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Old 11-25-2004, 07:06 PM   #1
Bradence
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Respecting Sensei

Hi all,

I have a short story followed by a few questions that I would like feedback on...

I received some bad news today. I was told by a teacher of mine (not a MA teacher, a college professor) that he was going to fail me. After the first few lectures he gave I realized that I disagreed with him on all the major points in his interpretation of the literature we were studying. His teaching method didn't motivate me in the least to think critically about the material and I felt that I could use the time to focus on my other studies. So I stopped attending classes, although I still dropped my assignments off regularly at his office. Today he told me that he didn't appreciate my lack of attendance and was going to fail me. He wanted to know if I would appeal the decision because he realized that since he didn't specifically state that attendance was required he would lose an academic appeal. So he asked me if I was going to appeal his grade and I'm left trying to decide whether or not I should. Basically if I do, I get my papers graded and pass the course against his wishes, if I don't he'll fail me.

I raise the thread on this forum because I tried to decide what I would do if I found myself in the same situation at my dojo. The advice I see offered here all the time is "find another teacher." While this advice applies to some extent here there is an added dimension of being able to force my teacher to give me a grade and then never see him again.

I suppose there are three questions here:

1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

Thanks for reading,

Brad(ence)
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Old 11-25-2004, 07:44 PM   #2
Devin McDowell
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Re: Respecting Sensei

1. I suppose so. It all depends on the person.
2. The aiki thing to do would be to compromise (I think). Do you respect the professor? Wouldn't letting him fail you as a sign of respect be very disrespectful if you don't respect him?
3. Not only will the cultural difference possibly play a role, but the situation is different regarding your sensei. All you lose when changing dojos is the money you paid at the first one, rather than losing a university credit.
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Old 11-25-2004, 07:51 PM   #3
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I preface my answer as both an Aikido practitioner and an adjunct professor (previously full time associate prof in admin).

The prof is an ass (assoc prof speaking). Hang his butt out to dry. He can downgrade your mark if he specifically stated attendance as a requirement but he didn't so he loses. And unless there is a specific reason for attendance, why should he require attendance if you are learning what you are supposed to be learning based on assignments and examinations? Smaller the class, the better I can concentrate on the students who really need help from me directly. And unless you really needed this class to graduate, what were you doing in it in the first place? You should be enjoying your university time, learning what is useful and interesting to you, and is taught by a decent professor.

It is his right and your right to disagree but your etiquette was deplorable (aikidoist). He should fail you on the basis of your poor etiquette. If there was a disagreement which could not be resolved, you should have dropped the class and found something better to do with your time rather than just not attending. He may be trying to help you by making you deal with your problems directly rather than not facing up to them. On the other hand, he may be trying to pull a ego trip on you. You have to decide which is which but you were still very poor in your etiquette. There is nothing else you can do now but to apologise for your poor etiquette.

Answer from both at the same time:
You must apologise for your poor manners/etiquette, then hang his butt out to dry so that you can survive this without a failure on your GPA. Learn of your mistake and next time, for heaven's sake, drop the class instead of acting like an ass and skipping classes. Your prof has better things to do than to worry about why you are not attending class. His class, his interpretation; just like your Sensei's dojo, his rules. Whether or not you agree with his or her interpretation, it should be your goal to discover the varied ways things can be interpreted, just like different Sensei's interpret techniques and do them differently. The pleasure should be in discovering the many ways that things can be done or seen so that we can choose among those things we think suit us. However, to be able to deal with the variety in the world, we must learn the many different ways so that we can deal successfully with all of them just like dealing with all the different ways techniques are done and attacks are conducted. When you go to a different dojo or class and meet up with a different Sensei or Prof, empty your teacup and try to learn what they are showing you so that you will know the good and bad of all the different ways of things and then, can choose intelligently, with logic among them for what suits you and what you like.

