Criticism. The unsolicited kind. Unexpected barrage of perspectively altered truth.
A course grader stops me on my way out the door to give me his insight on why the class’s performance in lab is sub par. I didn’t know that I had a “gives a shit” look in my face, but I listened anyway. He started off sorta hesitant. After I smiled and nodded a few times, he upchucked every late night thought he had on the subject. His musings had obviously been bottled up too long not to let his frustrations blow. I guess I just appeared to be the most understanding target.
So this young man goes on to tell me that the class is simply not asking enough questions about the material and their flailing efforts to comprehend on their own had them collectively headed towards failure.
I ask: “What do you think is preventing them from asking the professor questions?”
His answer: “Their laziness.”
Humph.. That’s simple enough. It also seems too simplistic considering we were talking about a class of 25 students with individual motivations, competency levels, and skill sets. So naturally I decided we should discuss whether or not these were dependant variables to consider.
I ask: “Considering that this course is a core requirement, the student body is made up of various unrelated majors, and the students range from freshman to seniors, do you believe that a consistent misunderstanding of the material lies solely with the students or is it a reflection on instruction as well?”
His answer: “This is college. Read the instructions, comprehend it, and do what it says. If they can’t comprehend what’s in front of them, then they lack the aptitude to compete at this level. It does not matter what the course is, if you actually apply intellect to it then you won’t have a problem.”
Lazy or stupid. Whelp. I guess it can be just that rudimentary. I will admit to you that I became aware that my posturing was showing my irritation, so I took a breath and leaned into a casual stance. I had already assessed that he had low emotional or social intelligence (no judgement). My shift was purely based on mirroring him so that he could continue to feel comfortable exposing more of his mental self. Now that I was sucked into this analysis of the root causes of the class’s performance, I figured I might as well hear it all.
I ask: “Some of the students did a few of these exact labs in the previous course, so they turned in the same copy again. But they received a lower grade this time then they did from the previous grader for the exact same work. How is that possible?”
His answer: “The previous grader was lazy. They didn’t care about holding students to a standard of good quality work. I’m not like that.”
My follow-up: “Do you know the previous grader?”
His answer: “No.”
Criticism. The unsolicited kind. Unexpected barrage of perspectively altered truth can still teach you a few things. Work diligently and don’t be lazy. Ask questions and don’t remain ignorant. Be in authority and don’t be a dick about it. Be wise and don’t just be smart.