The Waiting Room

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Ones Who Don't Know Shouldn't Teach

Posted by Seeking Solace |

I can't understand why people who have never been in the classroom thinks that they are an authority on what should go on in the classroom. Don't get me wrong, I think that constructive criticism has its place.

But what happens when someone who has never been in the classroom begins making assumptions and criticisms that are not based in experience?

OK, this did not happen to me, but to a junior colleague in another department who is my"mentee". A few administrators and faculty were having a meeting about writing standards across the curriculum. We were discussing some of the issues that were prevalent in all classes. As a group, we were making some progress, coming up with some great ideas. We were looking at samples of student work and rubrics when one of the staff members who was at the meeting (for the life of me I don't know why because this person is not an faculty or an education administrator), began to correct the student papers that were being used samples...during the meeting. Then, he had the nerve to question how the rubric measured the different areas of assessment. This person put the poor instructor on the spot.

Not cool.

See, the fact that this person was sitting there, grading the papers and then challenging the rubric in front of everyone should not have happened. If this person had questions about how the instructor graded the papers, that person should have addressed it privately with the instructor. And, this person certainly should not have been grading papers during the meeting.

But, I think what really bothered me, and my colleague, was that this person did not understand that my colleague's rubric was completely acceptable for what she was trying to assess with that particular assignment. And, my colleague knows her students and what they can and cannot do. The staff person's comments were not constructive or based on experience teaching or making assessments. They were based on opinions and assumptions, not based on fact or even experience.

My colleague was really offended by what this person did. She and I were having a conversation when the staff person approached us, attempting to apologize and justify what he did. This person had the nerve to say "Well, I think Professor SS would agree with me."

Whoa, dude. When did I become part of this equation?

I cut him off by saying letting him know that he was on his own with this one and to not drag me into his abyss. I said that I stood by my mentee and that he was out of line. 

I feel bad for my mentee. I emailed her and told her to call me later. But, I think she was really hurt.

So, tell me academic gurus. What do you think? Are there too many people who just don't know?


TiredProf said...

You're absolutely right—this crap drives me nuts. I have a new-last-year administrator who fancies himself an expert on the core curr. class I (and many others) have taught for years, despite the fact that his area is the "other" part of our college. And he's a writing rubrics expert, too, informing us that the ones the all-campus faculty committee developed recently based on working with OUR students are lousy (after looking at them for 30 seconds in a meeting). We should use his. He did something similar to the stunt you describe in a meeting last year, though didn't lean on any person in particular. One of the many reasons I've stopped going to those meetings.

Seeking Solace said...

What really blows is that the person who did this isn't an administrator. He's a staff person!

post-doc said...

I can say that while having such things happen is hurtful and unpleasant, having a mentor or manager validate those feelings and offer her/his support is incredibly meaningful and helpful. So I wanted to say that I think you're even more awesome than usual on this one. Yay for you!

There are, sadly, so many people who are willing to behave badly to get attention or look smart that learning to deal with them is an important lesson. I do hope she comes to you for advice and support if she needs it.

philosophyfactory said...

I think that it would be pretty acceptable for your mentee to waltz into the staff person's office and criticize their methods of doing business after watching them for 5 minutes...

rented life said...

Glad the mentee has you! I like philosophyfactory's idea personally.

I see similar things even amount faculty. For example people who have never taught in my field or taken a class in my field, wanting to give thoughts on why what my course goals and objections are are wrong. Excuse me, but if you teach X and I teach Y and they don't really intersect...leave it alone! Sounds like your staff person was trying to make himself feel important.

Seeking Solace said...

Thanks everyone. She is doing much better today. We had a really nice chat about the whole thing.

ITPF: There is a line of people who would be willing to criticize this person. :)

nicoleandmaggie said...

We posted on teaching tactics earlier this week and got a ton of responses about how if we just believed in the students and truly loved teaching we wouldn't need tactics, and that because students are paying tuition they deserve to have their preferences catered to. And so on.

All of those responses were from people who have never taught. We remember when we were naive young things too.

Sherlock said...

Everybody thinks they know how to teach. Wonder if they're that bad at their own jobs?

undine said...

Not only was the response rude, but ignoring the discussion to grade the samples during the meeting was rude. The staff person broke the first rule of assessment: you can't just pick up a pen and start grading without knowing what the assignment is designed to do (as you pointed out). I