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Thursday, February 9, 2012

the hidden cost of change - week 6

it's been nearly a month since my last entry here.

i've been reflecting a great deal on all that is happening, but not here...not in the open. there is a way in which i don't want my thoughts to be known.  in terms of the students in SUSTAIN, in some ways, they are thriving. their relationships with one another are strong and they are deeply engaged in their community projects. they have all said that they have never worked this much in their (short) college career, but it is meanful work, in contrast to the meaningless work that they see their non-SUSTAIN peers doing.

but there is a great and terrible thing that is happening...
the faculty can now see into each others' courses--see what students experience.

students are experiencing a horrific overwhelm in physics, so much so that almost all their attention for their other courses has been displaced by all that they believe they need to do in physics.  i have a lot of emotion around this, none of which occurs to me as positive.  i was to be "team teaching" physics, but i've simply not had the bandwidth to give it much attention, so i feel a real failure in my ability to prioritize the well-being of the students in physics, at least. (i am teaching a general physics to the non-STEM majors).

what i wanted to record here is my personal experience of collapse in my ego self.  how is this happening?  we wanted students to be invested in the community projects--they are.  we wanted students to treat us as co-learners...they are. we wanted students to be self-directed...they (mostly) are.  we wanted them to leverage peer-to-peer learning...they are.

i am now "one of them," in a way that makes my voice rather equal...not more powerful, but equal.  i am not that useful to them, they turn to one another when they are stuck.  oftentimes, when they ask me for help on physics, i cannot help them!  some have asked me for help in calculus.  i could not help them.

this might sound rather silly, but i am losing my identity as useful and valuable.  for me, this is emotionally crushing. my emotions are right at the surface. i am given to crying as a way of expressing how i feel (not indulgently, but spontaneously, when i encounter the students' apparent suffering, when i encounter my inability to help them).

if i didn't have a family, i might find myself actually heroically attempting to keep up with all of the classes. that was actually my desire. but that is not my state. i am just not able.

the funny thing is that i normally think of myself as rather competent. i have taught probably 30 different courses, including all of the courses in the materials engineering curriculum. i've been given several awards throughout the years for my alleged excellence in teaching.  but this past "excellence," doesn't add up to the present needs.  SUSTAIN has exposed the many ways in which i am not competent.  i suppose that in my past life as a "teacher,"  is was easy to feign competence while "teaching" only a subset of what i already knew.

there are many ways in which what we are doing is not consistent with our design. we had designed it originally so that the faculty would only have SUSTAIN, would not be teaching other courses.  it is nearly the opposite of that.  the faculty are fragmented across all kinds of other obligations so that we are suffering in exactly the way we didn't want to suffer.

i realize that the only time i reflect is when i am pushed to an extreme.  this distorts the data.

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