Instructor as grace – Bringing goodwill to the classroomOn January 4, 2020 by firstname.lastname@example.org
With another close of the semester, it’s a great time to reflect and re-energize before the next begins.
The end of the semester is often fraught with student complaints (anxieties), professor frustrations (stress), and tricky situations (ethical and moral problems) to manage. That said, we’re exhausted by the time those final grades are posted.
It can be easy as an instructor to get sucked into the negativity of this process, letting it taint the way you think about your job over your break, and how you approach the next semester.
Unless you’re like me, ever-optimistic, and the next semester is always a chance to do it better. Make it easier. Improve student success to a greater degree.
This year I’m hoping to leverage my word of the year to make me a more realistic and human professor and to help my students become more mature adults.
For 2020, my word of the year is, Grace.
What about grace?
To me, the word grace gives me a lovely mental image. I picture beauty and light, and power. A powerful interior concealed by a peaceful and refined exterior.
Grace in teaching, for me, is the next step in creating a student-centered classroom. Not only do I want to respond and interact with my students gracefully, but I want to model a graceful way of learning, struggling, and growing for my students.
For me, envisioning and modeling grace is a pathway to solving common and critical problems we face in higher education.
Why is grace in teaching necessary?
One of the most common complaints about students is their lack of resilience. Students struggle with managing the stress and responsibility of their college experience, and their mental health is suffering.
Students legitimately need support. Both from their faculty and the numerous support services on our campuses.
Faculty, too, suffer from intense mental pressure, stress, and feelings of overwhelm.
However, graceful interactions with students and with each other can help manage these expectations and emotional stresses.
What does interacting with grace look like?
For me, interacting with grace is a few things:
- Thinking before speaking/responding. What are the implications of what you say and how you say it?
- Making expectations or boundaries clear, but in a kind and respectful way
- Providing clear reasons behind your decisions and actions
- Admitting you don’t know or when you’re wrong
- Acknowledging when you don’t meet expectations or when you let others down, then making it up to them in a way that matters.
Grace in teaching doesn’t mean you’ll never make a mistake. But it is a way of handling those mistakes in a way that repairs relationships, rather than breaking them down.
It also doesn’t mean our students will always treat us with grace. But we can certainly model for them how one might aspire to be. We can demonstrate how grace can improve the educational experience for all of us.
Your word of the year might not be grace. You might not even buy-in to the idea that grace can help improve your classroom environment. But, if nothing else, aspiring to grace in teaching gives us a beautiful example to live up to as we interact with our colleagues and our students.