Difference in Expectations

People have different expectations from us and we in turn have different expectations from other people. Our friends and family members want us to be successful and live a happy life. Our teachers and advisers 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 become out-of-place. Moving from the general to the specific, I am referring to the expectations that we (as the future teachers) will have from our students (as the future learners). My primary concern being that these differences will become more and more acute as our classes become more and more diverse.

As a matter of fact, I was motivated to write this post because of an incident which occurred when I was a Teaching Assistant in my first semester at VT. There was an international graduate student who was in his fourth year of PhD and who was Teaching Assistant in the same lab as mine. Being a new “international” student myself, we discussed different topics and got along fairly well. However, I noticed that he was exceptionally hard on students in terms of giving grades. He would ask them rather difficult questions and if they could not answer him satisfactorily, he would give them very low grades. Over a period of time, students became aware of this fact and started avoiding him. 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 occurs to me 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 similar focus and dedications/depths of knowledge from students who may 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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