Friday, October 12, 2012

Begin Headbanging

It's that time of the semester, that time when a lot of first year students come banging head first into the wall of expectations and find that they can't hop over with ease.  They hopped over with ease in high school, they tell me, but now they have too much to do.

How much are you working, I ask?  How hard?

And then I tell them that we expect 2-3 hours outside of class for each hour of class time, and they do the math and maybe realize that our expectations are greater than what they've been doing.  And then they rise to meet our expectations.

In an ideal world, that happens.  In a less ideal world, they want us to tell them that it's okay, that they're fine and don't have to change a thing.

But we're asking them to make changes, often big, dramatic changes.  And most of them will make some changes, perhaps not quite what I'd wish, but enough to do well enough.

In my fantasy world, there's a way to convince most students coming to college that they really do need to work hard, and that what they've done previously doesn't meet our expectations now.  In my real world, the only way to convince students is through painful experience.  Or experiences.

I hate these conversations.  I wish I could make them easier.


  1. this is how people learn and grow. really, it is.

    competing in college is a transition for nearly everyone; they all did fine in high school, but are no longer the standouts. and being teenagers, they all thought they were invincible, brilliant, unstoppable. part of the reason is that their own view of the world has been so narrow; their own responsibilities limited; the measures of success so different than they are for independent grownups.

    every kid learning to walk is going to fall down, go boom, and cry. every kid learning to talk is going to say (enormously cute) wrong words. and so on. we learn by falling short; then we correct.

    chances are that a lot of their parents (and even teachers) have told them they have to work harder, but they don't believe that because they are so brilliant. you are delivering messages they probably heard before -- but with more precision (e.g., 2-3 hours of work out of class for an hour in class), and you are doing so without emotional baggage.

    they CAN do it. but what counts is actually doing it, not just having the ability.

  2. what i meant to say is, these conversations aren't that easy for either side. but they are necessary. you can cheerlead on ability at the same time you are delivering the "here is what you should be doing" scenario. and i think that is probably what you are doing. your students won't tell you, but this is a huge service to them.

  3. It doesn't really help, but it sometimes frames it when I say that for a 4 credit course, they will have 12 hours of work including class time, and if they are taking a full load, their studies should be the equivalent of a full time job....That gets through to them.

    Of course most of them also have jobs, though not full time.