Instructors: do you ever get used to being the enemy?

  1. I have been teaching for three years now. I love my job. From the time I was in my ADN program, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I attribute this to a couple of the instructors I had. They weren't' all sugary sweet and warm and fuzzy. They did their jobs, they criticized my careplans, they failed me when i needed to (in skills testing), they told it like it was and most of all- they made me think! I was only 18 when I started and a very sensitive 'little girl', and none of them ever made me cry. I was not a mature 18 yr old by any means, but back then I was the class minority, with most of the class being in their late 20's-early 30's (and then some, of course). But I knew, if I failed, it was my fault. I was not an a student, not even a b student, but i passed. I didn't blame any instructors for failing a test... I blamed myself.

    So now, here I am on the other side of the fence. I love what I do, and I truly enjoy my approach of making the students think. From what I gather (and I may be way off base), I am liked by my students. Sure I have my moments, both in theory and clinical, where i get cranky. I have my quirks, and by now, my students know them (certain things I expect from them) but I am the first to show my humble side. Lately, i am just feeling drained by the negativity, by the defensiveness that a good number of students display toward us (not me per se, but us, in general). I hear students talking about my colleagues who are 'out to get them' and 'don't like me' because they are failing', and how I am "trying to trick them" with my questions. I think long and hard about the questions I use for exams, and look at as many resources possible. But being that I lecture 4th semester students, my questions are not easy. I use a lot of analysis, prioritization and delegation questions (just like they will see 2 months from now on NCLEX).

    And to be honest, when I log on here, it is 100x magnified. I like coming here to try to get into the minds of students, to see what they are feeling, and what can help me to be a better professor. But there is so much negativity. Does anyone ever fail because they did something wrong? Or is it always the instructors fault? Why is it that failure automatically means a) we don't like them, b) we are out to get them, and c) we don't care?

    I just started this part of my career, and am a young person. I don't plan on retiring any time soon. I just wonder if I will ever get used to this. I don't take it personally, but apparently many students do. I know what these students have one their plate, I've been there and done that. I was in grad school during one of the most difficult times in my life. I had financial, family, marital and work issues. But if I didn't do my work in a satidfactory fashion, I would have failed. I needed to do what I had to do to pass, or take a leave of absence. We all have busy lives, and it's not always the instructors fault if you don't pass.

    I read the 'negativity' thread in the students forum and it made me think about it even more. I get that it is a response to the stress that they are facing. but the thing is, it never goes away for us. Because every year, it is a new group of students, with the same issues. We will always be dealing with stressed out students.

    Any thoughts here?
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    Joined: Apr '03; Posts: 2,280; Likes: 1,399
    Staff Educator; from US
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  3. by   elkpark
    I know exactly what you mean. Things are v. different from when/where I was a student. One of the reasons I left my last teaching job was the extremely poor, negative attitude from so many (not all, certainly, but a lot) of the students.
  4. by   ProfRN4
    Thanks elk for the reply. I think it speaks volumes that only one person replied to my thread. After reading pages of instructor bashing threads here, I guess (at least here and in NS) we are the enemy Aren't there any students who have positive experiences. I guess if there are, they don't post here.
  5. by   pinkiepie_RN
    Well I'm a student and I just browsed this thread out of curiosity. I think if you want to connect with the students, then you should probably post something like this on the student board. That being said, I don't ever think my instructors are out to get me, at least not yet. I have immense respect for them in that they are RNs, which is something I have not yet attained, so they must know what they're talking about. I will admit that sometimes I think questions are worded so that they sound tricky, but that they aren't all that way and it all works out for the most part. Hope this helps!

  6. by   llg
    I wish I had words of wisdom for you, Nurse Educate, but I have nothing profound to offer. Most of my career has been in Staff Development with a little bit of university teaching here and there over the years. For me, the stress and the pain has never completely gone away.

