By Bonnie Jane Maracle, Integrated Learning Experience Team
Being a student at the University of Toronto means that this person has been deemed capable of doing the work required, meeting the challenges of the coursework, and achieving success in career goals they may have in their sights. A student in studies at U of T is to be congratulated on gaining entry, and others in upper years, they too need to be congratulated for their success in managing to hang in there, or as they say, “surviving the rigors of academia.” Students at U of T might soon learn, or in some cases, not learn soon enough, of all the support services available to them. This may include the services of a learning strategist, or their registrar, or an academic advisor, or even a TA. Available to students are also career planning and accessibility services. Ultimately, there is certainly a wide range of services and supports to assist students in getting through their coursework.
However, in too many cases, for the new, the shy, the less confident, the ‘different’ student on campus, their prof is the last person they would think of in seeking assistance in their work. In many cases the prof should be the first to be approached for clarification on the information they provide and the required assignments; for who better knows how to help the student find the understanding they need to do the work. At the same time, hats off to those profs who do take those steps to assure their students that they are there to facilitate their leaning as well as provide information; to remind the students of their office hours and their open door. The profs at U of T have the knowledge and the expertise to assist and support their students in their learning.
I have heard it said by the Elders that “information is not ours to hold on to, but ours to use, take what we need, and pass it on.” And, we have all heard the adage that “knowledge is power.” Basically, these messages are about the same topic of ‘strength in information/knowledge’, but these two messages come from two very different perspectives, yet both are true,
So it remains, at all institutions of higher learning in the present education system, the faculty person has gained the privilege of being a ‘holder of knowledge’. In their learning they may have forgotten that there are new perspectives out there from every walk of life, coming through their classroom doors every year. Students attending classes come from different backgrounds, different beliefs, different lifestyles, different experiences, different histories, and different parts of the world – all having a different worldview and thus, a different perspective on things. As a result of not being able to question or contribute or present from their perspective, some students are left feeling isolated, marginalized and inept.
There are all types of services available to the student at U of T to assist in the acquisition of skills to handle the workload. The question remaining however is: how and when do students at U of T gain a voice in the classroom and respect for the perspective and experience they bring?