There has been a change in the 15 Principles of Good Academic Customer Service. (If you'd like a copy, click here) It became obvious to us that the old Principle 7 Websites must be well-designed, easy to navigate, written for and focused on students and actually informative was actually starting to be heeded. More and more colleges and universities were calling to ask for help in redesigning their websites to meet Principle 7. The recognition of the importance of the web is a reality for most schools.
I also realized that there has not been a school, college or university that I have worked for or studied that the faculty at least did not feel their students were not quite good enough for them. Most every institution wanted to know how to recruit better students.
Every school seems to be after better students (than what they have I suppose though few can actually annunciate a clear definition of better). Even colleges and universities that are considered selective to highly selective want better. No one seems to be satisfied with the level of their students’ abilities, intellectual curiosity or aptitude. They all believe admissions needs to recruit better students. It is admissions job and fault after all. They seem to want students who can already write, do calculus, think and know subjects at the college level. Students who will love learning in all subjects just as they who want the better students did not.
But the reality is that most students will not fall into that already smart group. In fact, they are coming to college to get smart because they are not there yet. It is our job not to recognize their brilliance but to amplify and add to what they bring with them so they can become more intelligent in general and even competent in other areas so they can leave college and get a career/job.
Keep in mind that even the best universities have to offer developmental courses to some of their top students. Yes, I know. Your school does not offer remedial courses. Your students are above the norm. Right. Check out some of the introductory course curricula. Giving a course other than a developmental name does not make it non-developmental. Some of these courses are even watered down enough so their geniuses can pass. Poetry for Physics Majors anyone?
There is not a school in the country that does not have to at least supply tutors for some of their students so they can pass a course or two. And this has always been true. Not every student, brilliant or not, is good in all subjects. Maybe not even the “PhD in Molecular Biology at 15!” whiz kids. Come to think of it, I will wager that even some of you reading this struggled and asked for help in some area of study. Maybe even, heaven forbid, did not get an A or B in every course as we expect of our students.
The admission folks have not failed you when they recruit a class for you to teach. The students they bring in are what they could sign up for the school. They come from high schools which may or may not have really prepared them well for future study. They may be nerds, artists, math whizzes, writers, jocks, generally intelligent, over achievers, under-performers, unmotivated, awkward, smooth, tall, short, fat, thin, excited or bored. The one thing they have in common is they have decided to trust you and your school to get them to their goals. They are putting their future in your classroom. They may not yet be bright but then your job is to help them get closer to intelligence and ability.
They may not write well. You are to help them learn to communicate better.
Algebra could be just a total blank. Fill in the spaces.
Science a foggy notion. Clarify.
Bored by your class. Excite them!
And just as someone helped make you into the brilliant member of the collegiate community you are, you have the same job for each and every student in your care. To elevate them so they can join whatever career and community they seek in life.
If they already knew and could do, they wouldn’t need you or your university. If they were already their best, what would there be for you to do? But don’t worry; our high school grads do need you and college to become their best.
So, Principle 7 has changed to become