With little student response, she converted it to “10 Things This Instructor Loves.”
I like this – it’s always a goal to take frustration and find the advantage it can be turned into. The list showed her as a human being (often a revelation to students, parents and administrators). Her inclusion of items like having an open mind are totally agreeable. This is the one that got me: “Students who give eye contact during a lecture.”
Lecture? I have not lectured for years. Students tune out the minute I open my mouth. I have taught at college level at four year institutions, community colleges, propriety and public colleges, as well as secondary institutions in urban, rural, and suburban settings. Ten minutes is the longest presentation I ever make. The rest of the class is devoted to engaging students in activities, peer learning or other more active approaches.
The best practice thinking for years has been that lectures are passé. So to get this published in the Chronicle was interesting. It sheds light on the lack of agreement about what best practices are at any level of education.
More disturbingly, it sheds light on the outmoded attitude toward teachers at any level, almost always women. We are not to have any “bad days”. We are not to have any negative feelings and we definitely, never, ever, should express any frustration to our students. It is not motivational, and that is definitely one of the cardinal sins.
Because, as we know, sin is part of the human condition and we wouldn’t want to allow teachers to be human in that way, only in the positive ways of unconditional and unrelenting acceptance, compassion and patience. But sometimes, you know, you just have to snark on.