It’s spring break, and it’s nice to finally have a week to kind of relax and not worry about midterms as much (of course, I’m ignoring the fact that I have a midterm in CSE306/Operating Systems next week), but it also gives the chance to reflect and ask, “what the hell went wrong on Friday?”

Friday was my CSE320/Computer Organization & Architecture midterm - a midterm that currently has a 43% average and what the professor called “dismal scores across the board”: so where did it all go wrong?

There’s been a lot of debate recently in our class about what lengths a teacher should go to help their students. I personally think that our professor is doing a fine job, despite my own past grievances against her. She’s been releasing practice problems, despite being under no obligation to do so; and they’ve been helpful. Having TAs help our class (even though our class should technically have no TAs) has also been a huge help.

But while I seem to be satisfied, there are others who are starting to actively rally the class against her teaching skills, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem like many other of her previous classes have had as much trouble. So is it just our class?

The difficult question of what teachers should be doing

These teachers have a difficult job. Given a class of anywhere from 30 to 200 students (and even more for general education classes, where lecture halls quickly fill to 500-1000 students), they have the insurmountable task of teaching every single one of those students the skills they need to move on to the next class. It’s sometimes an almost impossible task, regardless of the class size, and yet they still plow on every single semester and try their best.

Teachers are the best, simply for looking up in the face of all this pressure, giving it the middle finger, and then proceeding (most of the time) to smash expectations.

But what if it doesn’t work out? Teachers have readily gone out of their way to provide extra material in the form of practice problems, review sessions, lab sessions, better homework software, and more - and they’re not exactly paid to do that, either. They could easily tell you that the textbook was required for the course, so read the textbook and figure it out on your own and stop by office hours.

Instead, they go out of their way to do a whole lot more whenever possible, and make sure that learning centres are open for other students to help as well. Basically, all avenues as open as possible.

The moment the students begin to expect extra as “normal”

Eventually, the extra material seems to get mixed up as normal material. Then what?

That’s where the debate is - do teachers have an obligation to continue doing these extra things for their classes if they’ve done it in the past, or can they simply say no if it turns out to be untenable? Does it fall to the students to make the extra material?

(sidenote: I will say it does fall to the student to take advantage of office hours at the very minimum and study the normal material.)

There’s no ending to this blog post, because I can’t answer this question. Maybe someone else can. Or can’t.

Continue the discussion - comment below, or @robxu9 on Twitter.