Thursday, December 23, 2010

In today's connected world, disconnecting yourself earns you no points

"I busted my butt. I did all my course work on my own. All my work was done on time. I had no one help me post or write a thing.I was a complete beginner at this computer course and online wikki posting. I even helped my colleagues who leaned on me for many hours and many phone calls per week and each and every weekend."
This is an excerpt of an email from a teacher in graduate school furious about the grade she received from a professor friend of mine who shared this email with me to get my insight. My take is that I’m concerned that there are teachers like this in our schools.

First, when this teacher shares that she did all the work on her time, I wonder, “What other time is there???” but the bigger issue, is that she is complaining about and even celebrating the fact that she worked in isolation. Now, maybe she has no idea that there’s a whole world out there waiting to be of help if she just tapped them on the shoulder, but, even if she has no idea that there are resources on places like Facebook, Twitter, Classroom 2.0 etc. etc. etc., what about her physical personal learning network? I wonder why on earth would a professor value the fact that she didn’t bother tapping into other resources and more importantly I’m concerned that she is likely forcing her own students to work in isolation.

In today’s connected world, disconnecting yourself earns no points.

The student really, really wants her professor to get that point that no one helped her. She goes on to make her case sharing this.

"I did more than the minimum. And again...ALL ON MY OWN. No family, husband or friends helped me post any of that work. I did it all on my own and I assisted others who couldn't even post or link on the wikki. Not to mention how sick I was the weekend all of this crap was due."
My jaw just drops when I read this. First, it’s just unprofessional and disrespectful to call course work crap. I wonder if her students feel the work she has them do is crap. Next, I find it odd that a teacher is sharing that to complete her course work she had no family, husband or friends for support her. This is EXACTLY why she shouldn’t be working in isolation and instead be connecting and collaborating. Ironically, the class professor is a single mother who aside from having a high level administrator job also teaches classes at nights and has other work on weekends. I doubt the student got many sympathy points for trying to play that card.

Next, added to all her problems, the student throws in that she was sick too! Admittedly I have no idea what was wrong with the student, but sick times are often the best times to get to work with online platforms. No distractions. Lots of time. In fact, being super sick with a 102 fever lead to the launch of The Innovative Educator blog. Side note
, someone should tell this student it's a "Wiki" not a "wikki."

She continues to plea her case saying this...
"You have no clue what I've been through then throw in the stress of the countless hours of nonsense of online technology that I'm never going to use and that I was forced to teach myself how to do! I figured out how to put it all together with out asking other staff members or staff technology personnel for help." now embedding technology into instruction is nonsense and she’s shared that it’s something she’ll never use. Then, again, she makes the case that she didn’t tap in to any resources or ask for help.

But, in the end, it’s rather shocking when you find out this student’s final grade when she says...
A- is not a bad grade, it's better than a C+ or B- which would get other grant scholars kicked out of the program since we have to maintain a B in every course. But considering carrying 2 other people plus myself, and having zero assistance with the assignments, I should have gotten an A.
She goes on to strengthen her case explaining,
"We're not a bunch of twenty somethings in Graduate school for the very first time with no work experience or employment. This was a horrendous for us to revisit our graduate days of long ago with hours and hours of course work and the constant reminder of how "this is graduate school...a minimum of 30 hours of course work is required." I already did my time once and I'm not in graduate school, I am a part of a Grant Scholarship program. This experience was stressful and the course work was ridiculous. I know I'm certainly not the first, nor the last participant who feels this way. Thank you for all the unnecessary aggravation."
I’m sure she is not, and with a teacher who acts this way as a student, I fear what she looks like in the classroom as a teacher. I’m left wondering why someone would even be in the program. If your wondering what program it is...well that would be a degree and license in Math, Science and Technology. Guess she didn’t get the cake walk she expected.

What’s your advice for this student and professor?


  1. What a horrible attitude! Teachers like this give the rest of us a bad name. She needs to change careers. Obviously this student has issues beyond the help of the professor. I would direct her to counseling.

  2. @Eliterate Librarian, yes. I agree and strongly recommend this professor recommend that this student's adviser is informed of the situation. She is clearly on the edge and I believe dangerous for students.

  3. She needs to rethink the reason she is doing the coursework. If she thought she was going to be handed her certification or endorsement or whatever, she is obviously mistaken and needs to move on.
    She also need to talk to my daughter, who told me when I complained about a 96- "MOM-an A is an A-let it go". Good advice!

  4. I totally agree that the student's attitude is misguided and lots of other negative adjectives.

    But my other reaction is that it's not ethically responsible for your professor friend to share the exact contents of that email with you, and then for you to post the specific contents on a blog this popular.

    The student—no matter the attitude—has a right to confidential communication with her instructor.

    (Sorry for the earlier comment deletion. I had connected my signature to the wrong url.)

  5. @Mike Smart, I agree that in some cases communication between people should be kept confidential, but I don't agree that educators should keep conversations about real issues confidential, nor do I think it is inappropriate to share real student work/emails if the person's identity is not revealed. In this situation, the email shared with me did not reveal the teacher's identity and I do not know the teacher. In this post I was careful to remove identifying information of the parties and schools involved.