    Students will blame you for not saving them from themselves. You are supposed to rescue them from their own short-comings and make them like it (and you) in the process. Real life just doesn't always work that way.
  7. by   Valerie Salva
    Quote from nurse educate
    Thanks elk for the reply. I think it speaks volumes that only one person replied to my thread. After reading pages of instructor bashing threads here, I guess (at least here and in NS) we are the enemy Aren't there any students who have positive experiences. I guess if there are, they don't post here.
    Many of us really did have very negative experiences in school. Mine had nothing to do with grades- I got top grades and graduated with honors.

    Some of my instructors just really treated us like dirt, and I don't know why.

    I would have loved to have had instructors who were helpful and encouraging, instead of ones who were spiteful and seemed to take pleasure in humiliating students and destroying any shred of confidence they might have. At my school one instriuctor was even violent towards a few students.

    I'm glad to read your posts and know that not all instructors feel contempt for students, and actually enjoy their jobs! Keep it up!
  8. by   lepew
    I have been teaching now for over 4 years. I have seen a change in some of the younger students attitudes. I have also seen some instructors treat students very badly. I treat my students they way I would want to be treated-with respect. I had an awesome insructor in school and I try to model her. I am not easy-they wouldn't pass boards if I was! I think my students like me, for the most part. I am human. I am not perfect. I tell my students that. When I don't know something, or just plain forget (drat those senior moments!), I tell them and we look it up together. I have students from years past still call or stop by occassionally to chat.
    I think those of us that truly love to teach and care about our students persevere. Most of the students know we care, but some you will never get through to. Some seem to want to sit and have you pour your knowledge into them. It doesn't work like that.
    As a side note, I think the national testing in public schools I.E. the TAKS tests, are doing damage in the long run. The teachers (I'm not faulting them-they have to teach whay they are told)-teach to this test, and our younger students expect us to do the same for them. I teel them we can't , they won't pass boards that way. Well, it's just my opinion.

  9. by   linzz
    I have been a younger student and an older student so I'll throw in my thoughts on this. Of the younger students, I have seen some really great students who were great in clinical too. I have also seen some students that were book smart but you could just tell that they had been pretty coddled and just may not have developed coping skills and an understanding of why certain things are critical for nursing such as honesty and really caring about the patient. I think you have a tough job for sure. I also think that many students just need a bit of extra help with things such as getting organized and understanding the culture of nursing. The fact that you are even interested in reaching your students is a really great thing.
  10. by   LearningtoTeachRN
    I am a new nurse educator (this is my second semester), and I am soooo thankful for this forum. It has helped me so much. This particular subject really hit home with me as I have had more bad than good days this semester. For the most part I am liked by my students-I work along beside them teaching them as we care for the patients, show them the utmost respect, and would never dream of talking down to them as I remember very well my student days. Given all this, I had some students who would become very defensive when asked to correct charting, or when I would ask if things had been done, etc. They complain about everything, and will even question what I am telling them (then they ask the floor nurses and are told the exact same thing) I know I cannot please everyone all of the time, but this has really upset me to the point I am thinking of not continuing next semester. Any words of support or advice would be appreciated
  11. by   jjjoy
    I can imagine a lot depends on the student population you are teaching as well as the overall program you are part of. Certain student populations seem unwilling to take personal responsibility. And some nursing programs have a general culture that doesn't respect the students' abilities and feedback.

    Personally, I was disappointed that most classes had NCLEX-style questions. While that strategy may have helped me ultimately pass the boards, such questions didn't help me LEARN what I needed as a PRACTICING nurse. What I learned best in school was how to do well on NCLEX-style tests... and write care plans. And personally, I don't think either are the best way to teach nursing. So when I did poorly on these tasks, I'd get very frustrated because they didn't seem to reflect my future potential as a nurse. And when I did well on such tasks, I was still frustrated because doing well also didn't reflect my future potential either... but at least it didn't mar my GPA and create seemingly unnecessary roadblocks.

    I did have instructors who seemed to focus in on nit-picky critiques of different students at different times that, again, didn't really seem to merit the level of reprimand relative to other potential problem areas we as students faced.

