Monday, June 19, 2006


Palindromic Plants

With the exception of Dr. Mullins’ class, an overwhelming majority of the hours we’ve spent in the “graduate” program at Ole Miss have been less than unproductive. That’s right, I said less than UNproductive. Professors don’t know how to handle the new Teacher Corps. It’s a problem with differentiation. Our strong academic, and in many cases personal, backgrounds make us a different animal entirely than traditional School of Education students. And this is exactly why the MTC exists: to recruit college graduates with exceptional content knowledge that have not yet suffered the lobotomy of education classes. But our professors are having a problem with differentiation – teaching to a wide range of ability levels. To some extent, this is understandable. Differentiation, in my opinion, is the single most difficult task as a teacher. It is my biggest failure. But I had zero years of experience. Our professors, however, ought to be able to differentiate between Teacher Corps members and everyone else.

Let me briefly state that this is not an attack on the program, nor am I venting my frustrations. I’m not ready to burn those bridges yet. This is also not a personal attack on our current professor (though I cringe at calling him by such a distinguished title).

We are currently enrolled in an online class. The actual title has slipped my mind, but please allow me to paraphrase: “The Internet: It’s Good and You Should Use It.” Granted, not all the higher ups were keen on requiring this class, but the fact remains we are responsible for completing the assignments. In theory, I have no problem with online classes. But let me outline the absurdity we have thus encountered.

1. Our professor refuses to meet with us and has not given us sufficient methods of contact. We must e-mail him, and if he gets back to us (he doesn’t always) it is certainly not in a timely manner. It’s as if this guy doesn’t exist, except to scold (not criticize, more on that below) our attempts at adding substance to very unsubstantial content.

2. Take a look at the rubric for one of the weekly assignments (below). Notice that there are no explanations for the assigning of points, nor is it clear where the cutoff for acceptable work lies. Based on my rudimentary knowledge of rubrics, this is a pathetic attempt at objectivity. And I think grading objectively (let’s assume it can even be done) is misguided! Okay, so five is the best and one is the worst. How do I get a five? A one? If you are claiming to be objective when grading (and this is the point of a rubric) than the rubric needs to be crystal clear. If you grade subjectively – and let’s be honest, this is the only way we grade – your expectations of good work also need to be lucid. This rubric fails on both accounts.

3. Our professor has personally attacked us. Part of the course requirements is to maintain an online discussion forum amongst each other. We post our comments on the reading and discuss various issues that are raised. A number of us pursued a liberal arts education in which the process of learning is often more highly regarded than the material actually learned. Thus, we are predisposed to engage in philosophical discourse by using a given text as a jumping off point. In our “community of learning” (our professor’s language) we would rather hash out the overarching concepts. But our professor claims that our discussion is a waste of time and contains no substance. Here is one of his comments:

“Nice philisophical [sic] ranting but can you get to your point?”

Our professor claims we are missing the point, not actually saying anything substantive. But the real problem is that the curriculum thus far has no substance! We’re doing our best to discuss the reading, but in order to do so we have to transcend the jargon and inane statements such as “experts have expertise.” Our professor is suppressing intellectual discourse…

“Okay, guys, you sure are loading the website up without saying anything. So is that what you do in your classes with your students? Have these great philisophical [sic] discussions and say nothing of any real substance. If any of you have bothered to look, the reading material comes from classroom research done by the National Academies of Science. I’d like to think that they weren’t just a committee of folks posting philosophical rants like I’ve been reading.”

“But the rest of you miss the point whether on purpose or not. […] Life is not about being automotrons [sic] popping out the correct answer, it’s about facing fluid problems and having the skills to think for yourself and solve them.”

Thanks, professor, for ensuring future teachers learn to think for themselves and are not scolded for metapedagogy!

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