Before I started on my later (graduate) academic career, my Aikido Sensei (who later became one of my profs) told me that I "should not criticise what I do not know well." After a drinking competition I lost, I found out the next day that I was enrolled in the MBA program after awaking from my stupor. Now that I have been a business prof for several years and have my Ph.D in the field, I can safely say that I was right. The MBA doesn't train the students to be decent business people and when they get out, they really don't know anything about how business is done and are virtually useless as executives. They just come out as good raw material. My mistake during the time I ran that business was that I thought they would come out from the MBA as good exec material and that I wouldn't have to retrain them. I made the mistake by not knowing what I was criticizing. The job of the profs is not to make them good business people but making them into good raw material. So, my Prof/Sensei was also right. It was my mistake in not knowing what I was complaining about.

Rock
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Old 11-25-2004, 08:36 PM   #4
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Some classes cannot be skipped (short of changing courses completely).
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Old 11-26-2004, 12:26 AM   #5
Zato Ichi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?
The aiki thing to do would be atemiwaza. I'd go with aigamaeate, but that's a personal preference.

This guy soulds like he needs to separate himself from his job: as long as you keep handing in your assignments and do whatever tests are required, he doesn't have a leg to stand on. If he takes it personally that you don't show up for class, that's his problem. Appeal.
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Old 11-26-2004, 01:18 AM   #6
PeterR
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Hori-san;

How do you get one of those animated gifs up. I think every Shodothug on this site (there aren't that many of them) should have their very own.

Dibs on ushiro-ate.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-26-2004, 01:45 AM   #7
bob_stra
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Re: Respecting Sensei

1. I don't know. But as they say "The map isn't the territory". So - this guys doesn't represent all teachers. No need to disrespect teaching (profession) because of one teacher (person)

2.Well, if you wanna get arty-farty about it.

The guys 'attacked you'. Re-direct his attack back at him. Whatever comes of it is his fault. Modify viciousness to suit.

IRL - yeah: You're damn skippy I'd appeal. Then give him / his course a bad (truthful) academic review, quit the course and do a science based degree. None of this ego stroking there - at least not in the minor leagues (undergrad).

FWIW

3. Ummm...I think you're thinking too much abt this. People are people. "Sensei's" are people.

So.

Treat people like people treat you. "Sh*tty" people get treated sh*tty (without abuse), good people get treated well.

Sow what you reap and all that.

Personally, I can't believe you'd even consider not appealing the result. You do the work, pass the class and what....have to kiss ass to get a grade?
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Old 11-26-2004, 01:55 AM   #8
Zato Ichi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
Hori-san;

How do you get one of those animated gifs up. I think every Shodothug on this site (there aren't that many of them) should have their very own.

Dibs on ushiro-ate.
I'll whip one up for you later tonight after I get back from work. A few minutes, and Nariyama Shihan will be endlessly performing the same technique over and over again in digital form!
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Old 11-26-2004, 01:57 AM   #9
PeterR
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
R. Haruo Hori wrote:
I'll whip one up for you later tonight after I get back from work. A few minutes, and Nariyama Shihan will be endlessly performing the same technique over and over again in digital form!
Fantastic - did you read the article yet?

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-26-2004, 02:16 AM   #10
happysod
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?
1. yes
2. do not let them fail you, this is your education we're talking about
3. no, as Bob said people = people, no matter what the circumstances of your connection.

concerning Rocky's suggestion for an apology - caveat: only apologise if you mean it. I'd personally prefer a sincere fuck you from someone than an insincere apology.

OT: Peter - glad there's finally going to be some way of distinguishing shodothugs easily, a very good thought
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Old 11-26-2004, 02:40 AM   #11
Bradence
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I would like to thank everyone for the quick and enlightening replies. Particularly Rocky, honest criticism is always particularly welcome.

Thanks

Brad(ence)
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Old 11-26-2004, 07:25 AM   #12
Robert Townson
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Hori-san;

I would be very interested in finding out how you created your animated avatar.
Do you use flash? Also where do you get your images from?

Appologies for being cheeky

Thanks,
Rob

"You are not truly dead until you are totally forgotten."

"Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear."
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Old 11-26-2004, 08:06 AM   #13
Zato Ichi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
Robert Townson wrote:
I would be very interested in finding out how you created your animated avatar.
Do you use flash? Also where do you get your images from?
Totally OT, but what the hell:

I'm not using flash (and I doubt any message board would let you use Flash in an avatar (plus my own deep seeded hatred of Flash would prevent me from using it)). I'm grabbing my GIFs from the JAA hompage, and then using Adobe ImageReady to edit them. Easy stuff - takes a few minutes at most.

