When I moved on to the next whole-class activity, I felt a wave of disgust so powerful I thought I'd drop to the floor. I think students should follow very, very basic instructions, at least out of fairness to the other students who do just that. However, I also want to maintain rapport. The two impulses contradict too often to ignore.
This morning, I do what I always do when I'm work-depressed: head over here, lurk in the CHE forums, look at comments underneath education articles, etc. Especially the last few years, I notice an increasing bluntness on the part of teachers/professors about the importance of burnishing those student evaluations and (flip-side of the same coin) avoiding student complaints. The overwhelming worry seems to go something like this: "I'm scared that if I do the right thing, it will come back to haunt me on the evals."
Here's how I would have handled my angry student yesterday if I had tenure: "I can see you're upset. Why don't you take the rest of the class off and think about whether or not this class is going to be a good fit for you going forward? If you're mad now, you're going to be homicidal come the holidays. Be good to yourself. I'll respect your decision either way."
Instead, I "walked it back." I kowtowed. I kissed ass. I would gladly shine the shoes of my students if I thought for one minute that would help them be better and stronger students, but I know better -- not that knowing better matters. So, disgust and depression, and a question:
Q: How would having tenure change the way you teach? Would you be a better teacher? or Has having having tenure liberated you to do the best (vs. the most expedient, ass-covering) thing?