Where have they seen me before?
Right before I started the doctoral program, I had enrolled in a certificate program for leadership in public health. It was aimed at professionals who worked full time, but it had a couple of shortcomings. First, the assignments required working in groups at a time when there wasn’t a particularly good online/remote way of doing it. Second, the assignments themselves were not very clear. Third, the in-person classes took places at all sorts of weird places around the state. Finally, the person coordinating the whole thing and giving the in-person lectures was, in my opinion, not an effective teacher.
When I started to fall behind on an assignment, I emailed the coordinator for clarification on a couple of points. Their response? Well, their response was a rant about how I didn’t pay attention in class, was always distracted, and how I played with my toy (i.e. the iPhone) instead of paying attention. Yes, they repeated the paying attention thing twice while never answering my questions about the assignment.
I let that email sit for a while as I had other things to take care of. When I got back to it, I decided to thank them for their feedback and move on. But before I completely abandoned the whole thing, I asked for the opinion of some of the other students. Magically (not), what I mentioned to other students got to the ears (or eyes) of the teacher. This resulted in yet another email rant about not bringing matters up to them when I should have.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a teaching assistant and when I taught a couple of courses for lab assistant students is that, no matter how childish the students’ behavior, they want to be treated as adults. It’s also counterproductive to take things personally. Teaching is not a business, per se, but the relationship is very much a customer-provider one. The student is a customer, and they need you to provide knowledge and tools to retain that knowledge.
After that second exchange, I emailed the person back and thanked them again for their feedback. I then explained that I was abandoning my attempt at the certificate. I didn’t give reasons. I just wrote it and that was it. There was no use in trying to argue any point if the answer was going to be yet another rant.
As it turns out, the coordinator of that certificate program has some sort of affiliation with the school of public health. I’ve seen them once or twice at the school. They always look befuddled when they see me. It’s as if they wanted to place me in their minds but cannot. After all, they only saw me in person twice.
Sure, I’d like to walk up to them and show them all the notes I kept from those certificate classes. They’re a lot of notes, and they’re in a notebook at home. Lots of good tips on leadership and management are in those notes. Sadly, they’re not in those emails.
It would be nice if people teaching leadership skills had a demonstrated level of skill in the subject. I have not always found this to be the case.
(mandatory disclosure: one of the classes I teach for my volunteer organization is in small unit leadership).