Quote:
Peter Rehse wrote:
Fantastic - did you read the article yet?
Indeed I did... with that article, the Shodothug Army will grow until the final, apocalyptic battle with the Aikifruities... I imagine in something like the battle in LOTR: the Two Towers. The pretty boy Aikifruites (the humans and elves) on one side, cowering in their fortress... the powerful, yet somewhat musky, Shodothugs massed outside (the orcs), ready to tear down the walls....

Of course, the orcs were defeated, but... uh... well... it was a deus ex machina thingie...

Last edited by Zato Ichi : 11-26-2004 at 08:15 AM.
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Old 11-26-2004, 09:23 AM   #14
Robert Townson
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Ok thx.

I have no idea how to use ImageReady unfortunately.
I'll have a play and see if i can work something out.

Thx for the help.

Thanks,
Rob

"You are not truly dead until you are totally forgotten."

"Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear."
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Old 11-26-2004, 09:26 AM   #15
sunny liberti
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I think calling a college kid an ass over this is a little over the top.

To the OP, I'm sorry you're in this dilemma! Hope my thoughts can help you come to a conclusion, even if it's to know that you totally disagree with my position!

To answer your questions:

1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

Not in my opinion. You get to choose a MA sensei every time you walk into the dojo for instruction. The system is constructed out of an entirely different culture and mindset than University. If a MA teacher is an arrogant jerk, you don't have to come back. Universities assign you a teacher for the most part, and you have to make the best of it. In *my* experience, professors can take advantage of their positions over students. Dropping a class is only appropriate in extreme situations, like an English prof can't pick out the verb in a sentence. (Hey, it happened to my brother-in-law!) If you drop every class in college in which you disagree with the professor, you'll never get your degree! But you don't have to respect the person, or even his/her decisions.

2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

I think the aiki thing to do is get your degree, get a good paying job, and keep training and putting your resources back into Aikido.

3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americaan University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

Absolutely. As mentioned above, they are born out of entirely different cultural systems, and therefore it's not always appropriate to behave the same in both. I don't mean flip the guy off, but you have a different relationship with this guy than with a Sensei. And you're looking for different outcomes. College is for degrees and careers (money making potential), and training - whatever it is about for you - is not.

Appeal, get the piece of paper, and keep training!

Sunny

A brave man dies once; cowards are always dying." --Moanahonga, Ioway
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Old 11-26-2004, 09:30 AM   #16
Amendes
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Appeal. Plain and simple.

When I was going to be failed on my college placement for reasons that were inappropriate I told my Sensei. He told me to do appeal as well. I of course won hands down being as the reason for failure was inappropriate and only out of spite.

Later on about a year after I found out Sensei had a lawyer who was going to do the work for me for free if I lost against the college.

Thats my big lesson in standing up to being wronged by authority personal in school.

Where ever your getting this feeling of respecting him for, you can forget it. In this situation do what ever it takes, as you are clearly wronged.
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Old 11-26-2004, 10:23 AM   #17
Jeffrey A. Fong
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Re: Respecting Sensei

