If someone wants me mention one thing that I appreciate within my study experience in the US, then first thing comes up in my mind is the way the Professors open themselves to listen to their students. Something I called, an Ear-Opening skill. Well, listening might sounds super simple. But honestly I can openly say that it is a rare thing that exist in higher education system in Indonesia. Rare doesn’t mean not exist at all. Rather than picking up example from other people, I will voluntarily share about my self when I was working as a Lecturer in one of Public University in Kupang.
As far as I remember, in a whole semester, I never asked feedback from my students. What for? I think I knew what is the best for them. Even though I did ask opinion from others about my teaching, I only brainstormed with my other colleagues and not with my own students. I consulted my lesson plan with the head of my department and other lecturer, but it is hardly for me to recall my memory of when did I ask my student about it. Unconsciously, I placed my student in the position as a “knowledge receiver” and not as a “knowledge agency” by closing the space to negotiate “what is the best way to teach” meaning. I was too busy assessing and analyzing it by myself. Thus in the end of semester, if it is needed then I will have lecturer evaluation, yet not in purpose of developing teaching directly but more to the measurement of my self-improvement as an educator. Outspokenly, it is nothing to do with the attempt to meet students’ needs in classroom.
Thank goodness, I had an ear-opening experience while I am here. As a student, I feel included since the first meeting until the end of my semester. Not only class interaction engagement, but I am also actively participating in deciding what kind of teaching and learning experience I desired through out semester. I feel politically powerful in establishing the official knowledge. What counts and not? What needs to preserved or discharged. Let me share some examples!
One of my professor in this semester (I am on my second semester) gives us two cards each week. In the first card we will fill out what kind of learning experience, value, activity, or anything that we appreciate and/or criticize towards things that we don’t like. In the second card, she urges us to ask question dealing with the material or any general suggestion we would like to share to her. She will bring it back home and read it. If it is something urgent then she will update any information through email on that particular week or when we have our meeting next week, she will give her response based on each of cards’ content. Our class is start at 4.40pm but she will always stand by in the class since 4pm. So everyone who needs personal time to meet her (beside her office hours) can come earlier and talk with her personally.
Another professor of mine from different class initiates an individual encounter with us outside the classroom spaces. She sets up the schedule and let us choose the place to meet up. I met her in one afternoon at the coffee shop (her treat, yaiy!) . She brought my paper and discussed about it with me. She gave me chance to read the feedback, clarify the idea or ask question for further explanation. She also wanted to know more about my study goal and future plan in saving the world agenda lol. Furthermore, she asked feedback for her teaching and what should she does for help me meet my needs as a student and researcher more effectively. Is there any particular issues or materials that I would like to know and discuss within the class? and so on and so forth. I was really enjoying the conversation with her.
Despite the faculty’s system evaluation which predominantly based on students’ review, these professors are showing the professionalism in teaching. If you guys can access to my professors outstanding list of publications, no doubt, they are must be really really super smart, expert in their field and for sure know what to do. Yet, they still open their ears to listen and humbly to improve their teaching quality. The spectrum color of giving the best performance like this is something that blurry or even missing in the picture of educators in my home country. Again, one of them is my self. Lecturer is seen higher and as a holy person who cannot do wrong. Always right, always true, always become the knowledge resource, and undoubtable. If someone need to be changed then it must be the student not the educator.
An ear-opening attitude is allowing us as an educator to keep growing and expanding our selves to become a high quality educator, not only that, at the same time we also have privilege to serve the best out of us to meet the need of the students. Double combo isn’t it? So teacher, open your ears please 🙂