Teaching students how to student

There’s an expression about how the shoemaker’s children have no shoes. Well, the social media consultant is terrible at her own social media!

I’ve clearly fallen behind in my New Year’s resolution of a blog post a month. I thought I might catch up when I had a month off work this summer, but somehow social media was the last thing I wanted to work on.

But I’m back at work now and busier than ever. In fact, this fall will be the most paid work I’ve had at once since I quit a full time job to go back to school a decade ago.

I’m have resumed my social media work with the Faculty of Humanities at the university and what a difference a year in the job makes! I feel really comfortable in the position, now that I’ve figured out what I need to be doing, and I’m seeing the benefits of the connections and network I’ve been building. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead!

I’ve also been fortunate to pick up several other small contracts to flesh out my hours and paycheque. I’ve just started working with our Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (CPI) where I’m helping out with a number of very interesting projects, including TA training, support for those teaching large classes, and research into the perceptions of the value of teaching. I have a lot of experience as a teaching assistant (TA) in the classroom and even helping professors develop pedagogical resources, so it’s exciting to be thinking and learning about pedagogy from a different perspective.

Finally, if enrolment numbers permit, I may get to spend a little time in the classroom again this year as a TA.

Which relates to the Twitter thread I want to share with you. @atrubek shared this really great thread tonight and it so important! I think when we’re teaching it’s so easy to get caught up in the transmission of content and forget about the transmission of skills. I don’t mean discipline-specific skills, but the “how to be a student” skills.

It’s easy, when we’ve been academics for 5, 10, 15 years or longer to forget that we, too, started someplace. We didn’t enter university knowing everything. Sure, we like to think we were more self-sufficient and self-starting than “today’s students” but hindsight can have a gloss superiority to it.

Our students come to us from a wide variety of backgrounds and face a diversity of pressures that we may not have faced.

In my case, for example, my mother had attended university and I had two older sisters in university as well, so I had lots of support at home in navigating the system and knowing what I needed to do.

But not every student has that privilege. Some will be the first in their families to attend university. Some will be far from home and perhaps struggling to make friends and navigate a strange system with strange titles like “registrar” and “dean” and “chair,” never mind the myriad of acronyms we use without thinking!

High school today is different from high school “back in our day.” Again, students will have had a diversity of experiences and come with–or without– skills we deem necessary.

So @atrubek’s thread is such a timely reminder. We need to not assume that our students know how to navigate the system socially or how to access resources. We need to teach them how to take effective notes, how to use the library, how to identify a scholarly resource, what a database is.

Because after the final exam, the student may very well never think about our course content again. But they will be taking other courses, and we can equip them with the skills they need to succeed there, too–whether it’s something we teach directly, or we direct them to campus resources.

We don’t just teach content, we teach students how to be students.

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