Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Nice kid. Problem student.

There's a student in my class this semester who is a really nice guy, but clearly underprepared for grad school. Actually, I'm surprised the student was accepted (not that I have seen his transcripts or other application materials, but I did receive several introductory emails from him when he was looking for an advisor/major professor before he was eventually admitted, and it was clear from every email that he had poor communication skills and not a particularly strong grasp of some of the major issues in the discipline) but he is a member of a particular underrepresented group within our department - so I kind of suspect that this played a role in how he ended up here.

He has a really hard time grasping even the basic material in my class. I really try my best to help him out when he comes to my office hours, but . . . 1) I don't think I should have to be spending EVERY office hour with him (why is it my problem - or the other students' problem - that he didn't come in with an appropriate level of preparation and skill from his previous background?), and 2) I have a hard time answering all his questions without spoon-feeding him (normally this line is one I am comfortable walking, but in this case it's quite a challenge).

It kind of makes me a little angry on the student's behalf. It makes me a little angry on my behalf, too. :(


Anonymous said...

I can relate. I sometimes get students who are really nice, and I really like them. They try so very hard --- much harder than many of the other students. But, they just don't get it. Sometimes the problem is with them. Often, the problem is with their preparation, or lack thereof. They will take math and science classes in high school, but come to college not knowing even the basic things. They will hunt around here and take the "easy" professors for classes that are prerequisites to mine, and then when they get to my class I expect them to know far more than they actually do. The easy profs were easy because they didn't teach and challenge the student. Now, they are not ready to be in my class, and I can't go back and teach them calculus. That's what the calculus class is for. It is so frustrating, for both me and for them.

Ms.PhD said...

Two suggestions that might help take the pressure off:

1- If your school has a Study Skills Center, send him there. He's probably working hard, but not smart.

2- Find him a study buddy student or suggest he get a tutor (not you). He can find a fellow student and pay them in beer, not your problem.

Spoon-feeding does nobody any good in education.