“Kalamazoo College: Where Your Best Hasn’t Been Your Best Since 1833”: A Point-Counterpoint Discussion of Faculty Feedback

By Emily Pizza, Opinions Editor

I’m not all that smart, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

I do not have natural academic talent: all of my As come from far too much studying and practice problems. A lot of the time I don’t understand things the first time around, and spend quite a bit of my time in Office Hours.

For the most part, my professors are supportive when I come to them with problems, and provide me with a new explanation or assistance with a particular question, but I’ve definitely encountered some that believe that the reason I’m not doing well is because “I’m not trying” or “not working hard enough”.

Or even worse, when professors chastise the entire class because the exam scores are lower overall than they should be, instead of constructively trying to understand why the class did so poorly.

I’m not sure if they truly understand what they’re doing, but in my opinion, positive punishment does not have a place in teaching, especially here at K.

When I’m struggling with a concept, and I’m sure other students feel the same, it’s not because I haven’t read or done any practice problems, it’s because the concept isn’t comprehensible.

I mean, come on, K is far too expensive for students to just “not try” and throw an unedited draft at a professor. We work our butts off and work till the wee hours of the morning to produce something we’re okay with.

So, when a professor’s advice to me is “try harder”, all I want to do is shut down. It’s not making me want to work harder, it’s making me feel like a failure – like my best will never be enough.

Considering that K’s motto is “more in four”, It doesn’t seem like the idea is to make students feel discouraged from achieving academic success.

So, I urge all professors to think about what they’re saying before they say it. The last thing a struggling student wants to hear is “the problem is you. Fix it yourself.” Instead, try understanding why a student is struggling, don’t make any assumptions.

Odds are, if the students are coming to a professor for help, it’s because they know they’ve done everything they could on their own, and are reaching out for the intellectual boost they need.

 

By Viola Brown, Staff Writer

“Is that that the best you got?” I hear in my head, being yelled at me in a loud overweight gym teacher voice. In reality this is a phrase I hear often, but not by the gym.

Usually, it’s said by teachers, friends, and family. When I was younger hearing this would have made me crawl in a hole and question why do people have to be so mean (yes, I just quoted Taylor Swift).

Now hearing this I respond in head with, “Thanks, I can’t wait to prove you wrong.”

Positive punishment sometimes gets a bad rap in this politically correct world that we live in. When people hear harsh words they just want to attack the person saying them and not admit that they are the problem and not reaching their full potential.

Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me, but I thrive on this. I have this inner desire to always do my best and show myself as well as others that yes, I can do this incredibly hard task.

Maybe it comes from feeling like an underdog who always has to fight for what I want and have others tell me that I can’t do it. Hearing that you can’t do something just makes you want to do it more (trust me I’ve got the scars to prove this).

While I never really was an underdog in terms of academics in high school (I was an As and Bs kind of student), I always felt like one when I was in Mr. Rebel’s Pre-Calc class. It was the first time that I was one of the students in a class who didn’t understand what was happening. I was frustrated with my teacher at first, especially when he said, “I know you could do better, just try harder,” as he giving back a test that I got a D on. Then I became angry at my best friend when she said while we’re doing homework, “I can’t believe you don’t understand this problem, it’s so easy.”

Their words would always haunt me and be in my head like songs on repeat. Since I’m an over-thinker and I constantly analyze everything I would always wonder if their words are true. Was I stupid because I don’t understand the problems? Can I really do better? Am I really trying my best?

Not wanting to be a complete basket case I decided that the only way I would stop hearing these words is by stop giving these people a reason to say them. So I worked my ass off just to understand what was going on in class.

While I would love to say that my hard work paid off and I got a A, that didn’t happen. I got a B-, which felt like an A because many people thought I couldn’t even pass the class. So I would like to say thanks to Mr. Rubel and my best friend Anna. Your harsh words and sometimes rude comments made realize that I want to work really hard so that I never have to hear them.