Okay, so I started this blog last week to educate students and parents in a positive way. I promised myself that I wouldn’t use this site as my own personal platform on which to rant and rave. Well, that lasted about a week. Sometimes students need tough love, so here it is.
I teach many college classes, six each semester to be exact. The first day of all classes, I read out loud the syllabus to the students. I do this because inevitably I will have a student that will tell me they were unaware of a certain policy and I can the retort, ‘Oh really? That’s odd because the first day of classes, I read it to you.’ None of my policies are unreasonable. For instance, there is usually a very clearly laid out attendance policy for my dance classes, of which some of my students refuse to follow and then are shocked when they fail the course.
But I digress; this rant today is for my lecture classes. In their syllabus, there is a calendar of when tests and papers are due. There are instructions that lay out exactly how I want the term paper written including font to be used, the fact it needs one inch margins, it needs to be double spaced and it needs to have a work cited page. It tells them to spell check their work and to read their paper before handing it in. It says that grammar and punctuation will count and that they cannot use ‘you’ in the paper and that all contractions need to be spelled out. It also tells students that I do not give my personal notes out to students, if you miss, you must ask another student for their notes. (Yes, that’s right; students have asked me for my notes.) It even gives them my phone number and e-mail in case they have questions or concerns.
During my lecture, I write all the answers to the test questions on the board. I am aware of the questions I will ask on the exam and I make sure to write the answers to them on the board. Hello! Are students no longer taught that if the teacher writes something on the board, he or she must deem it important and you, as a student, should write it down in your notes? More importantly, do they really need someone to tell them that?
I cover a lot of information on my tests and to me, as educator, it is more important that they learn the information than worry about me trying to trick them on tests. I would like my students to come away from my class with a positive outlook on dance as an art form, knowing how to behave in the audience, being able to tell the differences between the different genres of dance, knowing the major choreographers and dancers, and knowing the storylines of the major ballets. My tests are multiple-choice and during the review, I give them pretty much every question that will be asked on the test. So answer me this, how did half the class fail the first exam? How did the other half get A’s, and three of those get over 100%? The only answer I have to these questions is that some of the students did the work and some of them did not. I set them up for success and still they fail.
I make my students write one term paper a semester and ask them to delve deeper into a topic of dance that interests them. There are certain genres of dance I just do not have as much time to address such as: liturgical dancing, hip-hop, country line dancing, swing dancing or Middle Eastern dance. Some of my students might feel passionately about these dance forms so I like to give them the opportunity to do their research on the type of dance, or a dancer or choreographer in particular that interests them. You would think this would bring out their curiosity and excitement. Apparently not since half the class didn’t turn their papers in on time.
I also realize that not everyone is a writer, so again, trying to be a good educator, I give students the option to turn their paper in a week early. I grade it and get it back to them before the deadline. All they then have to do is make the changes I recommend, hopefully learning about writing skills in the process, and they are pretty much guaranteed an A on their paper. I only had four students take me up on my offer, none of which had papers that were all that badly written, all of whom made the changes and received 100%. Of the ones that didn’t take me up on my offer, I had one student that tried to turn in a paper that was hand-written. I had two students that gave me four page papers that were all one paragraph. All the rest failed to write out contractions, used ‘you,’ had punctuation everywhere or nowhere, were short on the minimum length requirement, and/or did not have a Work Cited page to tell me where they had gotten their information. The pièce de résistance was a paper that was so poorly written, I couldn’t even tell what he was trying to communicate to me. If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s one of the sentences in his paper, and I quote, ‘When they had performed that dance, it was evident on how much more was the distinction of musical was.’
I know this is a rant of epic proportion, so here I come to my point. Students, we as teachers do our jobs. We give the information, and, if we are excellent, we give you the tools you need to succeed, not just in our class, but in life. It is up to you take that knowledge and those tools and do something with them. We cannot want you to succeed more than you do!