I ask a colleague why God keeps me in the classroom when I have no patience, am not nice and would rather speak with my hands when a question for which the student already has the answer is asked for the umpteenth time. This question was wrenched from my lips after I chuckled upon receiving the following email and before responding to it.
Hi Professor, even though we have just started the course I am already confused! I was not able to get the book for todays assignment so I will not have it until tomorrow, I am good for the other books. But I am unsure how to do the reading journals, is there a guideline for that somewhere in the course? Thank You!
What sends me from zero to homicide in 10 seconds is knowing that it is the oppression that has conditioned this brilliant and precious being into learned helplessness. I want to dismantle the oppression by force – the same force with which it was installed. And yet I know that the oppression can neither feel nor suffer from my efforts to uninstall it. Only the human writhes in pain, confusing the course requirements with the oppression itself, yells and too soon cries, Uncle! To witness this time and time again feels heartbreaking and somehow, no number of successes or amount of evidence in the direction of liberation seems to assuage my sense of failure at not having unshackled more minds by this. Of course, I recognize that this too is the oppression and so I respond to such emails thusly:
Thanks for contacting me about your situation with the textbook, XYZ. As long as you post your Reading Journals for Barakat and Chin this week there will be no consequences to your grade. That is the only wiggle room I can offer in a six week course.
As for the guidelines on how to do the work, there are a variety of them. You may read the syllabus for the sample format; read the submissions of classmates on the discussion board or follow the instructions on the discussion board itself to understand the assignment more fully.
Hope these help!
As I read aloud my response before spell-checking and sending it, the colleague answers my earlier question: This is the reason God keeps you in the classroom. And I must believe it is true. For all of the anger and sadness that rises in me when such questions arrive, restraint is my weapon of choice. I refrain from responding to the treadmarks of the oppression with anything but generosity, compassion and information.
May the Lord continue to keep His heart beating in mine. May He give me ever more efficient ways of inviting students to peek beyond the veil of learned helplessness, lay a fresh foundation for practicing more powerful possibilities, and unleash initiative at warp speed so we can be the partners of creation He intended.