What makes a student troublesome? How much of that definition is wrapped up in how they act, versus how we as teachers react? Are their troubles personal, or connected to larger social issues? We start out the show by, as a trio, by sharing some stories of students that have really caused us headaches. Be sure to listen to Kristen’s story…it’s harrowing.
Then, Rachel and I sat down with Dr. Jeni Hart, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies and Associate Vice Provost for Advanced Studies at the University of Missouri to try and divine some answers to these questions. Here are some key points from that conversation:
- What is troublesome is “personal” to the instructor. The ability to address student problems is shaped by the professor’s knowledge and ability to understand students’ lives and the issues they face.
- Early career factory encounter more problems, and experience more anxiety about dealing with them.
- One of the reasons we have more problems is that Higher Ed institutions are now more sensitive to student needs – and this is a beneficial approach that makes us more aware of and more affected by the problems afflicting students.
- There’s no “right” way to react to a student in crisis, and that’s something you learn to deal with through experience. More often than not, you really don’t have to respond immediately to a problem.
- Graduate students are likely to have different issues they bring to the classroom than undergraduates, like caring for elderly relatives or raising their own families.
- We can’t control what happens to students outside the classroom, but we should be sensitive to how it might affect them in the classroom.
Rachel said something I found to be really profound, as well: “we are not just robots that teach classes. How do you continue to deal with a student [that is troublesome from the beginning of the semester]?” How, indeed. Teaching is more than just the transfer of knowledge, it the cultivation of minds and personalities, wrapped up in a social world of troubles and problems.
Dr. Hart also recommends Dr. Stephen Brookfield’s works for becoming a better, more compassionate teacher.
Then, Rachel and I played video games to relax! She did great on the classic Super Mario Brothers.
Feel free to share your own horror stories about student interactions in the comments. Keep ’em FERPA-friendly, though!