Friday, May 08, 2009

Infuriating Tutoring…

Just finished my final two tutorials for the year, and the first was perhaps the most infuriating experience of the year. The first 40mins went pretty smoothly, followed by some discussion about the formative essays I’d just handed back (of the 60~ essays, majority did worse than they should have for a second attempt).

Then we moved on to exam essay planning practice. The question was something about whether or not the “security dilemma” is still relevant to today’s security agenda. Pretty straightforward. There was some confusion as to what the security dilemma actually is.* Perhaps where I went wrong was thinking it would be best to see if they could answer that question. This pissed them off. A lot. So, after a rather long, futile attempt to get them to answer the question (pesky tutors expecting their students to think for themselves), I irritably answered the question for them. (There was much sighing, knowing “teacher’s think” grins, and rolling of the eyes.)

Now, I think it would be fair to say that the fault of the situation lies with both myself and also my students – firstly, I shouldn’t have spent so long trying to get them to answer, because it gave the impression that I couldn’t answer the question (I could, but their confusion and lack of understanding was confusing for me, as it’s a pretty important, day-one concept, which made me question what I knew), and I shouldn’t have acted so irritated. Secondly, they should realise they are in university and they no longer get things spoon-fed to them.

What’s interesting for me, though, was the two main tutees kicking up a fuss were from opposite ends of the spectrum. One has failed both assignments (she’s a second-year), the other got firsts for both assignments (he’s a first-year). Apart from making me reconsider whether or not the latter should really have been given the top grades (plagiarism, perhaps…?), it was surprising, but also highlighted the reason that the former failed (total lack of imagination or intellectual curiosity).

I explained that nobody in the class had said anything that was wrong in any tutorial they’ve had. Yet, for some reason, they just refused to try this one.

Don’t really know why I thought I should write this, but it’s been irritating me all day. It’s never good when a tutor/teacher gives the appearance of not knowing what they’re talking about. The fact that I did know, and was right makes it doubly annoying!

Anyway, you live and learn. Next year, I’m not going to be anywhere near as lenient.

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* Essentially, and boiled down to its simplest definition: “one nation’s security is another’s insecurity” (can be shown using China-Japan relations, US-China relations, Cold War arms race, etc.)

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Update (17:28): Just received an email from one of the tutees who attended the class – turns out, I’m not the only one who annoyed by others in attendance. Interesting.

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