17 April 2007

Becoming a student

Every few years every teacher should have to become a student again to see what life's like on the other side of the teacher's desk. At the moment, Sherryl, Susanna (another fellow teacher) and I have joined our students in a class learning how to use Dreamweaver.

Since the class began, I have swapped computers in the computer lab, and had previously downloaded some files onto that first computer because I didn't have my USB stick with me. So today I started by redownloading the files (that I was already supposed to have) onto my stick. Now my stick is quite old, so quite small by modern standards, and I hadn't realised it was full. So here I was trying to get files that wouldn't load, and meanwhile the teacher had moved on to something else. By the time I realised what my problem was, I was so far behind that I had almost no chance of catching up, and though I had been listening, the amount of information was such that I had no hope of remembering it. And I didn't.

As the class went on I felt I was really floundering, and though I did catch up in the end, with some help from Sherryl, the experience was a timely reminder of how students can struggle -- even those that we might expect to be coping or who might look like they're coping. There are lots of reasons students won't speak out about the troubles that they're having. I'm a fairly open person, and don't mind being honest about things like that. But not all students are. Sometimes they won't speak out for fear of looking silly, or because they're shy. (I used to be like that.) They might think asking questions will make them look like they're sucking up, or might piss off their peers.

I tell my students that there's no such thing as a stupid question in my class -- and I do welcome all questions. I had that lesson driven home to me when I was doing my science degree. I remember a student asking what I thought was a genuine question, and the teacher saying, "Oh, so we have one of those, do we?" And then going on to ridicule this guy for asking what she thought was a ridiculous question. My respect for her plummeted, and ultimately if you haven't got the respect of your students, you haven't got any chance of having a successful and rewarding class.

2 comments:

Sherryl said...

That was very kind of you, not pointing out that I wasn't doing any better than you, having downloaded some of the sample files to the wrong place and then not being able to find them, and getting further and further behind...
Starting next week, my Poetry students are going to be taking turns leading the class in a writing exercise. One of the students asked, "Are you going to be doing the exercise too?" (meaning was I going to become a student and write with the rest of them), and when I said Yes, I wasn't too sure about the evil gleam in his eye!

Snail said...

I really enjoyed being a student again. Among other things, it made me rethink my teaching strategies.

Offering students the opportunity to be teachers is an interesting experience too ...