Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Something interesting"

Second in a series . . .

Welcome to students who are my students for the new, 2nd-8-week classes that started yesterday. I encourage you to have a look around if you have some time; you can find links to a selection of older posts over in the right gutter under the heading "Assemblages."

What follows is an exchange from one of those new classes. It's not a precise transcription, but close "First Student," by the way, is male, which may make a difference . . . ):

Me: Tell us something interesting about yourself.

First Student: Well, over spring break I got my ears pierced for, like, the first time.

Me: "Like" the first time?

First Student: Well, the first time.

Second student: Did it hurt?

First student: The girl said it would hurt, but--shoot--I've been stabbed before. This wasn't nothing.

6 comments:

jimmy said...
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R. Sherman said...

Hearing those back stories is one of the things that intrigues the EMBLOS about teaching at a community college. I'll stop now, lest I disclose too much, but pointing these kids down the right path; getting them excited to learn, is what keeps the EMBLOS going back.

Cheers.

Doc said...

oh my.

and teachers get paid, what, like in the dozens of doughnuts per annum?

amazing.

John B. said...

Randall and Doc, thanks for coming by.

I'll just respond to both of you by saying this. There are certainly things I miss by not being at a 4-year school, but one thing I didn't see nearly so clearly while at my previous school was something that's made abundantly clear to me every semester, almost every class: community colleges serve the community. In more ways than one, our school does good work.

Pam said...

I have an Aunt that is hugely involved (on the board level) in community college programs in Virginia. Through her - and here, through you - the value of these institutions has been made so clear to me. Sometimes student's I see don't recognize what 'opportunity' really is - you provide true opportunity. I'm guessing that it is extremely rewarding - when it works.

John B. said...

"When it works"--yes. More often than not, it seems to.

Just to clarify a couple of things for my readers:

a) My college isn't some glorified reform school, and I don't need to wear a flak jacket to class . . . especially given that the campus where I teach is on the local Air Force base. But, as Pam suggests in her comment, the phrase "knowledge is power" becomes a little less abstract and a little more pragmatic for most of my students, given that a sizable minority of them are at or below the poverty level. I'd be here all day recounting stories of what some of my students have been or are going through to make it to class, but suffice it to say that just when I think I've heard them all, here comes someone with a story that tops them, or comes close.

b) Our students aren't just racking up credits with us; they actually seem to learn stuff while they're with us. Data that we get on our students from the area public 4-year colleges that many of our students transfer to indicate that our students' GPAs at those other schools are higher, by about a third of a letter grade, than the school-wide GPA.

Last fall at the beginning of the new school year, we learned that half of all college students in the U.S. are enrolled in community and junior colleges. As I said somewhere above, I miss the 4-year-school environment, but I admit that the reasons for that are chiefly selfish ones. But when I hear of profs at other schools talk about how "important" their work or that of other people is, I find myself thinking that they and I must have different definitions of "important."