"You're frustrated in my class," I say. The student agrees emphatically, telling me that he is not learning, not being given substance, not being given deadlines, not being given lectures from which he can learn. And we have arrived at the point where learning may actually begin.
I ask him if he's read the syllabus...and he tells me that he has not. I ask if he has started on the assignments due in the course...and he has not. He tells me that he is seeking substance and does not believe I am giving him any, since the class is mostly "free time" during which he feels compelled to be productive...by working on assignments for other classes.
He does have a point about the lack of structure during the class period, as there is very little. But the lack of structure is by design and I am learning a great deal about my students by watching (in a leadership class, by the way) how they approach unstructured opportunities to learn and to lead.
And I have, indeed, given the students a great deal of substance, if one considers the textbook, articles from MIT on leadership, and bookmarks to the material I research and read on a near-daily basis to be substantive. All of this material--the substantive material this student has been seeking--is...guess where? It's all hyper linked on the syllabus. The syllabus I reviewed and explained on the first day of class. The same syllabus I've referenced several times since the first day of class.
So, now the time is ripe to tell the student that my issue with lecturing is that students don't listen until a need has been created. For the most part, we filter out information that we do not perceive as useful. But the student and I have now discovered a need for information, information that has been available (but ignored) since the beginning of the semester.
It really was a good discussion, once he believed that my goal is his learning.
Student frustration is (still) too valuable to waste.