Last week I shared with you some of what I have learned from when things go sideways in the classroom, when mistakes are made and you have the opportunity to be a role model in working through a problem. Today we deal with the 2nd part, a more sensitive issue, what happens when someone, even you, says something terrible. Maybe a student referred to another student by a sexist name under his/her breath. Maybe a slip of the tongue resulted in you saying something racist. Maybe you realized what you thought was good-natured candor, turned out to a pattern of homophobic harassment directed at another student. Maybe you realize a student does not speak up because they are being bullied away from the classroom.
What do you do now?
There are lots of options, but you can probably guess my first piece of advice will not be “pretend like it never happened.”
The first thing to realize is that you are not alone. The Cross Cultural Leadership Center, the University Diversity Council, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Student Judicial Affairs, the California Faculty Association, the Title IX contacts, and your colleagues are all resources to help you figure out what you need to do to help your students.
The second thing is not a course of action as much as it is a mentality. Realize you might be partially to blame. We all have work to do in creating an atmosphere of inclusion in the classroom and no one ever “has it down.” Open your mind to what you might do differently in the future and make a note of it, maybe even share it with the class.
The third thing to do is realize that, unfortunately, this happens all the time. A 2013 publication in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education reports on great research and highlights some best practices. Click here for the short version or here for the full version. Some great starting points include “Reactive usage: Turning overt conflict into a learning opportunity” and “Proactive usage: surfacing underlying or covert conflicts for learning.”
We would never give our students the problem solving advice “ignore it and it will go away,” so let us practice what we preach and engage the difficult problems in our classrooms, even when they make us feel uncomfortable.
Prior to this year, I taught the large lecture public speaking class which includes a live streamed/recorded version of the lecture. Everything I said was public and viewable in an archive. We had a string of technical problems until one day I thought everything was going well, I even commented on how well things were going in the lecture. Then I realized no one was complaining because all the online students were locked out. There was no one to complain because they could not get in.
I lost it.
I got red in the face and let loose a stream of profanity more befitting an Oakland Raiders practice or 1970s basic training. I did this in the middle of a recorded lecture, a lecture on public speaking. We have all said things in the classroom we wish we could take back. The question is: What do you do next?
Fortunately I have done something like this enough times (I am not kidding; it is a bit of a problem for me) to have developed a system for this:
- Realize your class is looking at you to model behavior for them. Mistakes are made and the wrong words come out all the time. Think of what you would want them to do and let that inform your subsequent behavior.
- Acknowledge that something happened in the moment if you collect yourself in time. This is one of the best ways to defuse a situation and sometimes turns into a teachable moment where you can reflect on a mistake with the class.
- Follow up with a class announcement through Blackboard if the situation warrants it. This is an easy way to document your response to a mistake and model good behavior for your class by dealing with it rather than ignoring it.
- Follow up with your chair or supervisor if necessary. If what you said is likely to result in a student complaint or if you would like some advice, get in touch with the people you work with and let them know.
- Move on. We have all caught ourselves dwelling on that one bad student evaluation or that one mistake. The students are here because they want an education and you can help them with that. Deal with the problem and move on; don’t spend your semester reliving one moment.
Got a great teaching idea of your own? Showcase at the CELT Conference in a SLAM session (10/8 at 9:30am) facilitated by Ben Seipel or be on the lookout for a poster session invitation. Remember to Register!
Got an idea for a tip? Pass it on to us!
This tip is brought to you from our partners in the Office of Civic Engagement.
If you are interested in learning more, check out the discussion led by Ellie Ertle at the CELT Conference at 2pm on Friday the 9th. While you are thinking about, be sure to register for the conference!
“In the end, higher education should be devoted not just to the spread of knowledge but to the pursuit of virtuous action. It should have an impact on how students make the important choices that shape their lives.” – Thomas Ehrlich, Civic and Moral Learning
What did you see on your way to work this morning? Perhaps on your drive you struggled with traffic as high school students crossed a busy intersection, crossed the bridge on campus and saw the dry creek bed or saw someone sleeping in Children’s Park. As faculty, we are fortunate to live and work in a beautiful place that, like communities everywhere, has wonderful assets along with real problems to address. Fortunately, Chico State brings a bounty of intellectual resources and people-power that can be channeled to positively impact our community while expanding student learning.
Simply put, civic engagement is about connecting students with real problems and opportunities in the community and world in which they live. Chico State faculty have a rich history of helping students be solutionaries – whether it is working with community leaders to address local issues, teaching lessons in schools, or engaging students in service learning projects. In doing so, we create space for students to learn more about themselves as well as about how they can use their unique talents to impact the world for the better.
Chico State values civic engagement and education for the public good. It may seem intimidating, but there are resources on campus to facilitate these opportunities for your courses. The Office of Civic Engagement (OCE) can help you incorporate civic engagement into your curriculum in a way that works for you, your class and your students. Visit OCE’s website for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As professors we spend a lot of time and energy trying to improve the lives of our students. We spend extra time grading, hold that one additional office hour, and answer emails at all times. Sometimes we lose track of the fact that we are valuable resources because we have spent so much time and energy on our own development. You are an expert in your field because you maintain an active research agenda. You know what it is like to be a student because you have multiple degrees. You have sage advice for students because you have experience in multiple job markets.
Take some time to invest in your own professional development as a service to yourself and your students. One great resource for this is a tool the University has invested in on your behalf! Take advantage of the “20 Minute Mentor” subscription through Magna Commons.
As a member of our campus community this online resource from Magna Publications is available at no cost to you. 20 Minute Mentor Commons offers on-demand versions of their popular 20 Minute Mentor programs, covering a broad range of faculty development topics including “How can I create a sense of urgency for change?” and “How do I get students to come to class prepared”. Sign up today and help energize your higher education career.
STEP 1: Activate your 20 Minute Mentor Commons subscription
- Go to www.magnapubs.com/sitelicense/registration.html?v=magna61715
- Enter information in each of the required fields. In the Authorization Code box, enter our group Authorization Code CSUCHICO587and click Submit
Please note: entering the Authorization Code is done only once.
STEP 2: Access the 20 Minute Mentor Commons library
- Go to www.magnapubs.com/profile
- Enter your email address & password & click Submit. If you do not know or remember your account password, use “Forget your password?” to reset it.
- On the left side of the screen, under My Account, My Online Access, select Subscriptions. The online content you have access to will be listed to the right. Click the appropriate link to view the content.
Access to 20 Minute Mentor Commons is also available to registered members at www.mentorcommons.com.
Please do not share the Authorization Code with anyone outside our campus community.
- Call 800-433-0499 ext. 2 (outside the U.S. & Canada call 608-246-3590 ext. 2.). Our office hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Central Time, Monday through Friday.
Exams have been central to higher education for as long as there has been higher education. We often take them as a given in our course planning and structure the end of the semester around a comprehensive final. Take a moment to ask yourself why you give exams.
Got an answer?
It may be a very good answer. Sometimes accrediting bodies demand specific objectives be met through exams or the exams may prepare students for a particular goal. However, for many of us, we do not have a good answer or we may give exams assuming they assure students learn concepts. A growing community is questioning the relationship between exams and learning (Jaffee, 2012; Struyven, Dochy, & Janssens, 2005) while proposing alternatives like low-stakes assignments and clicker quizzes (Dobson, 2008; Leeming, 2002; Weimer, 2011). These are not great fits for all classrooms, but we should take a minute and ask ourselves: Why do I keep doing that?
A more creative take on a similar topic appeared recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Follow the link if you want to make a choice: Final Exams or Epic Finales