Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Dane Seare," a college instructor who imports his strictures from his K-12 teaching days...

Normally, I will not push back unless I am pushed hard enough. If any authority figure commits unreasonable acts of discipline or any other nature, I may speak up about it especially if those tendencies are kept up.

One time, I had considered going to the bathroom. I opened the west classroom door and decided to let it wait after all, so I closed it and went back to my seat. This was when other students were just coming back from waiting around in the hall after we turned our tests in. "Dane" disappeared for a minute or two to fetch something from down the hall, and I was seated when he returned. 

See, since he told me that I'd lose points for going to the restroom, I decided to just stay at the west door for maybe half a minute while I thought over the situation. I didn't want the students to see that I was the last to turn my test in (I think problems over carefully) so I pretended to come back in at the same time as the others by closing the west classroom door when I saw the others coming back in through the east door. "Dane" wasn't in the room when I did this.

Later on, I saw that my attendance grade was reduced by two percentage points. The "CANVAS" educational management system (an online portion of my classes) does not have a line-by-line remark of each days' attendance and participation. If it showed "10-8-2013 - 5/10 participation points - Reason: Unauthorized exit during class time," then I wouldn't have to inquire; I'd get straight to some points.

"Dane" claimed that I left because I told him I was about to use the restroom (though decided against it at the last second.) He left for a couple minutes - the same time that he claimed that I left the classroom. I never did, but there is no evidence to prove either of us right.

"Dane" used to teach middle and high school science classes. Plenty of teachers from there will have this tenacious "Teachers Are ALWAYS Right" mindset even though we are all fallible beings. This tenacity, even when situations are ambiguous or are different from what the teachers perceive, will cause undue stress for students at times, and sometimes for both parties. No teacher could possibly have the perfection only had by Christ himself that would make them right 100% of the time. It's majorly their being authority figures that make them not only have this mindset, but pull out so many stops to not be proven wrong.

There are no security cameras in the facility, which is an "extension" building of the college. If there had been security cameras out in the halls, their footage would have proven / disproven whether I had actually left the room at the time I was told not to. Because of the lack of evidence and no known provision for the burden of proof, "Dane" just decides to stick to his claim and probably because changing his claim could result in a "loss of face." Everyone's imperfect; instructors make mistakes, and the ideal kind of teacher would own up to any mistake on their part.

When a teacher owns up, I do not lose respect for them. Some teachers are fearful that students will, and that is understandable. I've had many kinds of fears. Everyone always has something about their maturity to improve on; owning up is a mature act.

Another issue is when someone's phone rang. I never knew who it was, but the ring came from within a 10-ft. radius of me. It is a common reflex action for students to press a button or two on the phones in their pockets to ensure it stays silent. I didn't bother to look around thoroughly to check who was doing just that; I had the lecture to focus on. I never tried to look at my phone's screen; I only pressed a button or two to make sure the phone wouldn't ring if I were to receive a call.

Even though I had already reduced the phone to vibrate before class, it's just a reflex to make sure nothing happens anyway. Sometimes, a body movement can bump a button to turn the ringer back on again, so one could never feel too safe. Pressing a quieting button and taking 1/2-second to do so is a far cry from pulling out the phone and using it through the screen.

First, he assumed the ringing was mine though I never heard the ringtone before; it just went off near me. Second, when I explained what I did to make sure my phone wouldn't make a noise right after someone else's did, he then changes the accusation to, "So you did mess with your phone." He clearly looked for something to use in order to save himself from being the one in the wrong, because he may treat it like a costly professional mistake to be in the wrong in an issue between the student and himself. (I know it wouldn't be; I've seen far more serious mistakes than this.)

The syllabus states unauthorized cellphone use would reduce participation points. Where does a reasonable line get drawn? How severe is it to leave the phone in the pocket while taking a half-second to press a button or two to make sure the ringer stays off? That's a courtesy to ensure any coming ring won't disrupt class. On the other hand, how does that compare to pulling the phone out to send text messages?

Also, say someone puts their hand in the same pocket as their phone just to retrieve a small lotion bottle or other pocket item that happens to occupy the same pocket as that phone? Is that grounds for deducting half of the participation points, just because their hands were in the phone's pocket, even though it had nothing to do with that phone? Someone could have an annoying leg itch and the itch cream could just happen to share the pocket with the phone. There is no misbehavior or disruption here.

Metaphorically speaking, these are eggshells that are thrown in front of our sidewalks, when the reasonable college instructor knows we won't need them thrown in front of us. In fact, this trying to tiptoe around eggshells could possibly be likened to sidestepping sand on a beach. In fact, I feel I'm getting singled out for mistreatment because if this kind of discipline happens to anyone else in the class, it's not happening often enough for me to notice.

There are TEvals (Teacher Evaluations) in various colleges; I hope this one has them too. It may have been "standard operating procedure" to throw eggshells in front of students' sidewalks back in the K-12 system, either because they needed it, or the teachers knew their students weren't going to speak up (as often or effectively; how often do K-12 students lodge a formal complaint about a teacher's treatment to the school board, principal or superintendent?) If there are no teacher evaluation forms that students fill out at this college, then I will push for TEvals to get started here!

I have been pushed around by many hardballing authority figures in my life. I have gotten so jaded from being played hardball that I will "push back" / take action more than I used to. Some students may assume "that's just the way it is / has been" but I know that injustices cannot reign for long; somebody MUST take a stand and bring forth more reasonable class policies for our benefit and reduction of undue stress. Whereas many students are afraid to do the following, I will escalate these kinds of issues to a supervisor, or a chain of supervisors if necessary.

I wonder why I didn't discover blogging when educational injustices started to grind on me. Blogging wasn't always common, but was out there in one form or another. Twitter didn't come on the scene until comparatively late. Had Twitter come along sooner and I had been made aware of blogging earlier in life, I would have taken a stand and spoken out against unreasonable teacher and administrator actions. Others could call it "airing dirty laundry" but changes and improvements will not happen if no one takes a stand and speaks out. Nothing would pave the way for more reasonable policies and actions to replace undue strictures on students.

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