'Tis the season of grumpy lists
There’s a lot of advice for new college students out there, and some of it’s great. (See this, this, and this for examples.) But a lot of it consists of numbered or bulleted lists of professors’ pet peeves—like this one.
I get the economy of the bulleted list. I don’t necessarily think the writer gets anything wrong. And sometimes when I’m annoyed with a student, I really wish I could just stick that list in front of said student’s eyeballs. But as much as I do wish every college student already knew the lists’ contents, these “how not to annoy your teacher” lists mostly seem to be for teachers to share with each other, especially considering where many of them are published. (Although I think a great early-semester exercise in a first-year class would be to amass several of them, present them to the class, and have a discussion about specific course expectations and more general social practices in higher education.)
But there’s another kind of advice I’ve noticed circulating this year—and these ask something different from students. They’re broader requests for thoughtfulness and understanding regarding their instructors and fellow students. They’re often blogs written by teachers, explaining what they ask of students in their classes and why. Here’s one example about a no-laptop policy, and another about working with a particular instructor’s teaching style. What I like so much about this “advice” is that it invites more conversation than those bulleted peevish lists. It acknowledges that there are lots of ways students and teachers could act and explains why the teacher thinks the particulars of what she or he has chosen should best support the goals of the course and students’ learning more generally. It works to build relationships in good faith, assuming everyone’s doing the best they can.
So, understanding. Requests instead of demands. Building good social relations. These are things I’m thinking about as we dig into the fall semester.