This Class

Dr. So-and-so,

Before I get into what your class has or hasn’t done for me this semester, I wanted to thank you. Our meeting the other day was amazing. Profound, even. I have never had a professor care about me, respect me, and/or value me as much as you did during that meeting. You leveled with me. I felt equal..like my words and feelings mattered and could have a tangible influence. You really listened. And it is that fact that brings me so much happiness. It is not something experienced often in college, unfortunately. So, really, thank you.

You asked for our feedback regarding this class, so, with such an open invitation, I’m going to take it. And, I believe that handwritten things are more authentic, hence, this physical paper.

When I start to begin to evaluate a class, it is difficult to know where to start. It seems like questions are all that I find. What did I learn? Was the class set up in a sensible way? What goals were there? Will I remember this info next semester? Next year? What truly is a realistic goal for a takeaway in a college class? Questions like these, and many more like it, make it challenging to unpack the complexities, but we can give it a try.

When it comes to having goals for this class, what is realistic? What is appropriate? The explicit goals seemed to be that we should digest the material presented in the lectures, be able to reproduce it on the test, and that was pretty much it. We practiced for the test consistently, which, if excelling on the tests is the main goal, makes wonderful sense. I challenge, though if testing and excellence on paper and pencil, multiple-choice and short answer tests is the utmost goal.

This class does not exist in a bubble. The implications and extensions of what we learn have real-world applications and, as you know, cannot be boiled down to a multiple choice question. Psychological disorders do not often occur on a black and white basis, and they should be taught as a grey area. Acting and diagnosing according to research and expert opinion is best practice, yes, but to operate on any sense of certainty is dangerous..and invalidates the uniqueness of the person at hand.

What can be done to make sure students not only understand the material, but engage in it? And remember what they have learned? These are not easy questions. But, as I talked about when we met, having to write something where interaction with the text was required, forced that reading and comprehension, and by writing something out, forced a robust thought process to take place..not just a memorization. Qualitatively measuring progress in a class is better than quantitative. A student getting a 100% on a test shows that they know the material at that moment. A student writing a paper regarding the material and how they see it applicated in their experiences shows that, although it may be biased, they have used the class info and understood it..and they are more likely to remember that application than that memorization.

When I think about this class looking back, I’ll remember drinking mountain dew, laughing at students who belabored through personal anecdotes, and laughing when Youtube’s autoplay feature would surprise you every time. Ha. And will some of the material stick? Of course. But do those statistics, percentages, or knowing all 8 ways to combat autism serve me in a clinical setting, or just a setting when I am with kids? Probably not. Being relatable, considerate, respectful, and funny helps connecting with kids. And sure, the knowledge of those disorders is valuable. But this class helped me realize that working with kids hands-on is more my style.

So, could I really ask for anything else from a college class? No. This is helping me fine tune my plans for the future. Does the grade matter? Yes, but not as much as this realization. And I must thank you again for facilitating the thought process that is explored in this paper. And, as always, this is just the beginning of the conversation.

Cheers,

Nigel

P.S. Like I said, I like to play by my own rules.

This is copied from a letter written to a professor who taught about psychological disorders in children. While their class was not set up how I would have necessarily liked, their desire to hear feedback from students meant a whole lot to me, and I hope that my feedback provides some food for thought and energy for action.