By Emma Morris, Dean, Atlanta Campus
Here at the Atlanta campus, I have recently been preaching the benefits of holding our professors and students to a higher standard. However, not everyone receives the message well. I have just read four Christian Worldview and Senior Synthesis papers that are almost unintelligible. That makes me wonder what we are teaching our students. I also wonder how they have passed all the courses prior to this Capstone class.
There are many reasons why should we care enough to hold our students to a higher standard in their work. Here are a few:
1. God’s standard. First and foremost, the Lord demands our best. Colossians 3:23 says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you are working for the Lord rather than for people.” I think teachers forget that when they pamper students in hopes of a good evaluation, they are not helping the student learn. Yes, we should build constructive relationships with our students, but not keeping students accountable to do quality work dishonors the Lord and is unhealthy for everyone. Remember; we are here to teach, not to be loved. We, as teachers, are the only ones who can hold our students to a standard of academic rigor on the regular course material. I have been a recipient of some of that student unhappiness. Sure, it hurts, but those same students often come back later to say that being held accountable in class changed their lives and even helped them live up to other commitments.
*If you are worried about evaluations, know that your Dean reviews those evaluations and notes potential reasons for any surprisingly low scores.
2. Communication. Effective writing and speaking are must-have skills in the business world and beyond. Poor communications can cost a company thousands, if not millions, of dollars because of misunderstood instructions or messages. Poor communications reflect poorly on the brand of the company. Who wants a poor communicator representing the company brand? Our students should leave with excellent communication skills so that they can build successful careers on that solid foundation.
3. The value of a Belhaven degree. Just like a company doesn’t want the brand represented by a poor communicator, Belhaven should not accept this, either. If a Belhaven graduate gets a job and the student cannot function at the expected level, our programs are cheapened. We don’t want employers to say (however quietly), that they will never hire another Belhaven graduate if this is the quality of their graduates. Everyone loses if the Belhaven brand suffers.
4. Success. A student who has been held to higher standards will perform better on the job. One of our current MBA students recently earned a healthy, six-figure job. She started at Belhaven as an undergraduate making only $35,000. She worked hard for her B.A. and has learned the value of strong writing and presentation skills.
5. Independence. Just like we allow our children to fall as they are learning to walk, we must be able to let our students stumble in order to learn. Our programs are designed to help students gain better control of their destinies. They should be ready to spread their wings and fly solo once they have earned a Belhaven degree. If we are constantly handing out “A” grades, will our students ever push themselves to work harder and do better?
6. Obligation. We are contracted legally to teach our students, not indulge them and make good friends. We just had one of our own graduates fail MSL601. Indulging this student in her undergraduate program only set her up to fail at the graduate level. Is the failure hers or ours? Neither party is fully guilty, but neither party is innocent, either.
7. Integrity. As we stand before God and man, we cannot be liars or deceivers. Leviticus 19:11b says, “Do not deceive or cheat one another.” and Proverbs is also full of admonitions not to lie or steal. Excessive grace is no longer grace; it is deception. Students should not be graduating with less than adequate skills, and permitting them to pass a class without being fully equipped is deceitful and unacceptable.
Remember that we are here to teach our students to the best of our abilities; we are not here to be loved. In fact, two of our toughest teachers are often—eventually—the students’ favorite teachers. You see, setting and keeping standards often yields love as the byproduct!
Although these are only a few reasons why we should be holding our students to higher standards, I am sure they are enough to prepare you to challenge your students to “be all they can be.”