I am in a "closed" Facebook group devoted to teaching online. Granted, the group is run by someone who wrote a book on online teaching that focuses even in the title on making six figures teaching online. The fact that that is in the title should be a tip off that for some folks it's all about the dollars. While the group is interesting, it does turn into a bit of a whine-fest and student bashing spot from time-to-time. Recently, someone posted about a student situation and they were incredulous that it took the student a few days to contact them. I'm not going to give any more details than that, mainly because the instructor who posted the information gave enough detail that it is possible someone could pick out the student she was talking about.
I commented on the post, mainly to let the person know that it is possible the student's excuse was legitimate and that just because she couldn't find "proof" of the situation with Google didn't automatically mean the student was trying to get one over on the instructor. I suggested that they could politely ask for some verification and place the burden on the student. If a student has a real reason for late work, they usually are more than happy to provide some verification of the issue.
The conversation got a bit ugly (not with me, but with others in the group).
And then, a student showed up in the "closed group."
Now, mind you, the person who facilitates this group is not overly interested in screening who gets in. After all, the facilitator sells consultation services for CV and portfolio building that I'm sure are stellar. Translation: The more folks who join the group, the more likely someone will pay this person to help with their job application materials and give them leads.
So, this isn't a closely monitored truly "closed group."
The student was very nice about saying, "Hey, I'm not sure how I wound up in this group, but I'm a student. I've been here awhile and I notice that this isn't the first time that I've noticed that this group turns into a bitch-fest about students. As a student, I am shocked to know that professional educators would share so much personal and sensitive information here." This is paraphrased, but that was the idea.
I expected some back-pedaling. Instead, the original poster stood by the "this isn't whining, it's sharing best practices and getting another point of view. Besides, I didn't give any names."
OK, so no actual names were given. However, the situation (I know I said I wouldn't give more details) was a homicide situation in a named town. The instructor also indicated where they teach at some point. In other words, it wouldn't take Columbo to figure out who this student was if they were at the same school (which it kind of looks like they might have been) as the student in the group or if the students even just lived in the same town.
Yep, not only did an instructor overshare sensitive information and say "who does this" about the student's behavior--she then slapped down another student in the group who said, "hey, this might be too sensitive or specific to share."
What was worse was that many other educators in the group followed up in that thread by ignoring that there are obviously some students in the group--you couldn't tell from their commiserating "oh, you think your student is bad, let me tell you about a student I have/had and the lame excuses they gave." I eventually stopped reading because I kept screaming at my monitor.
So, the very things we tell students not to do--share sensitive information on the net that might compromise their jobs or ruin future chances--are the same exact things these colleagues of mine were doing.
It gets worse.
More recently, one of them posted asking if we allow students to submit a draft early for feedback prior to grading. To me, this is a no-brainer; when I was on ground I had office hours. What did I do in those office hours? I met with students who wanted to go over a draft before the due date, ask questions about the assignment, or get more detailed formative feedback on a graded assignment. Heck, sometimes they came by before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for an old-fashioned brainstorming session.
So, my response was "Sure--it's no different from office hour consultations. The same restriction that they leave time to apply the information applies in both situations, but they should be encouraged to get help ahead of time--it shows initiative."
Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I believe that consulting with students one-on-one is called teaching and it is part of my job.
The responses after mine were quite a shock. Some suggested that "if you do it for one you have to do it for all." Well, sure, but only if every student gets work done ahead of time and shares it with you and is an active participant in that process. We should all be so lucky.
A lot of folks said "send them to the Writing Center and let them edit it." Someone suggested that they tell the student to "hire a professional editor." I'm not even going to get into the issue that people think that all students need is editing or proofreading to get good grades and seem to ignore that content is really what we should be focusing on.
I'm saddened by this attitude of "I don't have time to deal with the student who works ahead and wants my help." We are turning into grading robots if we refuse to actually teach. Is that what it has come to? Am I supposed to just let the pre-designed course run itself and just serve as the house-keeper and make sure things open when they are supposed to and that links work? Am I just there to keep the machine running and to slap scores in the grade book?
Sadly, it seems that a lot of my colleagues think so. And given some of the student complaints I get about how I expect them to do graduate level work when I ask for reasonably organized and focused work, I suspect some of my students think so, as well.
And, in a world where adjunct faculty are more frequently asked to keep time-sheets and ensure they don't go over 27 hours a week because the employers don't want to shift to full-time and benefits packages is fueling this attitude of "go to someone else--I don't have time for that and it's not what I'm paid to do."
I kind of hope more students find their way "in" to the group. We need more reminders to behave ourselves and truly share best practices, rather than just using the group as our own virtual slam book.