Friday, July 13, 2007
Community College Students Get No Respect
I'm fairly new to the college teaching arena. I jumped into the English classroom two years ago. I've been slogging away in the class, enjoying the interactions with the students, but I haven't seen too much of other teachers until this quarter.
This quarter, I'm tutoring in the Writing Center, so three of us are generally in there, sharing stories when students don't show up for appointments. I'm also taking an adjunct faculty workshop and that gives me even more time to listen to community college professors. Maybe I'm naive, but it shocks me how little the teachers respect their students.
One math teacher kept going on about how the college's real problem is getting students to even show up. I finally jumped in and said, in the students' defense, that was not a problem I'd seen. But I began to wonder if her students weren't showing because she expected so little of them. Her feelings of contempt must bleed through into her teaching. Why should they attend her classes?
Not many of these students come straight from a suburban high school to community college. Most of them have children. Some of them come from tough neighborhoods and their essays are filled with stories of alcoholic parents, cousins in prison and guns at parties.
They have clawed their way into college, even a community college, and they dream of coming out the other end with an associate's degree in landscaping or nursing. They work full-time jobs and juggle childcare and search out extra help for their essays, hoping to be a good example to the little eyes that watch them from home.
As an English professor, I spend a number of hours marking the rough drafts my students turn in, and that is the latest debate I've had with the other English professors. One claimed, "We don't get paid enough to grade rough drafts."
Well, really, who ever gets paid enough? That's not the reason we do this, though. I mean, we do it for the money, but every teacher who puts in extra hours in her job knows that the end isn't about the money. It's about the student.
I understand the point some teachers make, saying the students will only correct the mistakes that I mark. So I will start weaning them off their reliance on me, by correcting grammar through the first few paragraphs and pointing out the issues they need to work on. But I can't ever feel that "I don't make enough money to..." do whatever the students need to become better writers.
Sure, some of the students are slackers. They leave in the middle of class or only show up when an essay is due. Some of them will drift away from class, forgetting to drop, and end up failing. But for the ones who come everytime, who work hard, I'll pull out my pen and keep marking their essays.
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