Thursday, April 28, 2011

Blast from the Past: Sucker Punch


It's that time of the semester, after all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008
All in a Day's Work: Sucker Punch
by Rebel Girl

sucker punch : to punch (a person) suddenly without warning and often without apparent provocation

REBEL GIRL has had a good semester thus far, inspired by new texts and new students. She feels challenged and so do her students. It makes for a lively classroom.

At this point in the semester, students are making the necessary progress, some more than others. There are always those who excelled from the beginning and those who have failed to do so. Then there are those who are surprised by their own ability to progress – there's something special about that bunch. In the beginning, Rebel Girl worried they would drop even though she saw their potential, even though they may have failed the first paper. Stay, she counseled, I know you can do it if you manage your time and focus. They stayed –and now, well, many of them are doing more than passing; some are on their ways to earning B's. They discuss writing and critical thinking with an awareness that they admit they lacked 10 weeks ago. When asked, they say, somewhat shyly that they can see their own progress, notice the difference.

Huzzah.

About this time, Rebel Girl queries them about their future classes. Who's taking Writing 2 next semester, she asks. Hands rise. Excellent. She advises them on Writing 180 opportunities, the reading classes and reminds them not to overload themselves.

So yesterday, in consultation with one of those students who is making her own surprised way to a B, Rebel Girl asks, "What are your plans for the Spring?"

"Oh, I'm taking writing," the student says, "but at another college."

"Why?"

"Well, I heard it's easier."

Rebel Girl goes into her standard patter on this subject: "You don't need easy. You don't want easy. You want to be prepared for the university where things are not easy and besides, you're doing WELL. Look at this paper." They stare at the 5 page rhetorical analysis of a poem by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Hass.

The student is now embarrassed.

"Is this what your friends told you?" Rebel Girl asks.

"Yes," the student says, "but my counselor told me to do it too." She says the word "counselor" with a certain defensive pride.

"Your counselor here? At this college?" Rebel Girl's voice has gone up an octave at this point.

The student nods. She seems uncomfortable so Rebel Girl lets it go. Besides, she knows when she has lost. This student is a fairly reliable witness. She works on the campus. She will, next semester, take all her classes here except writing. Writing she will take at another college. This on the advice of her academic counselor here, at this college.

Sigh. Big sigh.

Rebel Girl might dismiss this if this was the first time she heard this story. But it isn't.

Counselors are very smart
There's ways to read this story.

One way is that the counselor wants to "help" the student achieve her academic goals and thinks an easy A is the way to do it. That version, of course, insults the smart student, the student that Reb has worked hard to teach the semester. Perhaps the counselor thinks the student isn't as capable as Reb thinks she is.

Maybe the counselor thinks Reb and her colleagues have standards in their writing courses that are higher than necessary, hence the suggestion to move on to another institution where the standards are, uh, different. Reb has certainly heard that one before.

Maybe the counselor wanted to ease up crowded classrooms on campus here on campus. After all, we certainly have seen a rise in enrollment so maybe this is part of some kind of enrollment management strategy.

Maybe the student's narrative isn't as reliable as Reb thinks it is and no counselor ever suggested anything of the sort because he or she would recognize how it undermines our educational mission and so poorly serves our students.

Maybe.

What do you think?
27 comments:

Anonymous said...
I would doubt the student's version at this time without something much more tangible--it sounds fishy right now.

Anonymous said...
I do think that there are individuals who counsel some students to take writing classes elsewhere -

Anonymous said...
You english teachers think too much of yourselves and your classes - that's why they go somewhere else. Who wants to put up with you?

Anonymous said...
It could be that the student is covering up her own poor decision by placing some blame on the counselor and is lying to Reb (we DO know that SOME students lie) - but all the Reb has to do is ask the student who her counselor is and then go and inquire. It would make for a fine follow-up story.

I can't imagine our counselors advising students to go elsewhere, even for one class - I mean that's terrible.

13 Stoploss said...
9:50 - that's the point. no one anymore is willing to work or earn something, and instead expect to have everything handed to them. If these teachers didn't have standards, then they might as well all be replaced with trained monkeys.

