Posts Tagged ‘Advising’

Other than my occasional doubts about whether I would be better off in grad school or working as a mail carrier (for the record, I never considered working at McDonald’s), a lack of self-confidence has never been among my problems.  Maybe this is why I have a particularly hard time dealing with excellent students that have no belief in their abilities whatsoever.  One particular student recently earned the highest grade in one of my toughest courses but argued that she “didn’t know enough” to serve as a tutor for the course.  Another student, who is my advisee, recently approached me to discuss dropping a course because it required the use of some research methods that he had not yet learned.  Although I (knowing that he is an excellent student) advised him against this decision and the professor told him that he should have no problem with the course, he decided to drop it.  Rather than an isolated case, this student runs from anything that goes even a bit beyond his comfort level.  Barring a “Biggest Loser” style emotional breakdown in which he reveals that his parents have never believed in him, I have no idea at this early stage of my advising career how to demonstrate to a student with a 3.8 GPA that he just might be intelligent.

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When I started my first position as a full-time faculty member last fall there were obvious challenges related to preparing, teaching, and grading for three classes instead of one but the experience itself was nothing new since I had been teaching for years.  The introduction of advising to my routine this fall, however, has been a very different experience.

The first time that I taught I had years of experience as a student to draw on for examples of what kind of teacher I wanted to be.  Beyond my experiences with various mentors over the years, I am quickly realizing that I was never advised about choosing courses as an undergraduate because I had a copy of the graduation requirements and I knew what I needed to take.  Magnifying this inexperience is the fact that I am still learning about the requirements at my institution, which are sometimes fluid as courses in various departments substitute for others.

As a result, each meeting with a student has felt inefficient as I hurriedly searched for answers to their questions on the school’s somewhat ineffective website.  Through this process I am learning a lot but I wish that my education in these areas did not have to come at the price of looking incompetent and, worse, potentially directing students down the wrong paths.

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Before each semester begins I look forward to the gentle transition back to teaching.  When each semester begins I contemplate the reasons that this transition is actually abrupt.  The reasons I’ve considered range from teaching a new prep to heavily revising a previous course.  This semester, I filled my “transition” weeks with student meetings, hoping to prevent some of the problems that appeared in a spring course.  Again, I thought of how nice it will be when I finally encounter the mythical smooth transition.  Of course, this semester is also my first with advising and committee duties, which promise to interfere with these transitions for years to come.  At this point, it may be time to realize that the best transition is not found at the abrupt beginning of the semester but at the equally abrupt end.  Until then, I guess that I will embrace the distinction between break and not break by diving into teaching, research, and service, which reminds me that I still need to find some mythical time for research during the semester…

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