Maryellen Weimer suggests that complaining about students is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a recipe for cynicism that undermines the faith we need to continue teaching energetically and effectively:
.. the many and repeated complaints frequently leveled against today’s college students ... are likely legitimate. College students today are not easy to teach and they are probably harder to teach today than when college was only for the best and the brightest. I also know that teachers occasionally need to vent. Students can do preposterous things. They can bring teachers to the points of frustration and exasperation.... Teaching is hard work and strength sapping.
But excessive complaining about students solves little and creates its own set of problems. It compromises our beliefs in students’ abilities to learn and our abilities to teach. If you end up thinking that the students in your classroom aren’t likely to succeed, don’t have the necessary amount of intellectual muscle or are beset with some other character flaw, then what’s the point of putting a lot of effort into the teaching? Losing faith in students’ ability to learn stands right beside losing faith in our ability to teach. I sometimes hear in those endless complaints about students a teacher’s thinly veiled cry for help.I once observed that to teach requires believing, on pragmatic grounds, what we sometimes cannot believe on evidential grounds: "Each and every student I teach can, with reasonable effort, master what I aim to help them learn." When we become complainers, do we throw up a further obstacle to being able to endorse this belief, even pragmatically? And how do we — you — counteract this cynicism in our day-to-day activities as teachers?