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LCC International University > News and Events > Seeing from the other side of the window

Seeing from the other side of the window


I love washing windows. With a straight-edge squeegee and good brush, I can clean windows in seconds. This week at LCC International University, our faculty and staff participated in a “Service Day.” I jumped at the chance to wash windows in our gym and cafeteria.

At one point, I was sliding my squeegee left to right and my colleague happened to be washing the same window from the outside at the same time. It was funny, but also frustrating. The streaks and drips that he made on the outside looked like streaks and drips on my side. But I had just perfectly washed the window on the inside!

The perspective from one side of the window was different from the perspective on the other side of the window. It all depends on which side of the window you are on! When we teach, we are on one side of the desk and the students are on the other side. They have a different perspective of the course than we do.

At the end of the semester, I submitted the grades of my first-year composition course. Essentially, the grades that I submitted give my perspective of their skills as academic writers. In the final week, I asked the same students to write about their perspectives of their own strengths and weakness as academic writers. I was surprised what they wrote about their skills from THEIR perspective. From the other side of the window, so to speak.

Here are comments written by students about their own skills as writers and what I can learn from seeing from their perspective.

“The biggest challenge occurs for me in terms of writing a good academic essay is to begin writing it.” From my perspective, I want to remember that just starting to write on the “blank page” can be frightening from the students’ perspective.   

“I always write 3 drafts on my own before I submit the paper as a draft one. I write it, then I give it to someone to read it, usually tutors to check it and to say their opinion. And finally, I coherent all the paragraphs, quotations, make a reference page look good.” This student is putting in extra time way beyond the course requirements to submit a good paper. From my perspective, I only see their submissions without realizing the huge effort that the student made.

“Grammar is the one aspect I care a lot about.” From my perspective, maybe I should review grammar points, even for C1 / Advanced students.

“My strengths are my ideas. It is not difficult for me to generate ideas and write about them.” From my perspective, students don’t have enough life experience to have good ideas. I need to remember that they DO have strong ideas.

“Sometimes my writings don`t look formal.” From my perspective, I would agree. Contractions are informal.

“Before submitting every paper I am going to check if I cited my source correctly by watching YouTube videos. But I don’t know. I think the videos misguide me with the APA format. As a result, I will not watch more YouTube videos.” From my perspective, I can guide them to helpful links and apps they can refer to outside of class.

I can learn much by seeing from the student’s perspective. What are you doing to see from the “other side of the window”?  As a teacher, what can you learn from listening to your students’ perspectives?

Author: Robin Gingerich, Ph.D., MA TESOL Program Director at LCC International University.

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