A student labeled me a hypocrite today.
In my 9:00 a.m. I assigned a WTL for the weekend to help students prepare for Monday’s project. In the main the class saw this as a good idea, they saw the value in it. Except for one student who decided to push back. He said he didn’t want to write any papers and since we were a student led class (reminding everyone that I said so) his choice was to say, “no”.
He thought he was on solid footing – and he thought I was being a hypocrite. He was wrong on both accounts.
A classroom culture of empowerment is not an invitation to do as one pleases.
When we create the social contract and I identify the purpose of the FYS, I’m setting up a belief system (a set of values). When we talk about the learning objectives, the schedule, and the various assignments, I’m setting boundaries.
Within these belief and boundary systems they have many choices. Outside of these limits, they do not.
This was clear in week one, but with everything else on their minds during that time it’s easy to forget. He had a sound bite recollection of what was said.
The belief system – the class’s values – means that their decisions are made in the best interest of the tasks at hand, not out of laziness. Laziness is not a class value.
Remember my chart in the FYS at QU Faculty Guidebook – the one on equilibrium zones? We never cede complete authority when we decentralize control. We work hard to operate using implicit instructions, but they’re instructions nonetheless.
We spoke after class and he understands. (Although I think I may have come down a bit hard him as he’s actually one of my better students…but he spent too much time playing on his computer today, so I was already disappointed and predisposed to overreact.)
Many of you are struggling to find a similar balance, and having students push back in this manner might give you pause. Remember two things: the ones who push back, the ones who challenge the rules, are the ones who are most likely to become the autonomous learners.
And it’s not hypocrisy to reject anarchy.