Muddle This Muddle That..

Brookfield (2015) describes muddling around as how a teacher feels when there are no clear guidelines to help deal with unexpected changes. Have you ever muddled around the classroom?

When I accepted my first instructing job in 2014, I had no idea what was coming. I moved from Canada to the Middle East with my family to start a new career. After a few weeks of orientations at the college and purchasing the basic necessities to survive in our accommodation, I was assigned to a class. This was nerve wrecking, and exciting at the same time.

The class consisted of two students. Both students were at an intermediate level studying instrumentation. They attended less than 50% of the time, and spoke very little English. Some days both students would attend class, other days only one student would show, and quite frequently neither of them would show up at all.

Now being a new instructor my college provided a guidance manual, which showed me how to handle lessons, assessments, grading, attendance, counseling etc. This guide was packed with information. They told me if I couldn’t figure out how to tie my shoes, the manual had an answer. This book was the bible of the department. If you had a problem the manual provided the answer.

From the beginning of the semester my students showed up late, almost every day. They provided excuses like their car breaking down, blown tire, girl friend is visiting ;), playing video games, and my favorite “Mister my camel is sick” . Plus it was common that they wouldn’t return after coffee break. I was baffled that my students didn’t show up to class on time, left early and they didn’t seem to care. I tried to motivate them, talk one on one with them. I thought for sure it was my problem, and I was failing as an instructor.

So to fix the problem I reverted back to the school manual, and found out that I needed to refer both students to the counselor. So I filled out the form and send it off. After a few days of being Mr. Detective trying to find the answers, one of my students came to me and said, “Teacher I don’t need to come to class, all the time”. “It’s okay because my company won’t give me trouble”. He continued telling me that the counselor referral system doesn’t work, because his company didn’t follow the college’s disciplinary policy. Basically students can show up late, miss classes and fail the course, but yet stay on the payroll. Life is great as a student!

A situation like this will never be printed in an employee manual. We have no control if our students choose to show up late or stay home. We can’t stop a student who figures out how to break a broken system. And we can’t change something that is culturally accepted. This is the real stuff. As an instructor I must continue muddling around looking for the right answers, and trying my best to search for the unknown.

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