At times, I think my Announcements for my classes take on the tone of a blog post. My online students do not have the luxury of the 5-10 minutes I spend each class period harping on attitude, perseverance, discipline, and poor defense and shot-blocking in mid-major NCAA basketball conferences. I have to make up for my diatribes via Announcements. Here is another example, which refers to emails received by some students blocked by Adaptive Release rules I imposed this semester (Spring 2013).
Some of you noticed after taking the Unit 1 Exam you’re stuck and could not progress to Unit 2. The reason is I must manually grade the exam. The reason behind manually grading the exam is to correct bad habits before you go through a semester of bad habits and fail the course. Manually grading the first exam is my way of communicating to everyone their course habits which will hurt their grade, potentially culminating in failing. I will grade, leave you comments, if necessary, and then you will be ready to proceed to the next units. If I give warnings in my comments or suggestions, and you elect not to heed those warning, it is your prerogative because you know the repercussions.
Now, some comments about “comments.”
If you read one of my earlier posts, grammar and punctuation is critical. Why would you lose a letter grade due to sloppy punctuation and grammar?
Courses are not simply about an instructor communicating information and you being tested on the information. You can think that you are throwing your student loan money away because you think you are simply performing busy work. You probably aren’t doing busy work. And, every single course you take has a redeeming trait – it may only be one – but every course has at least one.
You can learn from the instructor’s delivery, his/her speech, word choice, and organization of material. Learn from his/her classroom management skills, discipline, how questions are fielded, or if questions are even entertained. Can the instructor talk off-the-cuff about a topic or is no deviation from notes allowed?
One day you may find yourself in front of people on a regular basis. You may be a trainer, a consultant, a teacher, standing in front of an audience as your generations Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, or giving a TEDTalk about some new technology. Being able to manage your communication space will make your message memorable. Pay attention now. You may be able to use the knowledge later.
If you entertain a course and elect to sit in a chair like a bump, then you are choosing to be a “bump.” Let me know, though, and I’ll see if I can find you a name-tag which says “Hello, My Name is Bump.” Education is a dual-action (bi–directional) endeavor; the instructor (hopefully) creates a learning environment and the student brings a willingness to operate within that environment.
Most students find my comments upsetting. I think this is because high schools coddle students. Secondary schools are worried about damaging a child’s self-esteem thus teachers figure out ways of politely lying to kids. Then, when high school students transition to college they have an inflated sense of self brought on by years of having egos stroked and being sung lullabies of untruths. I’ve interviewed numerous students over almost 20 years of university teaching and many students go through shock when they discover high school left them completely unprepared for the rigors of college education. Teachers themselves are not entirely to blame. Parents argue to have their kids coddled and sue teachers and school districts. People with some ax to grind regarding his/her own education at local or state level find ways to insinuate bad ideas into local, state, or Federal education policy. These policies, like “no more than one hour of homework,” or “no homework for graduating seniors,” as well as cuts to arts and music and after-school programs undermine intellectual efforts across U.S society. Eventually, the culmination of these bad ideas will result in a New World Order based on innovation, education, and research with China, India, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan at the top and a few locations in the United States, like San Francisco, New York, Denver/Boulder, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. as the few U.S. technopoles.
My comments are not meant to be upsetting, though if someone threw cold water in your face without warning I could understand why that might be upsetting. We all bring biases to bear when we read. We use tones from our parents, teachers, ministers or other people of authority. Everyone does this but we have to understand that this is what we do and probably does not match the tone of the person who originated an email, text message, or Facebook status update. Being able to internally manage our internal reaction to tone is part of what society calls “maturity.” My comments are meant to tell you to “wake up and respect yourself and take charge of yourself and stop pretending like you are in the 13th grade and get yourself ready to be a productive part of society.”
If you graduated from Coddle County High School (or the Coddle city schools), I’m sorry about that but your going to have to put that behind you and get yourself ready to face your future.
When you email professional people, be polite. Generally, you will get politeness back. When you receive a reply, no tone or connotation can be implied, unless there is an obvious statement or obvious connotation. By obvious, I mean the statement needs to be interpreted the same way by many people, not just you.
Take these comments for what you will.