Director’s Blog

Finding Balance

by | May 9, 2022 | Director's Blog

It’s a new month so I decided it was time for a new me. I have literally cut my hair once since 2020, so away to the salon I went. In the chair, I happily exclaimed “Chop it all off!” to which my hairdresser responded, “And would you like me to color your gray hair?”

Me: Um…no, thanks?

Her: Are you sure? They are growing like weeds.

Me:…

Her: Ok, we’ll just call them “highlights.” (Laughing)

Me: (Not laughing)

So my May is off to an awesome start.

In better news, I saw so many familiar faces at Celebration of Teaching last month, so first, thank you for coming! I hope the new format of online videos and an in-person social hour was enjoyable. Seeing so many of you in person for the first time in a loooooong time was such a boost! It also gave me a chance to check in on how teaching is going this quarter, and one theme developed pretty quickly – after remote teaching, students expect instructors to accommodate their every request**.

Now that we’re back on campus (for the most part) and Covid numbers are relatively low, I’m hearing from faculty that students want a little too much flexibility. Like they got a taste of it and now it’s all they can think about. It’s one thing to give an extension to a student who got a flat tire on the way to class. But it’s a little harder to reschedule an exam when a student informs you that the test falls on their dog’s birthday and family comes first. While this would be a clear “no” I also understand the possible repercussions when it comes time for students to fill out evaluations.

We have all been through such a dramatic shift that student’s expectations and definition of an instructor’s role have also shifted – but there isn’t consensus on the role of the instructor. Ask ten different students and you may get ten different answers. The instructor should share knowledge, the instructor should guide learning, the instructor should support and mentor students, the instructor should prepare students for careers, the instructor should spark creativity and interest – the list goes on. When students walk in with different expectations of the same instructor, there’s going to be some conflict. Another example, when the instructor sees their role as a guide for learning and the student expects the instructor to tell them what they need to learn, expectations don’t align on either side. Now add to this list student expectations of flexibility and we are all over the place.

I am not advocating that we agree on one definition of a college instructor. Instead, we need to help student’s understand what you consider your role to be as an instructor. How would you define your role as a teacher? What are your expectations of students as a result of this role? How have you built in flexibility as well as guardrails to make sure students have the best opportunity for doing well in the course? This doesn’t need to be a long lecture or pages in your syllabus – just a brief introduction to how you teach and why. This isn’t a magic cure – I’m sure you will still have a student who claims their stubbed toe is making reading impossible – the goal is to bring the flexibility pendulum back to a happy medium.

**I am not referring to students with a documented need for accommodation

In other news…

What I’m currently reading: I just finished The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner. If you enjoy historical fiction then I recommend this lovely book which takes place around the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

My introvert playlist: Got a giant presentation? About to submit a major grant? Then turn up Rachel Platten’s Fight Song and feel ready to run stairs like Rocky.

By: Andrea Aebersold

By: Andrea Aebersold

Director, Faculty Instructional Development

Andrea Aebersold is the Director of Faculty Instructional Development at University of California, Irvine. She earned a PhD in English and was an associate professor of teaching before coming to UCI. She specializes in active learning, evidence-based teaching, and reading mountains of books.