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Let’s talk about our expectations for students and what we think they are—and should be—capable of. There’s been a good deal of chatter online recently (see posts from Sean Michael Morris and Aimée Morrison, for instance) about the musings of a one Ron Srigley, who seems to make it a point at every turn to complain to the world about how stupid he thinks his students are. Which is odd, because shouldn’t he, a professor confident in his intelligence, consider that a source of job security and therefore a good thing? But I digress.

The trouble is that Srigley’s complaints are based on the premise that knowledge is held by the few, to be distributed to the masses fortunate enough to take in that knowledge from their teachers. Students are empty vessels, the thinking goes, awaiting pearls of wisdom to be graciously handed down from above. But I can say, as one who has spent a good deal of time in classrooms, both as a student and a teacher, I’ve never met a teacher who knew more than a room full of students. Just ask the students. They’ll be able to tell you what the teacher doesn’t know. The wealth of knowledge and experience that constitutes every classroom, thanks to what students bring with them, amazes me. All we have to do is listen for it.

In this episode, I chat with Janine DeBaise, who teaches writing and literature at SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, New York. Our conversation is a follow-up to an article Janine wrote for Hybrid Pedagogy, as well as an experiment she and I conducted with our students a few semesters ago. That experiment didn’t work so well, and that’s the point: Our teaching should be responsive, adapting to the situation, the students, and the semester, not determined by the textbook. This discussion explores the ways we can make our classes more responsive.

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