The Waiting Room

This could take a while...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My First Day

Posted by Seeking Solace |

I survived my first doctoral class...and it was OK.

There are 15 people in class; a mix of those in higher education and K-12. The majority work during the day and are doing the PhD thing at night. Some are just starting and some are a couple of courses away from being ABD. The group is lively and willing to engage in discussion.

There is a lot of work for this class, but I think I can handle it if I put myself on a schedule to keep up with the reading and papers. The instructor is new to Elsewhere State, but her background is quite impressive.

My only complaint? I think that this instructor should keep her personal views to herself. The instructor made no bones about the fact that she is a staunch liberal, and anyone with money does not understand what it means to be poor. When one student mentioned how  students at her school embraces differences in race, gender and sexual orientation, the instructor told her that such a thing is impossible. At one point, I felt like my fellow classmate had to apologize for being White.


 I sat there listening to all of this, and it made me wonder if I need to apologize for my status in life? At one point, I tucked my Coach handbag behind my laptop bag, just in case. I mean, I did grow up poor. so did Husband. Husband and I struggled for many years. We are now able to enjoy some of the fruits of our labor, but we never forget where we came from and we don't flaunt what we have. We live very responsibly. And, I would never ask Husband to apologize for being White. No one should have to apologize for who they are, but come on, Husband is  married to a biracial woman! He's seen and experienced how cruel people can be.

My answer to my questions was "Hell No!" Those of you who know me IRL know how hard Husband and I work and what it has taken for us to get where we are. My status in life has given me an opportunity to be generous, not just financially, but being a role model to my nieces, nephews and students of what can be if you work hard.  No apologies.

But, my instructor's approach last night made me think about what our role is as facilitators in the classroom. It has always been my belief as an instructor that my students should not know where I personally stand on issues. I do not want anyone to subscribe to my views or think they have to suck up to me by subscribing to my beliefs.  I've always told my students not to ask me what I believe because the point of learning is to look at all sides of a particular issue, consider the evidence and make an informed decision. We all have different views, and we should treat those views with dignity and respect, not ridicule. My goal is to teach people critical thinking, not change their beliefs and certainly not to make people feel like they have to apologize for who they are.

Honestly, I really don't care if someone is liberal, conservative, socialist or libertarian. I respect one's right to have that opinion, even if I don't agree with it. I will challenge, respectfully, a viewpoint, but I will never belittle someone.  At the same time, I will not allow anyone to treat another student inappropriately because their views are different from those in the class.

Am I wrong?

So, my strategy for handling issues in my class is to keep a poker face and fall back on my lawyer training. The instructor said that she is going to have us debate issues, particularly those we don't believe. I am trained to articulate and argue any issue, even those we don't agree with. I can BS my way through anything and make it sound plausible.

Now, this seems like a challenge. Bring it on.


Rebecca said...

I fully agree with you. And I hope your teacher's personal views don't add stress to your first step toward a goal that, while rewarding, will involve a great deal of extra work for you. Your solution seems perfect. Falling back on your training should enable you to handle the situation with a measure of detachment, which will hopefully reduce any possible stress factor. Best of luck!

Seeking Solace said...

Thanks, Rebecca. I don't think it will stop me, but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.

rented life said...

Are you sure you aren't back in Lake Effect? Because I had a teacher like that. Mind you he was white, but that seemed lost on him. Your solution will likely go better than mine--I kept trying to defend everyone because I was so frustrated--I ended up being graded on that instead of my work. It did serve as a reminder not to voice my own opinions on certain issues unless asked, and soemtimes not even then, when I'm moderating class discussions.

Seeking Solace said...

RL: I know, right? But, it's a sad commentary when people can just agree to disagree and respect other views.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I teach several classes that include controversial topics and I always play devil's advocate against both sides of an issue. No one in my classes ever knows my own beliefs. And that's as it should be.