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Reflections on Introduction to African American Studies (3)

Spring 2014

· teaching,African American,Syracuse University

I was assigned “Introduction to African American Studies” for the third time. The instructor however, was Dr. Herbert Ruffin. He took a historical approach to developing the course and strives for critical reflection of the students. While I appreciated the liberty in utilizing my own pedagogical style for this course, I was overwhelmed by the weight of the course that was provided me. Overall, I evaluated and modeled over 60% of the course. This required lesson planning, structuring and unplanned evaluation.

Working with this course provided me the opportunity to incorporate new strategies learnt in the Future Professoriate Program to achieve my goals. Grading was time consuming because of the course design, to which I was not a contributor. It called for weekly assessment of students’ progress, as students were not reading their syllabus or preparing for class. Mid-terms illustrated the severity of the course and the challenged students’ complacency of taking a freshman course. Many of the students in the class were not freshmen.

I was faced with the dilemma of how to continually motivate. I felt that students left the course motivated and were provoked in thought, but that the effects were temporary. As such, students returned the follow week with a poor work ethic and failed to complete the assignments. I believe that the time structure of the course had something to do with this issue. The recitation sections that I facilitated were on Mondays and Fridays, and there was a vast difference in priorities for these groups. My Friday cohort came prepared for class, having read, but not completed their assignment, while my Monday cohort came with completed assignments but had not done the assigned readings. Moreover, the main lecture session was held on a Monday. I grappled with the dilemma of how to resolve this issue.

The most stressful event of this course came at the end of the semester when in I came across a case of academic integrity. It was an unfortunate situation because I had high hopes for the students who were graduating that weekend. After analyzing the paper and highlighting the issues, I handed the case over to the instructor. I have had experience dealing with students who plagiarize and copy, and the event is always emotionally draining. I feel that having put my all into students and facilitating the course, and having received favorable feedback, with students who participate and engage, I am led into a false sense of security. As a result, when I am reviewing the final works and am faced with false work, I am devastated.

It is events like these that make me a stronger advocate for a structure of rehabilitation with students. I think that there should be repercussions and that it should depend on whether this is an accident or a habitual practice. I believe that college is an environment that should prepare students for the real world. Students should be treated as the adults that they are, at this level. Thus, we as educators should be cognizant of the kinds of adults that we give our stamp of approval by handing them a degree, and granting a passing grade.