A Search for Perfection

I have a student who because of his personality and the program he is planning to attend is demanding of himself that he earns an A+ in my class. He is a delightful student who regularly helps his peers if they miss a class or a struggling. The problem? He is so hard on himself. When we discuss difficult topics in class he is worried and stressed about learning them for tests. On test day he is worried and stressed about doing well. When he makes mistakes on labs he worries about it. If his class average goes down half a percent I will often get an email (all my students have access to their gradebook).

I routinely, when I see him worry (f2f) or get his emails (online class), I tell him he will be fine, that he will get the grade he needs to enter the program. I remind him how hard it is for adults to go back to school, especially when they have been out for a long time.

I see myself and my cohort in him. I am incredibly fortunate to have him in my class; not only because he is the kind of student every teacher is fortunate to have, but because I can see us in him. I make the same demands on myself. I stress about obtaining perfection in my classes. I am demanding A+’s from myself as, way down the road, I hope to get my PhD and I know top grades are demanded.

Who is to blame for all this? Is it the programs that require an A+ to enter, whether warranted or not? Is it the student who, being out of school for so long, knows the sacrifices that they, and their families, are making so that they can attend school and achieve their dream? I suspect it is both and more.

It is important for students to remember that “it’s about progress, not perfection”  and while doing well can be very important, you should do your best, being present, and recognize that sometimes you will not get the A+.

Now I just need to practice what I preach

A Metaphor: Facilitating on-line Learning

Alaska

A student commencing an on-line course is similar to a captain of a boat leaving on a deep sea voyage.

The facilitator of the course is responsible to give the learner a map with the final destination, perhaps recommending some ports of call along the way, but the student ultimately determines the timing, the path, and interesting stops during the trip. They are their own captain, piloting their own learning journey. Different learners have different amounts of educational experience so the facilitator provides guidance and support as and when needed as some students may require a lot, some only a little.

In the end, the student, and the instructor, are off on a glorious journey.

My Start

In grade 4, I had an epiphany, I would be a teacher. Despite other interest and ideas, I always came back to my first passion, teaching. Upon graduation from high school, I spent a year in England working in a boarding school. It was there that my interest in Earth Sciences was generated. In my office at VIU I still have the rock that first made me say “Huh, how did this come to be?”

I studied Earth Science at the University of Victoria. My four year degree took slightly longer than planned as my daughter was born in third year. After obtaining my degree, I moved to Nanaimo and met my husband. I applied to the PDPP at UVIC and was accepted. The program was being offered in Cranbrook so the whole family moved.

It was in Cranbrook that I first experienced distance learning. Some of our instructors were in Victoria. Thus, we some courses were taught by teleconference. It was my first experience with a non-traditional classroom.

After moving back to the island, I was a substitute teacher in the school district. I had the opportunity to teach at Vancouver Island University in Adult and Career Preparation. At VIU I found my true calling, teaching adults.

In the four to five years I have been working at VIU, I have been exploring blended learning. Teaching adults has different challenges then in the K to 12 system. Many of my students have jobs, some full time, families, and other commitments. Often, they need to miss class. If a flipped or blended option was available it would make it easier for my students to meet their education goals.