    I only had a few instructors who really seemed to "tell it like it is" in regard to "real world" nursing practice and to focus on skills and knowledge that would improve our practice and not just prepare us for the NCLEX and/or meet NLN content requirements.

    Also, what we covered in class was often very different from how things actually worked on the floor. So oftentimes, what the clinical instructor or nurse preceptor said would run counter to what we'd studied or just weren't clear to us, and having been encouraged to really understand the rationale for all that we do, what else were we to do but ask questions when things didn't make sense? Yet instructors and preceptors would often seem annoyed and would take questions as challenges to their authority and experience and want us to accept their word without question.

    So, you might do well to step back and see if any of the complaints have any basis.

    Still, I imagine much student whining is just that, especially if they are younger students without much varied life experience.

    On a side note:
    I personally think nursing education is rather in turmoil at this time and instructors end up taking the brunt of it from students... on the other end, hospital nursing staff and new grad preceptors take the brunt of it as they orient new grads. If any educators out there knows how I could get more in touch with "the powers that be" of nursing education, I'd be very interested to find out more from the front on nursing education issues.
    Last edit by jjjoy on Apr 5, '08
  12. by   RNPATL
    As a nursing instructor I feel my first responsibility is to help the student gain valuable knowledge that they will need to be successful in practice. There are some students that take a while to get it. Some of these students might even say that I am "out to get them." But, in the end, when they walk across that stage and graduate and come back to me and say, "thank you for all that you taught me." I know at that very moment that my approach is right. Yes, there are times when I get disappointed with a student's performance and there are times when I a ready to boot the student right out the program. But I know in the end that learning these skills and science based materials is agonizing for many students coupled with the responsibility of family, work, etc. Some of the folks are under some real stress and pressure. I remember how much pressure I was under when I was in my ADN program. A single father, raising 3 kids alone, work and school. Don't know how I did it, but I did!

    I think as long as we teach and we teach with integrity and with the sole purpose of helping these students become nurses, then we are doing our job to the best of our ability. A part of teaching professional nursing is teaching our students to take responsibility for their successes and learn from their failures.
  13. by   greatshakes
    Here's my view if you want it. Some of my instructors were definitely out to get me and I and all the other students knew I was on their hit list. That doesn't do much for your confidence especially when you have others skiting that they'll get through because such and such likes them. I had some excellent lecturers and facilitators though. The one I remember though was straight talking but would go out of her way to enlighten me when I wanted an honest answer. She even came to see me on one of my other pracs to support me. She wasn't as pretty or swreet as some of the others but she was an excellent lecturer, a hard marker and every one who I spoke to, liked her. There was no false flattery but she was fair and straight. When I knew she was my preceptor for my last clinical I knew I'd get through. I mean after all, throughout my clinicvcals and subjects if I passed a prac, they'd fail me on the assignment. They wanted me to give up and go away quietly. I had failed one subject abysmally just because of the assignment but had done really well in the prac so the next semester I just did the assignment and got a credit plus, a failure in another subject, the same subject next term was a distinction. If the content of the assignments wasn't that different wouldn't you say that you knew they were trying to break you? I was older, 56 when I finally got through but I made it because every time they failed me I dug the heels in further and refused to give up. I had never asked for an extension except when my mother died and my mother on law died. I finally got through with a distinction over all , prac, assignment and exam. My degree took me forever and was worth the heartache, the tears and sleepless nights. One woman saw my potential and gave me a chance.
  14. by   madascanbeRNtobe
    Every instructor I have had so far have ranged from good teachers to excellent. The number of students that have thoughts such as the instructors are out to get them. or have had negative experiences with them are definitely number in the minority.

    So all i have to say Kudos to you, for being one of those instructors too.

    I just have a response to some of the comments, that the younger students are more likely to place the blame of their low grades on the instructors. I don't think thats true at all. In my program, the few that don't take responsibility for their own actions range in all ages. In fact the whiniest one I have met is in her 30s.