Anonymous said...
I agree with 9:59. I can't imagine one of our counselors doing that - I think maybe Reb fell for the student's "story" a little too hard.

Which college is she going to anyway where the "A's" in writing are easy? There's your follow-up story, Reb.

Anonymous said...
No IVC counselor would do that.

Rebel Girl has just had a hard day.
Counselor Deanna Troi
Anonymous said...
Rebel Girl has stumbled upon part of the college's enrollemnt management plan! Direct students elsewhere!

Evidence of this plan can also be seen in the failure to plan for and construct classroom buildings! Hence the need to direct students elsewhere!

Tricky!

Anonymous said...
I think if a student is having trouble with his/hers GPA the Federal Government should bail them out.

Anonymous said...
Reb is correct and the student probably did not lie. IVC Counselors have actually said in my presence that they advise students to take writing at Saddleback or to take assessment tests at Saddleback or OCC because they're "easier."

Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that transferring IVC students who complete writing in our program may outperform Saddleback students who transfer to the same institutions.

Reb does have a reason to feel suckerpunched by colleagues who are not thinking of the larger picture. Sorry to have to confirm her tale with my own experience.

Bohrstein said...
It is very well possible it is a lie, but there ARE counselors that do this exact thing. I've had it recommended to me for Physics/Math in particular (But, I never listen to my counselors).

However, I agree with 13 Stoploss, there are students who don't want to work for it. They want the easy grade, and they want out. You are fighting a losing battle with laziness, not to mention alternate interests.

For example, I have no interest in Economics and I have to take a class in Economics. OK, I say, bring on the easiest class so I can focus on my major.

But, I have found that easy is always boring.

Anonymous said...
Harder does not necessarily equate with quality. Besides, the student may not have the same passion for writing as Reb does and simply wants to achieve the highest grade in return for the lowest level of effort. Who know what the real motivation is.

Anonymous said...
A student that I mentor told me that his counselor said that there is an easier class at IVC than at SC, and vice versa, depending on the subject. I don't think he was encouraged to take the class he wanted to at IVC, but he was certainly informed of the option, which is probably just as bad. By the way, this student has absolutely no reason to lie to me. 
Counseling can be fun
Anonymous said...
I've read the student's paper on the Hass poem, and it is an insightful essay on the wars of Palo Alto. But there is a long-standing tradition among some counselors at IVC who relish their status as insiders whispering foolish advice to students. I know this from years of student stories. And sadly, writing isn't the only class students are warned away from.

Anonymous said...
I too have had students tell me that they were going "south" to take writing 2. I have been told that there are some instructors down at Saddleback that are much easier than the instructors here at IVC.

Yes, everyone wants the best GPA possible but when it comes to writing - you need the best experience you can get. You will write for the rest of your life.

Lisa, try not take it personally. You are a wonderful teacher, coworker, friend, mom, etc.

Anonymous said...
"You want to be prepared for the university where things are not easy . . . ."

This is an assumption all of us (including me) often make, but I don't know whether it's accurate.

I'd like to know how much and what kind of writing is required in upper-division courses at our neighboring CSU and UC campuses. I'd like to know what standards students are held to.

And data is not the plural of ancedote.

--100 miles down the road

Anonymous said...
Whatever the "university" may or may not require I am sure it's more than the simplistic paragraph and plaigiarism strategies taught at nearby institutions that primarily serve the interests of the instructors who simply don't want to work that hard.

Anonymous said...
It's one thing if a counselor suggests a program or class at another college because that institution might be better (I'm thinking of some of our programs that are udner-funded or have thin course offerings), but to direct a student to another institution because it's easier seems indefensible.

I am so happy that we're all working together to deliver the best education to our students!

Anonymous said...
Don't studies show that basic competency in writing furthers the chances of students' eventual success in their chosen fields? I think it's related not only to retention but also to degree completion rates.

Anonymous said...
There are so many English 1B ( = Writing 2) instructors here at Saddleback that anyone issuing advice to come south for a higher grade or easier time had better make sure what instructor the student gets.

I wonder whether her counselor is a "virtual" counselor. Have we all checked out our stats on pick-a-prof? If what you're shopping for is an "A" that can be earned by breathing regularly, it's definitely a site you want to visit.

