In recent years, an interesting paradox is taking root in our society. Simply stated, as technology is infused into every aspect of our lives, the hungrier most of us are becoming for rich, interpersonal experiences. This paradox is especially evident in higher education, where our students are increasingly coming from high-tech environments to become educated into a wider culture; and where increasing amounts of instruction are delivered using technology, i.e. "distance" or "distributed learning."
Following are some proven ways you might orchestrate an interpersonally richer atmosphere in which your students are more likely to fulfill their full potential:
- Inside your classroom, regularly listen as much as you speak, not only to sensitize yourself to the deeper needs of students, but also to model a critical behavior for them to emulate.
- Remember perception is paramount - so it is more important how you are heard than how your words are spoken. Regularly test your words with colleagues outside of class against the "filters" fostered by a person's gender, race, sexual preference, political philosophy, etc.
- Speak highly of prominent figures in your field whenever possible, and when you can't, be judicious and objective in how you choose to criticize.
- In front of the class, ensure your feedback to students is praiseworthy or objectively constructive. All criticism should be in private, and concluded with encouragement to improve performance. In the long run, no professor ever "won" an argument with a student.
- Be especially careful about interpreting college or department policies, unless you have thoroughly researched the issue or have first-hand, directly applicable experience. An especially good answer is to say, "let me check with the appropriate person, and have them get back to you via email. Is it OK that I share your email address?"
- Become sensitive to the special attachment students develop to their professors, which they often hide until the "worst" of times, and maintain professionalism. While you should keep regular "office hours," take measures to assure that you and the student are not completely isolated.
For more on these types of critical issues, see the "Through the Adjuncts'
Eyes" sections at the close of each chapter of The Adjunct Professor's Guide
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