Blog and opinion
11 June 2019 • Dave van Ginhoven
Don’t Stand In the Doorway, Don’t Lock Up the Hall
I missed the deadline for my blog again. I’d like to say it wasn’t my fault, but was caused by a pile of grading and paperwork that only Charlie Chaplin could truly relate to, but that’s no excuse. We tell students that “a deadline is a deadline,” and should be held to the same standard.
The joke that “teachers are a lot like students,” is funny and true. We’re both overscheduled and often feel overworked. We both struggle to juggle dozens of different responsibilities without compromising core business. We both send and receive too many e-mails about things we could resolve on our own with little effort. We both struggle with deadlines and can both go into meltdown mode in the month of June. With that much in common, we should always remember to be nice to each other.
I can admit, for example, that I get impatient with students at this time of year. I see them less often, because attendance declines as students live out that famous meme about “skipping uni, to catch up on uni, because I skipped too much uni.” But I seem to hear from them more often, because I get e-mails about things they would know if they’d been to class while fielding questions from students who did the same thing last year, telling me they need my help because, “I still need to pass this subject” when what they really need to do is learn something about it first.
But I have to remember not to judge them too harshly. They don’t have it easy, racing every day through a pair of revolving doors that sometimes move so slowly that I wonder if they exist outside the space-time continuum, entering a bureaucratic obstacle course of sharepoint sites and exam regulations while trying to write study for those exams in order to stay on track this year while catching up on last year, figuring out what to do next year and trying to get to work on time to pay for the whole thing.
We should relate to this as teachers, because we get stuck in those same doors, facing intricate and inflexible schedules, procedures and regulations and trying to do everything all at once. When you look at it like that, you wonder, why are we doing this to each other, and to ourselves? If we’re all stressed out, maybe we should all take a step back try to make things a little more manageable.
Sure, we can encourage students to take more responsibility but we could also look at ways to lighten their load, which would ultimately lighten ours and help everybody to get where they need to go. For my part, I know I have to remember that our students are also pretty terrific people.
Recently, over a dozen European Studies students got up at the crack of dawn to talk to a reporter about the European Elections during the morning news, and each of them gave insightful, answers to tough questions and showed such understanding of the issues that I’m worried I’ll have to study harder myself in order to teach them. Each of them voted and cared about the future of Europe and showed me that, whether they pass every exam this June or not, they are already the global citizens we’re always talking about creating. We should be proud of them and I think we should try to get out of their way once in a while.
But that’s just one guy talking.
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.