Saturday, November 17, 2012

This term, too, is a success. Thanks!

Yes, I have had that odd student complaint or two. When it happens, I am often reminded of a graduate school professor.  A bunch of us graduate students were in Venezuela on a project work.  A couple of my fellow-students complained about something that was not up to their expectations in Venezuela, and his reply was simple: "it goes with the territory."  The odd student complaint I get every term goes with the territory.

It is not any complaint that signifies success this term.  I am not that cynical; I have quite some ways to go :)  Furthermore, I pay attention to complaints--they are important pieces in the feedback process, thanks to which I am way less an awful teacher than the version that I was when I entered this profession.

A student email that I received today is all I need to close the books on this term with a big "success" written all over it.  "E" wanted to get the link to the YouTube video on sweatshops that I had shared with the class.

Students are mostly surprised when I show them that particular video on sweatshops.  It is a surprise to them because, I think, from high school on, and then in various college courses, and even in conversations, they have been used to descriptions of labor conditions in many poorer countries of the world as "sweatshops."

And then they get to watch the video that I show them.

The video is a report by an Oregonian, who is one heck of a world traveler: Nicholas Kristof, of the New York Times.  Again, if students were to hypothesize, they might think that this will be yet another leftist criticism from a left-leaning publication. But, and in four minutes, Kristof makes a compelling argument in favor of sweatshops: the sweatshops are a better alternative than anything else.

What makes the feedback from E all the more special is this: she wanted her co-worker to watch it.  She writes in the email that this entire term has been one of conversations with her co-worker on materials and topics from this class.

Isn't that what ultimately education is for?  We get to learn, and then pass that along to somebody else.  We want to infect as many as possible with what we know.  Without preaching. Without bullying.  With humility.  Make the other person also think about some of the ideas we have picked up.

I emailed her the link and added:
I hope you will also remind her, as we did in the class, that this video by itself does not mean that all sweatshops are good, and that there is a lot to understand and debate about.
I wanted to make sure that it would be education and not anything one-sided.

But, I need not have worried about that at all; the reply was heartwarming:
That was the main debate this morning regarding this video. Good -v- Evil We were also talking about the labor reforms in our own early history and how the sweatshops did or did not help with the reforms. I sent her the info on Apple and the nets also.
I am blown away. If this interaction alone doesn't qualify as success, well, the following will make your cold, cold, heart melt away:
Lots of time for us to talk while I'm standing over a donut fryer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours every morning while she ices and processes the donuts
All this while they are frying and icing donuts for a couple of hours at work!

I am amazed and humbled by how much some students have to juggle their commitments in life, while taking education so seriously at the same time. If they can slave over the donut fryer and burger grills, hey, I am more than willing to do my job for quite a few more terms.

In time for Thanksgiving, too!

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Wonderful interaction with E- Unqualified success, the term was, no doubt.

By the way,the term just started. And now you are pronouncing it closed ! A term can't last just 6 weeks - do some more work Prof Khe !!! :)