If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Friday, September 12, 2008

Creating Critics

The semester is still kicking my a$$ but my undergraduate class appears to be going well. They've been writing some great journal posts, talking up in class and today a colleague told me that one of them called me "terrific." So that felt pretty good.

Yesterday we were discussing the media and I was trying to explain what I thought media analysis should include. I told them that we need to question not just the content but who is behind the content and who is controlling the content...exactly what do we have access to and why? I made an analogy to the class itself. I told them that they should be questioning my right to teach them. How do they know I have any expertise or authority in this area? Why did I choose the topics I chose, the readings I chose, etc? What is my agenda (since we all have one)? And that I hoped, years from now when they remember whatever little tidbit they remember from this class, that they didn't just accept it as true because I said so.

I happened to catch the eye of one of my more radical students and she just raised one eyebrow. I made a joking comment that she wasn't buying what I was saying. She chuckled and said that she agreed but that it sounded funny, me saying it. I guess they don't hear that too often, but I think they should.

I never wondered about the design of a syllabus in college--or even for the first few years of graduate school--but I wished I did. At heart I'm a rule-follower and have to fight the tendency to believe people who position themselves as an authority. I really don't want that for my students--or my child--and I'm happy to take the criticism if that makes them good critics. [Note: I'm not happy with self-serving criticism--she's a bad teacher because she's hard or stuck to her attendance policy or any other nonsense like that.]

1 comment:

Julie said...

So right on. Questioning authority is an essential part of the learning process. I don't mean questioning just for the sake of being a trouble maker, but real soul searching questions. I always thought the best teachers were the ones who encouraged me to question what they were telling me. Sounds like you are one of them. I would love to be in your class!