Bearing the Responsibility for Our Own Expectations

At several points in my development as a college teacher, I have learned the hard way (and too late) that I bear the responsibility for my own expectations. This is not to say that students cannot be held accountable for their own work, but that we must be held accountable too. To that end, I believe my role as instructor must begin with humility and presence.

In the past, I have gotten caught in the forward force of the semester, and I have failed to reflect on how my students are doing (truly — in the ways that matter) and what I can and should change about what I am doing as their instructor. Indeed, just as students have one shot to get it right with each new class, an instructor has one shot to get it right with each new class of students.

I have found myself at the semester’s end realizing that my students were not taking good notes, that the classroom presentations were not as fulfilling as they could have been, and that the instances of plagiarism I saw may have occurred in part because I had not taken enough time to explain how to cite original sources.

Maintaining a sense of humility — that my instructions were not clear, that my assignments could have been improved (with better scaffolding!), and that I can adjust the values in my classroom through the priorities I set — is a key to improvement. And, so I can make these changes before it is too late, I hope to have a sense of presence — even as the semester pushes on.

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