Differences in Expectations

People have different expectations from us and we in turn have different expectations from other people. Our family members/relatives want us to be successful and live a happy life. Our teachers and advisors expect us to do quality work/research. We, in turn, want them to guide us and help us avoid the pitfalls in life and to root for us when the time so desires. The problem arises when these expectations get out of place. Moving from the general to the specific, I am primarily referring to the expectations that we (as the future teachers) will have from our students (as the future learners).

As a matter of fact, I was motivated to write this post because of an incident which occurred when I was TA-ing in my first semester here in Virginia Tech (VT). There was an international graduate student who was in his fourth year of PhD and who used to TA with us for the Open Engineering Lab (OpEL) of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in VT. Being a new international student myself, we discussed different topics and got along fairly well. However, I noticed that he used to be exceptionally hard on the students when it came to giving grades; he would ask them rather difficult questions and if they could not answer him satisfactorily, he would give them low grades. Over a period of time, students became aware of this fact and started avoiding him to other TAs. So one day, I asked him why he did what he did and he said that corresponding under-grads from his home country were expected to know the answers to the question that he asked and that is what he was finding out/ensuring.

Now, although I respected his motives, it occurred to me then as well as now, that his efforts were misdirected. Had he been teaching the course, his logic could still be justified, but since he only graded them based on the experiments they performed, I feel that it is not right for him to expect so much from them. Students brought up in this environment should not be compared with those brought up in other environments. International students especially have gone through a lot more stress and pressure in the formative years of their life so as to make it here (the US). It would be wrong on their part to expect such focus and dedications/depths of knowledge from the students who have never been exposed to such conditions. I believe that we should evaluate the students based on what they do know and how well they know it, rather than on what they do not know. I have seen enormous potential in the students growing up in the schools and colleges of US and I feel that it is our duty (as future educators) to tap into this potential and not let it get bottled up or go waste.

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