Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chelsea from Chelmsford Withstands a Frontal Assault By Some Pissy Flakes Who Just Don't LIKE Doing Homework Until They Know the Answers.

I’m teaching the weed-out course for the accounting majors and require all of the students to do the reading and demonstrate that they've done it and have developed an understanding by obliging them to turn the homework in BEFORE class. I have also had a steady yet endless small stream of complaints about this requirement. The students, having been exposed to some seriously inadequate teaching in the past, feel that the course would be easier if they could have the lecture and go over the problems and THEN do the homework.

They're right. It would be easier. For all of us.

I, for example, could pretend that I was actually teaching them something. I could also pretend that the majority of students were actually doing the work.

They could pretend that they were learning something, and they could pretend that they were learning things with a minimum expenditure of personal resources.

Of course, this would all fall completely apart once the exam came around and it was demonstrated forcibly to me AND them that they, in fact, knew absolutely nothing and possessed no demonstrable skills related to the course material. Because that's how it happens…You may learn philosophy by hearing about it and thinking about it. You don't learn accounting by hearing about it and thinking about it. The only way to actually learn accounting is by doing it. And the best learning comes when you screw something up and then have to go figure out what you did wrong, and what you were supposed to do instead.

They don't like the screwing up part. They really don't like having to sort themselves out once they screw up. They don't like reading and then practicing. They complain that they're having to teach themselves the material. Duh. Like I can open their skulls and drop the knowledge in?

One of them actually hit me up before class to launch a debate and negotiation over this whole approach. I can't understand for the life of my why it was this woman, since she's got a 96 average in the class...and should realize that the approach is WORKING for her. At the barest minimum, it's certainly not harming her.

She opens the negotiations by explaining that she and Other Student think it's too hard to have to try the problems before class, and they would like it better if they got the lecture and then did the homework.

I told her I understood that they'd be more comfortable with a different approach, but that this is the one that means they will actually learn the material.

"Oh, I understand about the research and all," she said. "I just want to know if we can't have it the other way."

Uh. What? You’re telling me you understand that this approach is scientifically proven to deliver a better result for YOU but you want some cheap imitation that means you won't learn crap?

"I can't imagine why you would say such a thing" I finally got out.

"Well, have you TRIED teaching it the other way?" she said.

Uh. ONE of us in this picture has extensive formal training on delivering material at the college level, a Ph.D., an international reputation for quality teaching, AND ten years of experience. The other person in this picture is evidently a jackass, despite the A in the coursework.

"I don't need to TRY it the other way," I said. "The other way does. not. work."

"Why do people do it then?" she said.

"Because they haven't been trained to do teach properly. Because this way takes more time and energy from the teacher. Because they don't want to put up with a bunch of complaints from students. Because they're concerned primarily with popularity. Lots of reasons." I said.

She stared at me.

"So," she said. "There's no chance of getting that changed."

There are five weeks left in the term, and she's angling after a comprehensive change in the delivery and content of the course? Wait. I don't care HOW many weeks there are left in the term, this is NOT appropriate.

"No." I said. "You do not have a vote, this is my decision. Look," I said "Your kids pester you to let them eat cotton candy and M&Ms for dinner, you can make them very happy and get them off your back by saying 'yes' to this request. Only, as a parent, you know that cotton candy and M&Ms do not give growing children what they have to feed them things like broccoli and chicken, stuff they don't necessarily want, and sure don't want as much as they want cotton candy. But you make that call because. you. know. better. about. what. they. need. than. they. do. THIS IS THE SAME THING."

Where in the hell did these people get the idea that the classroom and the pedagogical method is some kind of democracy? Where in the hell did they get the idea that they'll learn accounting better if I drop the standards and start spoon-feeding them? Where in the name of god did they get the idea that it's a good idea to 1) complain about this publicly or 2) approach me to try to negotiate a change? What PLANET are they on?

Actually, I expect they're on Planet Bad Parenting. And Planet Get A Gold Star For Breathing. I don't care in the least about self-esteem. This is accounting…You can either do it or you can't, and if you can't, it doesn't MATTER how good you "feeeeeeel" about yourself. If you're incompetent, you're screwed.

I'd say that I can't wait until the end of the term, but I'm going to have nearly all of these same students next term as well.