Saturday, July 19, 2008

A few thoughts on being a student again

On top of all the stuff I've learned this week about audio production from concept to finish, it has also been an enlightening and at times tremendously painful experience to be a student again.

One thing I wasn't expecting--but which is, of course, true in every class--is that there was a huge range of experience among the participants, from seasoned radio professionals to people like me, who knew they wanted the knowledge but were clueless.

The thing is, I'm not a very patient learner. I knew that about myself already, but it became a real obstacle this week. Every day, multiple times a day (and often multiple times an hour), I'd modulate from being exhilarated to being frustrated to tears, literally, and constantly felt like I must be the stupidest person in the world. So stupid, in fact, that I wasn't about to ask for help because then everyone would discover just how stupid I truly was. And I honestly had no idea whether I was "getting" it or not--at least, not for a loooong time.

As a teacher, I forget what that's like. I hope that I'm approachable, and I know I tell students to ask stupid questions, since (as the cliché goes), if you don't know the answer, it's not a stupid question. But this experience made me realize that you have to go a bit beyond that. And what seems most important is that you be accessible and patient and have time for those students who aren't confident or assertive enough to make those moves in the classroom itself.

These ideas tie into possible uses for audio in the classroom. We listened to an amazing audio diary piece written by a guy taking a course where college students traveled cross-country by train, studying Kerouac's On the Road en route. The person who played the piece had been on the trip, providing technical support, and said that the young man who wrote and narrated it was painfully shy. I could relate. I always do better, and feel more inclined to share, if I have a script. Hell, that's why I like being the teacher rather than the student.

What I did expect, and did encounter, was a run-in with my old nemesis, perfectionism. I have to say, though, that sheer exhaustion kept it at bay. Several times today while we were editing our final piece, I found myself saying things to my co-producer that were as much for myself as for her: for example, when she wanted to keep toying with the basic sequence of the story, I said it was fine as it was, and that I wanted to move on to the editing because that's the stuff I really needed to learn. And we did. And when we could've stayed for another hour or two tinkering with volume levels and other minutia, I finally convinced her that it was good enough as is.

Yeah, me saying good enough. I guess I have learned a lot this week.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean about returning to the seat on the other side of the desk. Since my husband has returned to school, I've really had to rethink my approach to teaching. I realize that that I can't be so cut and dry about success and failure, because sometimes students really do study for the test, and don't do that well because of the test, and that maybe I would be a better teacher if I thought about teaching to all students, instead of just the ones that seem to get it. A humbling experience, I must admit.

thebigear said...

I had this experience when I first went back to graduate school. All my classmates were spewing out these social work theories and words like "system interface." Akk! What the hell is that? I felt so stupid that I had my withdraw papers in my hand . Then another student said "Well you'd be working right now instead of paddling around in a pontoon boat in the Olentangy River on a beautiful fall afternoon." Hmm, I decided to be brave and ask other classmates if they understood what was going on . Most said "No" and I felt better.
Here's a scary thought.... there are times when your therapist no matter how knowledgeable or experienced still thinks OMG, I don't know what to tell this person. Guess that's what makes us all human, to know that we are all sometimes fumbling around in the dark looking for enlightenment.

Catherine Zoerb said...

If it makes you feel any better, you were one of my most approachable professors EVER at UNC. :) There were some people that I would have a minor panic attack if I knew I had to go talk to them. They were not bad people, just not as approachable as other people were.

This description here...

"I'd modulate from being exhilarated to being frustrated to tears, literally, and constantly felt like I must be the stupidest person in the world. So stupid, in fact, that I wasn't about to ask for help because then everyone would discover just how stupid I truly was."

...pretty much outlines my entire graduate student experience. Luckily I was exhilarated more often than not, but I think feeling that way made me a more compassionate TA.

Now that I'm an adjunct, I try to remember how hard English and writing is to some students, try to remember those days when I felt like I must be in the wrong class because I understood nothing that the teacher had just said, and try to be an approachable person. I hope I'm successful at that, but really, how do we know?