This blog is to give the instructor's perspective on the college experience - so if you have questions or need advice - post a comment and I will try to get back with you within 48 hours.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Old Double Standard Two-Step - Shall We Dance?

The old double-standard is alive and well on college campuses. Only this time it’s the students that are bringing ‘it’ with them. As a former business professional now teaching business and computer classes it always comes as a shock to me that students mistake professionalism in a female instructor with being cold-hearted. On the one hand, as one of the activists in the women's rights movements (especially in the workplace) I have had to learn to control my emotions in order to be taken seriously by my male associates or boss. Heaven forbid that I should cry in front of anyone, this would be taken for weakness and any chance for promotion would have gone right out the window.

My male colleagues are rarely criticized for their 'heartlessness'. They are criticized for being 'unfair' but rarely for anything as touchy-feely as “he didn’t care about me.” Frankly, the students don’t expect to be loved by their male instructors, and often the students don’t even expect to be respected by him. Recently I sat in on a male colleague’s class in which he stopped to berate a student who was late for the second time. He would brook no explanations or excuses and even used a little unsavory language. I just knew that student would march straight to the office and complain about the harsh treatment; instead the student meekly apologized after class was over. There were no sulky looks from the other students as they sat and planned the mean remarks they would write in the instructor’s evaluations – life went on as if nothing had been said. I know that if I had done that same thing and used the same language, that my students’ would have universally resented the treatment; the late offender might have left and reported me immediately. From a woman, it would have been shocking - and words like “she provided a hostile environment” would be observed. From a man, well that’s just the way men are, right?

So what’s the difference? It’s expectations.

Just in case, this wasn’t really about men versus women instructors - I asked to see the comments from both males and female instructors and marveled at the differences in the language used in describing effective male instructors and effective female instructors.

Comments like “really knew his stuff” and “applied the rules equally to everyone” for men.
For women: “really went the extra mile to make me feel comfortable in spite of my personal difficulties” and “a caring instructor that I would recommend to anyone.” Are you seeing the pattern here?

Sure we all love to be loved or at least liked a little, which usually translates to having a lot more fun during a semester. The truth is, we often learn more from the teacher that pushed us, that did not let us get away with anything, that we may not have liked at the time. So whether you instructor is male or female, stop “looking for love in all the wrong places."  In the end, loved or not, respected or not – the words that matter most to me are “I learned a great deal of things that I know will be of real value to the rest of my life.” Those are the comments I live for, whether I had to push or you came along for the ride willingly.

P.S. I care, I always care, even when I have to push you to live up to your potential or push you out to try again another time.