As this new academic year begins, I recognize that it is often easier (read: less hard/difficult) to fall back on what I know, or how I have always done something. I bump into the temptation every year, as I prepare the syllabus for a course I’ve taught a dozen times, to change the dates and hit “Save As”, then move on to the next item on the endless list.
So as I sat with the choice again late this summer. I was faced with the question of how I might do this very familiar thing differently. How might I consider another vantage point? How might the opportunity present itself in ways I hadn’t previously considered? In what ways might I engage with the students, the material, and my own sense of the experience differently so as to create a different outcome?
I did, ultimately, completely retool an assignment. Time – and the student’s experience with it – will tell if the retooling is successful, but it has engaged me in a new level of attention and excitement about where this semester may go that previous semesters have not; as good as they were.
And, as regular readers here can attest, these musings typically lead me to find some connection to this task we’re on as parents to help move our students toward a greater, deeper sense of their own self-competency.
I overheard parents during Summer Orientation sessions talking to their students about how this new college experience was going to play out for their own children (some adamantly and with great certainty). As a parent, I recognize that we do this all the time. We talk to our kids about our own experience in ways that conveys that they need, or should, make decisions based on how WE did things, rather than allowing her to learn through her experience (which is likely how we actually learned ourselves).
I recognize that when we talk out of our experience as a way to dictate our student’s experience, we are projecting on them a limited picture of what may be possible; a way in which we are creating a “Save As” experience – that her experience will be/should be/ought to be similar to my own. I don’t sense that we set out with this goal in mind; to share our experience as a means of forming our student’s to be like our own, but at these liminal (threshold) points, that is often what and how our students hear the message.
So, as a way of considering how you might parent differently than you have before – as you work intentionally to transition your relationship with your student – might you consider how you talk about your own experience in ways that may be conveying how you want/believe/hope/think your student’s path “should” look? Are there ways in which you are expressing a “Save As” expectation in the ways you engage in conversation that may be limiting to/for your student’s unique experience?
I wish you well as you seek to write a new story!