    I believe it's important that we think and learn from real-life situations and discuss with other professionals. I believe we can do so without disclosing the identity of the parties involved thus keeping the person confidential, but discussing the issue in a public forum in which all can learn and think more deeply.

  6. @The Innovative Educator, Thanks for the reply. I agree that the topic is a good one. It touches on some interesting issues, and we can all hopefully benefit from the discussion. Your ability to bring forward valuable information and elicit good discussion is what makes your blog so good.

    The thing I'm struggling with, however, is that you've pasted contents of her email word for word. I'm not sure that I agree that omitting specific names and identifying information is sufficient.

    If contents of an email that I had written to a professor ended up word-for-word in a well-known blog written by a person I don't know, I'd wonder how many other people my professor shared the email with, and where any future communication with that professor would end up. I'd be devastated, and feel that my professor had violated a certain level of expected trust. In such a connected world, it's not unthinkable that word will get around to the student, and those in her personal circle may well be able to identify her.

    I'd say it's especially sensitive because the conversation revolves around grades. As educators, I believe we're ethically and legally responsible for taking extreme care in protecting the confidentiality of student grades in our courses. Because you've posted the student's exact words, the student would easily be able to use Google to find this article and see that the professor has shared her grade with others not in the institution's grade-reporting system.

    I don't have any issues with the topic or the contents, but I think you could have written the same piece to the same effect by paraphrasing and summarizing the student's comments. That would have kept things totally confidential.

    (I'll probably stay on the sidelines after this comment, as I don't want to sidetrack the main discussion of your piece, and I very well may be in the minority in my views.)

    As an aside, I would like to apologize that I sound so negative in what I think is my only comments on your blog. I often share your posts and articles with colleagues, and I know I've personally benefited a lot from your ideas and information. :)


  7. The point that I got from what she was saying which seemed to be totally ignored by her interlocutors is that she was proud of her achievements, that she did not copy course work, like perhaps other students did. You seem to think that it was wrong of her not to collaborate with others. I also agree that it is bad form to reproduce her comments verbatim on here so that she could come across them on the web and recognise herself. It strikes me as vindictive. If she thought she were communicating with one person, it is very bad for it to be published here in this format.

  8. @Mik Akigr it was clear from her email that she was proud of her achievements. That was recognized and she did in fact receive an A- for them. I’m not saying it is wrong not to collaborate, I’m saying it’s wrong to wear that as a badge of honor and/or believe that it is something that should be recognized as superior to those who do not. Additionally, from what I gather, it was not that other student’s copied coursework, it was that they didn’t all work on their own like she did.

    To the point that you and @Mike Smart make, I’m not convinced that sharing a real situation and real words while protecting someone’s identity is in bad form. Other people are thinking and learning from it and no one is being exposed unless the student herself decided to do that. I have a network in the thousands from people around the world. I think it would be nearly impossible for anyone to actually know who the student was. I don’t even know.

    I also don’t think that my sharing an actual situation with excerpts of a conversation is done with the intent of being vindictive. I am not seeking revenge on someone or being spiteful, I’m sharing something anonymously that others may be able to relate to and learn from. In fact I believe you need to know a person to do something to them vindictively. as I’ve shared I don’t even know this person.

    Additionally, this email wasn’t shared only to this professor. There were several others copied on it. It also wasn’t written to elicit support but rather with the intent she would get the professor in trouble. According to the professor the student also shared her negative feelings about the situation widely both on and offline.

    I think this brings a few issues to light. One is that when writing in digital format it’s a good idea to ensure you are writing something that you feel comfortable standing behind because it is easily reproducible and in fact, as I stated earlier, the author herself shared the letter widely to those she believed would reprimand her professor. Another is when someone writes and shares an email widely and one that is rather hostile, they know that it will be shared and discussed and in the 21st century, it may be shared and discussed ways that look a whole lot different than the disconnected classroom in which she teaches.

  9. Embarrassing, utterly embarrassing!! This is a teacher complaining about an instructor having expectations of his/her students. I would be interested to know what the expectations are in this teacher's classroom.

    I think one of the most prominent injustices provided to students are a lack of expectations. Students, and teachers, must be challenged in order to grow personally and professionally. While there are ways to overextend students in classes, I would certainly prefer to be challenged rather than idly viewing a class, whatever the format.

    While I understand the comments made by @Mik Akigr concerning acknowledgment for the student's solo achievements, I would be interested to see how much interaction with classmates this student had. In an online format as a participant, there is nothing more frustrating than other students who do not interact or provide very superficial feedback.

    Thanks for the post and it hopefully makes many teachers consider what they expect of their students and continue challenge them in their courses.


  10. Whoa. There's a whole lot going on here. I was very uncomfortable reading this "private" email exchange; however, I have written about teachers anonymously before. Teachers in graduate programs. Teachers who think and behave exactly like this. It's disturbing. I feel the frustrations of their students everyday.