IVC doesn't have any WR 2 data yet; someone has been loading Saddleback data for a few years now. I did an In-Service study on grade distributions in UC-transferable courses to check out a few hypotheses/myths, and will do another in January, if anyone's interested.
Counseling is substantial
alannah said...
Dear Bohrstein:

I've had students tell me they were advised to go north for math.

I do think some counselors habitually underestimate students, however.

Anonymous said...
Alannah:
We're interested. --RB

Anonymous said...
For the record, Rebel Girl did not identify the institution the student was directed to ---

Anonymous said...
Yikes.
Does the dean of counseling up there know about this?

Robbi said...
Should we meet with the counselors? I think so. Let's discuss and clear this up!

Elva said...
I've had the counselors at IVC give me some really bad advice. One piece of their brilliant work resulted in my now having to take 3 extra classes, and being barred from upper division enrollment in my major because i hadn't fulfilled the lower div requirements at IVC. I also left IVC with about 85 transferrable units because they couldn't decide what it was exactly that I needed before they would sign my IGETC verification. I can't tell you if the student is lying, but I can tell you some of the counselors at IVC, well, I really don't know what they get paid for.

Anonymous said...
my counselor told me i should take an easier class at compton college
COMMENTS, 2011:

Anonymous said...
I still can't imagine any IVC counselor giving such advice unless perhaps standards were so low in a particular program that the student wouldn't be getting the training they needed for success later on.

We know that['s] not true for our writing classes - and we know that students sorely need solid independent writing skills for success in other classes.

I know my students do. A main cause of failure [is] their inability to communciate clearly in standard written English on their tests and papers. ~ 7:35 AM, April 28, 2011

Anonymous said...
Didn't ... this get resolved? I thought the Office of Instuction issued some directive about the problem with directing students elsewhere because it undermined the mission of the college at a critical time[?] ~ 8:30 AM, April 28, 2011

Anonymous said...
Would it not be appropriate for Rebel Girl to contact the counselor and discuss how this student would not be best served by taking an "easier" class? ~ 9:54 AM, April 28, 2011

Anonymous said...
Haven't counselors evolved on this issue? I have heard that they have stopped denying that they advise students to go elsewhere for an easier version of a course or assessment. They now justify this advice by saying that they offer students "options." ~ 11:07 AM, April 28, 2011
Counseling: always on the cutting edge

12 comments:

  1. I still can't imagine any IVC counselor giving such advice unless perhaps standards were so low in a particular program that the student wouldn't be getting the training they needed for success later on.

    We know that not true for our writing classes - and we know that students sorely need solid independent writing skills for success in other classes.

    I know my students do. A main cause of failure in their inability to communciate clearly in standard written English on their tests and papers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Didn't get this get resolved? I thought the Office of Instuction issued some directive about the problem with directing students elsewhere because it undermined the mission of the college at a critical time.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Would it not be appropriate for Rebel Girl to contact the counselor and discuss how this student would not be best served by taking an "easier" class?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Haven't counselors evolved on this issue? I have heard that they have stopped denying that they advise students to go elsewhere for an easier version of a course or assessment. They now justify this advice by saying that they offer students "options."

    ReplyDelete
  5. For years, we've witnessed counselors pressing for a lowering of standards to "help" the students. I think we need to initiate an effort to reclassify them as non-faculty.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Come to IVC where we work hard to LOWER standards for YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Office of Instruction and the President should be concerned about a concerted effort to re-direct students from our classes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Such referrals are nothing more than an attack on faculty and their ability to create and control curriculum. The President should step in.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't know how I missed this. I find it hard to believe that our college counselors are engaged in this kind of behavior. They speak highly of all our faculty and our programs. They are proud of our standards. They respect faculty.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If there was a pattern to refer students of certain ethnicities or language background to other institutions - well, I think this would be a BIG problem for all concerned. Has anyone documented this in a systematic way?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, wouldn't such a pattern of referral based upon ethnicity and/or language be a kind of discrimination? A kind fo de facto "we don't want you here" or "you're too dumb"????

    ReplyDelete
  12. If this is true, wouldn't it violate certain standards of practice?

    ReplyDelete

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