A Small Silver Lining in Student Failure

5 06 2008

I finally finished all my grading and other routine faculty end-of-quarter paperwork. I never thought that being a teacher requires you to shuffle so many papers! And not just student papers, but endless administrative stuff too.

Call me a sap, but every quarter when I'm doing grades I agonize over having to fail students. I hate giving F's. They just feel so mean. I don't like being mean. But some students don't do any of their work so I have to fail them. And I hate it when that happens because usually throughout the quarter I give students TONS of opportunities to make up work to try and give them extra credit. But many of them don't take it. Every now and then I get a student who tries really hard–they come to every class and take notes and study, but they just don't grasp the information. Those are the students that my heart breaks when I get to the end of the quarter and realize that they've failed every test and are now going to fail my class. That's what happened to me a couple days ago. I had this one student who is fantastic in terms of mannerisms and work ethic, but he just doesn't get the material. I sat at my desk for hours agonizing over his grades and wondering if there's anything I could do at that point to help him not get an F. But it was too late, I had to do it.

His case, though, made me do some investigation into his past grade history. I had had him in one or two classes a few years ago that he did very well in–and all of our classes at that time were completely on-ground. However the past few classes he's taken with me, he has failed–and the majority of our classes within the past year or so have switched to online or hybrid. As I started to put the pieces together I started to realize a possibility that maybe this student is computer illiterate. It only made sense because he started out great when everything was being taught face to face.

Which made me really realize the problems we face as educators now that the academic field is moving rapidly toward e-Learning. My school is thoroughly embracing this trend, as are the majority of universities in the country. Unlike many of my colleagues, I'm actually an advocate for online education. However, I do realize that with that you lose certain students because they just don't have the technical skills required to be successful at it. What's more, they don't really have good time management and discipline skills to self-manage in an online environment.

Years ago there was lots of talk of the digital divide, stating that certain groups such as minorities, the elderly and people in rural areas did not have the same access to technology and were therefore disadvantaged in society. I believe that in recent years we've closed that part of the divide. Most kids have access to computers from the time they start kindergarten. And adults have access to computers be it through libraries, labs, or low-cost computer purchase programs. I think what we still have to work on though is computer literacy and fluency. People know how to do basic stuff like check email or log onto a certain website, but not enough people are able to successfully navigate around the technology that's necessary for e-Learning.

So this discovery has led me to a new challenge that I am excited about embracing in my classroom. During this summer break, I'm going to be working hard at re-vamping my course curriculum so that it's more interactive and user-friendly in hopes of making all of my students more literate by the time they leave my class. This discovery has also led me to do a lot more research about the digital divide and how it impacts students in e-Learning environments. What's really cool is that since I'm in the media field, I'm looking forward to introducing them to all kinds of fun tools and gadgets that us film geeks can use on the internet. I'm really excited about this and I look forward to an interesting and informative summer break!




2 responses

5 06 2008

Thanks for sharing that story. What it shows is your your passion for teaching and that you really care about your students. I’m sure there are many teachers who don’t care about their students. I also see your creativity as well. Well done!

6 06 2008
Jeanette Gregory

That’s why you are one of my favorite teachers ever Miss Speaks, cause you really cared about us. Thank you for that.

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