The most difficult students

Blogging has been an integral part of my courses for more than five years now. And throughout that time, I have read so much insight from students which I would never had known. It also helped me get into their heads. The things I learned from them has helped me in my perpertual effort in improving my content and how I teach.

These blogs have also led me to discover certain patterns in student behavior.

Students outside MMS 100 generally think it’s difficult to be in my classes. I get that. But one thing I have noticed is that the students how say so hardly perform the same. Academic performance always vary. Some struggle while some excel. Grades from previous courses aren’t always a good indicator for predicting performance under me. And I wondered what separates them.

Photography, or more specifically, having to teach photography and grade students according to the university’s methods can sometimes be a touchy task. And truth be told, it carries the bulk of what I have regarded as difficult students. But it is not the type of students which you may be thinking.

There are those who will come into class immediately labeling themselves as beginners, or with having zero experience in photography. They are the ones who are already scared even before they get the chance to start writing their self introductions. These are the students who will continuously say they have trouble understanding the technical aspects of the course. There are also those who would say they are not creative people, or they do not have the artistic eye. This line of excuses extend pretty far and can be exasperating at times.

But they are not the most difficult students to manage. Or at least, not necessarily. Limited know-how can always be addressed. That’s why students go to school, in the first place. As long as students will go out there, do the necessary work, then everything will eventually fall into place.

The most difficult students are the ones who do not really want to be taught. Maybe they enrolled to learn. But that’s not exactly the same as being taught. There are different manifestations of this. The most obvious ones are those who you repeatedly see in the classlist, but never really log in to go through the manual and the course site. Then there are those who are easily scared off by criticism, or sometimes take them too personally. Or perhaps they would like to believe that they already know everything they need to know about the subject at hand and will passively or outwardly reject any signs to the contrary. These are the people who would rather blame the teacher, the content, the websites, their classmates, the camera, the microphone, the weather… whatever. Everything gets blamed except themselves. Worst case scenario: a complaint gets filed against me. -sigh-

Maybe it’s just plain laziness. They are an absolute waste of taxpayers’ money. While it might just be that, from what I have observed, there really aren’t that many who have this affliction in its pure form.

This unwillingness to be taught can easily be associated with pride. And indeed, we can easily understand why. A few of their pictures gets liked at Facebook and suddenly you have affirmation. It hurts the ego to suddenly have that affirmation invalidated. Even just the chance of it can scare some. I know, because I’ve been through that a number of times, within and outside of social media. The prospect of being criticized always gives me pause, to this day.

However, beneath that pride is a more insidious feeling — insecurity. Everybody carries it at least at certain points in our lives and leads us to say and do stupid things. And while there really is never a good time for it, insecurity is a particularly terrible thing to have while being a student.

I used to care a lot about this. Maybe a bit too much. However, I have long since learned that any direct encouragement from me is a waste of time and energy. There is even the chance that I would look like the bad guy. So, no. I’m done focusing too much on these people. There is nothing I can do for those who will not listen to me. Instead, I will do more for those who are willing to learn and be taught.

I can only hope that you, the reader, belong to the latter.

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