These situations can be regarded from two levels:
From a traditional North American academic perspective, you clearly have the opportunity to express your displeasure with the professor and force the issue, in as much as attendance wasn't noted as being required - it wasn't part of the contract. I think you are entitled to receive a grade commensurate with the level of competence demonstrated in your work.
You didn't mention whether this was an undergraduate class or part of your graduate course of study; this is important as it defines in large part what kind of "relationship" you may have with the instructor. As a graduate student, particularly in smaller departments, there is a more intimate relationship between student and teacher, where the rules of implied or expected behavior are more pronounced. This is part of academic "culture," so how you behave will have an effect on your progress and your grade. This seems to be a very difficult concept for many "western" students to accept, whether it be in a class room or dojo (and it is within the latter where the unspoken rules of conduct, particularly those defined by authority predominate).
In my experience and from observing the conversations which pop up here about whether traditional Japanese/Asian cultural artifacts can be successfully transfered to Western settings, indeed, whether should be in the first place, it seems that many of us westerners reject the notion that others or circumstance can or should control our lives. In this instance, I refer to control as reflecting our willingness to immerse ourselves in a foreign or novel situation where we are challenged to believe or adopt something that is unknown to us or the opposite to what we have learned. To make a broad cultural generalization, "Eastern" thought is oft charaterized by respect for the voice of authority and tradition, whereas "Western" thought is more individualistic and challenging of the status quo. Whether it be in the college classroom or dojo, some students want the living experience to reflect a confirmation of self and accomplishment ("give me my grade; I am my own authority"): some call this independence and self-awareness, whereas others would call this arrogance; others, choose to conform to the experience and understand the process, both satisfying and lacking, as comprising the learning experience. Some would call this acting like a lemming.
I guess my point is that this is like comparing apples and oranges, college and dojo. But most importantly for me, in the dojo, I am tired of the arrogance of certainty and choose to reflect on my MA training as being an opportunity to not know the answer, even if I think I can do the technique. What a shame it is for people to put so much into something so wonderful as Aikido only to come away with the sense that they are superior to others.
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Old 11-26-2004, 10:33 AM   #18
Lan Powers
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Re: Respecting Sensei

<OT: Peter - glad there's finally going to be some way of distinguishing shodothugs easily, a very good thought >

Indeed! Bell that kitty!

Funny to be grouped by association as an "Aikifruity" since I am almost always the first with the atemi-jones in my dojo....after Sensei I suppose, since he is a big atemi proponent.

In the Lord of the Rings scenario I suppose the Shihans would then be the society of wizards?
Strange,almost unexplainable power, wise sayings delivered in obtuse wording, (different language)
flowing robe-like garments.......hmmm, you may have something there.
I love the gifs BTW, very nice.

On the main subject, I have to go with the herd here, appeal. After all you aren't expected to allow an attack to land, just redirect and be as nonviolent as possible.
Then put it in your past, and lesson learned.
Lan

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 11-26-2004, 11:45 AM   #19
darin
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Re: Respecting Sensei

A lot of academics and aikido teachers live in their own worlds. My advice is never let professors push you around especially when your paying for the course. I was in a similar situation like you before at uni and was a fool for not fighting for my rights. I would appeal if I was you. At least you get the grade and hopefully never have to take another class from him again.

Actually university professors are nothing compared to some people you will meet in the work force. You will be suprised what people will do out of greed, jealousy and hatred.
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Old 11-26-2004, 12:14 PM   #20
SeiserL
 
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Re: Respecting Sensei

IMHO, if its their turf and you want your ticket punched by them, do what they tell you to do, the way they tell you to do it, when they tell you to it. Who says they have to run their class the way you want them to? They have the right to their curriculum and grading system in their own class and school. Get over your ego and train.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-26-2004, 12:55 PM   #21
Shipley
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Hi Brad,

I'm a professor and an aikido instructor, so I hope my perspective will add to this.

Firstly, appeal. For sure. Hands down. When you enter into a professor-student relationship you are given a contract. That contract needs to clearly state how you will be evaluated. His part of the contract is to give all of his lectures, be competent in his field, cover the material he is mandated to cover, and evaluate your performance. We don't call it a contract in our business, but a syllabus is really just that. If you can pass his class without attending, and attendance isn't mentioned in the evaluation criteria, then you do not have to attend.

Secondly, I think that the way that this is being handled is sending you and your professor into a death spiral where somebody has to lose. From an aikido perspective it seems to be time to redefine your relationship so that everybody wins. Sit down and talk with the professor, and explain why you stopped attending. Do not do this apologetically, but also do not do it confrontationally. As soon as you start saying that your view is right and his is wrong, even by inference, you will be back to winning or losing. Don't forget that he will be writing and marking your final exam, and can write it in such a fashion that you won't pass. That's hard to win on appeal... I would hope that he wouldn't, but people are people.

If you get him on your side, then promise to attend the week or so of lecture that remains, hopefully you can salvage the situation.

