Tomorrow, in about eleven hours, I will walk into an economics classroom at Winona State University. Seated will be 40 students, most of them freshmen and sophomores. They have signed up for a course in Principles of Microeconomics. For the freshmen it will be their first collegiate class because my 8:00 am class is the first hour of the first day of classes for the fall 2013 term.
Some of the sophomores will expect me to introduce myself, go through the syllabus, crack a couple of jokes and dismiss the class after 10 minutes. They’ve gained that expectation from past experience in collegiate classrooms. They will be disappointed. Tomorrow’s class will take the full 50 minutes; perhaps 52 minutes. By the end of the week they will be expected to read two chapters in the text and turn in three homework assignments. The fun and games of freshman orientation week are over.
There are no grading “curves” in my classes. 90% or above gets you an A. Less than 70% gets you a D. Less than 60% gets you an F. By the time the semester is over roughly 50% of my students will either drop the class or take an F. Of all the departments at WSU the economics department grades the toughest, with the lowest GPA. I’m proud to be joined by such good company.
I once heard a professor say that “Education is the only commodity where people want the least then can get for their money.” There is some truth to that. If I was paying a psychiatrist $200 an hour for therapy and he ended the session after a half hour I would expect to get $100 back. If a university professor emails his classes and tells 40 students that there will be no class tomorrow, everyone celebrates!
When I was a child I would ask my Father what was expected of me. His answer was always the same, “All I expect from you is that you to do your best.” That would send me reeling….after all, only I knew what was my best…and giving my best was no simple task.
I love my students, but I’m not doing them any favors by demanding less than they can give. Tomorrow I’m going to say to them, “Every day that I come to class I am going to give you 100% of what I’ve got; I expect no less from you.”