Teaching is a fascinating profession; it comprises individuals who were all successful as students. Implicit in our concept of teaching is replicating for our students what proved successful for us. The reality, however, is that most of our students are not on the same path we are on (there are exceptions to this especially in programs for health care professionals and similar professionals). Even if students our students have the same professional goals as their teachers once had, each arrived in the classroom from a different path and each is likely to take a different path into their life beyond school.
Teaching has also changed. We are accountable to those who have no expertise, and we are teaching students who have far different experiences than previous generations of students. We are also more aware of the effects of our actions in classrooms.
A recent post on the careers section of the AAAS web site illustrates the landscape of teaching with clarity. I encourage all who find this post to read the post; it cannot be effectively summarized:
We can take several lessons from this story:
Our students are not “soft.” The hoops we have them jump through to earn grades should reflect their understanding of the material and how it can be used to solve problems. Don’t conflate “difficult to pass” with “accurate measurement of what students know.”
You have an obligation to help all students pass your exams and other assessments. Panic attacks, excessive failure rates, and similar events that are blamed on students are most often indicators that we have not prepared our students for what we are asking them to do.
Surely education does serve as a gateway for entry into professions and groups, and we know that those who have earned degrees have been able to navigate certain situations that have little to do with the content we teach. Handling stressful situations like tests is one of those things we learn to navigate while students. Those situations are made more stressful when he students are unprepared. Students play a role in their level of preparedness, but it is time that all educators learn (as Roshini Ramachandran appears to have) that we do as well, and we must ensure we have done all we can to prepare students for our tests and their lives.