Take to heart everything that's been said above. Students who come thinking their cup is full are wasting their money. Listen, absorb, and incorporate what is taught, even if it is different than what you believe to be right. Don't forget that a professor has been at this for quite a while, just like a sensei would have been, and often their perspective is based on experience that you haven't had yet.

Anyhow, good luck with it, and let us know.

Paul

P.S. On rereading the thread, there isn't much here that Rocky didn't already say better, so just go reread that...

Last edited by Shipley : 11-26-2004 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 11-26-2004, 10:34 PM   #22
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
Sunny Liberti wrote:
I think calling a college kid an ass over this is a little over the top.
I thought I said the prof was an ass. As a ex-prof who retired except to teach grad students and do research because of assnine behaviour like that in universities, I get to do that.

I know that is a flame of a person that is not able to defend his/her position here and I normally don't like but I have seen much too much of that type of behaviour in universities. All profs know that the information that the prof gives at the beginning of the semester about the class is a contract. If you screw up that course objectives and grading scheme contract, you eat dirt and live with it.

Rock
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Old 11-26-2004, 11:00 PM   #23
rachel
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Dear Brad,
One college student to another, I ask, do you need the credit? Also, do you need to be on this teacher's good-side for any reason?
Yes, the professors generally deserve a lot of respect, but if they do something that is just not right, it deserves to be noted. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would definitely appeal the "F." The entire point of having a syllabus (or some equivalent) at the beginning of the course, is for this type of thing. If he did not state from the beginning that attendance or a good attitude of something was required for a portion of the grade, he has NO right to fail you. Just because he's your Professor, doesn't mean he can get away with doing something agaisnt the policy!
Personally, I view my Aikido Sensei differently from my college Professors because there are fewer Aikido Sensei (in my life) so I can trust them on a more personal level. Also, the Japanese culture the comes with Aikido teaches a different kind of respect that (I think) would be inappropriate/overly respectful at a North American university.
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Old 11-27-2004, 08:47 AM   #24
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I wouldn't put an Aikido Sensei necessarily any higher than any other teacher. The Japanese culture isn't what it used to be and what we often think of as Japanese culture is often a model of what existed only in about 15% of the old population. Peoples is peoples. While the Japanese may wish to emulate that 15% of the population as the ideal, it is not always the case that they are successful.

Today, a lot of students don't give the Japanese profs any more respect than at a Universidad del Norte Americano. A good prof is a good prof no matter where they are and are usually given the respect due to them. Bad profs are bad profs no matter where they are and they usually don't get any respect from anyone. The same goes for Aikido instructors. Bad drivers are bad drivers no matter where they drive.

El Terror del Camino
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Old 11-27-2004, 09:31 AM   #25
MaryKaye
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I'm a college professor (Genetics). Two years ago, the last time I taught Evolutionary Genetics, I had a student come to my office hours about a week before the end of the course to ask for help on a homework assignment. I helped him, then said apologetically "I don't remember your name, but I'm bad at names--"

He said, "That's because you've never seen me before; I don't come to class. But your lecture notes on the Web are good enough that this is the first time I've gotten stuck."

I didn't retaliate. Like your professor, I hadn't said that attendance was required (personally I don't think this is appropriate for a lecture course, though I'd do it for a presentation or debate course). But I certainly wasn't happy with the student either. I carefully didn't learn his name so that it wouldn't influence my grading of his final, because I knew I was upset enough that I might be biased.

One thing to be aware of is that many universities are now pushing their faculty to write web-based or "distance learning" courses. A lot of us fear that if we do so, we'll then be dismissed (I don't have tenure) and our courses will just be replayed over and over on the web with part-time faculty doing the necessary grading and consultation. This is obviously an ugly prospect personally, but it also seems to lose a lot of the value of the university. If I wanted to write a book and have people read it, I could do that; I teach live because I think there's value in the give-and-take in class, even a lecture class.

A student who doesn't come to class can feel, to the professor, like a flat statement "Your efforts to actually teach rather than just put the lecture in a can and hand it out are worthless." This stings. I don't think your professor was right in what he did (though it was responsible of him to point out the appeal possibility rather than trying to hide it) but I have some sympathy for the reaction. This is a very touchy point for a lot of us right now.

Just a view from the other perspective.

Mary Kaye
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