Today I’m teaching my last formal class of the year. I teach three sections of “Foundations of Postsecondary Education in Student Affairs” and work with 72 students across three class meeting times. I teach these classes back to back on Thursdays so I start with a group at 1:00 p.m., another at 4:00 p.m., and then my last group comes together at 7:00 p.m.
Some students have asked me if I get bored teaching the same thing three times in a row. Other students have asked me if I like one class section the best. I never get bored, and I don’t have the time to like one more than that other because every week the students change and grow.
The 1:00 p.m. section wants dramatic social change and believes that colleges and universities have a responsibility for that; the 4:00 p.m. section usually wants consensus and seeks to understand the role of student affairs in these broad issues; and the 7:00 p.m. section uses their numerous cumulative years of experience in student affairs to deconstruct problems in a pragmatic way.
We’ve talked about the history of higher education, as well as learning, diversity, leadership, and accountability. It’s been a wild ride.
We’ve blamed the “problems” that occur in higher education on the K–12 system, on faculty, on students, on families, on revenue-generating college sports, and on the “economy.” We’ve played around with the idea that it’s colleges’ and universities’ fault that tuition is so high, yet quality is not always verifiable.
I worry about the high tuition, high value part a lot because I am teaching at a high tuition institution. I don’t want to be part of the “problem” of not providing a quality education. I wonder if this was in my students’ minds when I sent an e-mail to more than 20 of them encouraging/requiring them to rewrite their first written assignment for my course.
I know that I had never had a situation in which so many students needed to rewrite a paper. I’ve lost count of the number of hours that it took for me to read over those papers, provide feedback on their drafts, complete a rubric, and then craft policies about rewrites and hold special office hours (twice). I had to track back to their other writing-related instructors this semester to see if they had been given access to the writing preparation that used to reside in my class design.
I’ve spent a lot of time communicating with students via g-chat and in person reassuring them that the rewrite is not an indictment on their writing abilities, and reinforcing the possibility that they hadn’t mastered this particular type of writing skill. We don’t have a group of bad writers (at all!), it’s more likely a group of students who didn’t employ the writing and research tools to meet the standard I’ve set within my course.
Like I said, I’m at a high tuition school, so I think students have an even higher expectation of value and service. But what are the appropriate limits for value and service? When am I making it too easy? When might I be making it so difficult that it’s defeating? Should that even matter?