Today was the first class of my summer writing class at the community college. Right now I have 15 students, which is really a nice number for this basic class. Unfortunately, though, it’s been my experience to lose half of them by the end of the term. I’m hoping I entertained and cajoled them enough this morning to keep most of them engaged.
I’ve taught this class several times, and believe it or not I was just as nervous this morning as I was on the first time I stood in front of a roomful of eyes looking at me. Honestly, I guess I just have to accept getting in front of a class is just like when I was singing in front of audiences — the jitters will always be with me. But that kind of nervousness with sweaty palms and a few butterflies rolling around in my tummy keeps me on top of my game. I’m alert and alive. Ready to give my best performance.
The hardest job that I have to do is to dispel demons of past “learning” experiences. I also have to kill the bullies who told these people they weren’t smart enough or good enough to be able to make it in college. I always address these two things during our first encounter. You see, teaching adults is different from teaching children. They carry baggage. We need to dump these negative attitudes quickly, so we can travel though the course work successfully.
Adults also need to know how they will benefit from the efforts they put forth. They need to see how learning English grammar will fit into their end goal. So, I also ask each of them what they want to accomplish and why they thought they needed to learn what I was hired to teach them. This discussion usually ends with a list of business communications they all will have to produce.
Then we read a piece by Sherman Alexie about being stereotyped, and I give them an assignment to write a paragraph on how they might or might not identify with the author. All of this is preparation for the future. They don’t know it yet, but I will instill in them that they are good enough for college courses by building their skills and their self-esteem. At the end of the day, we all need that kind of support–even the most seasoned writers among us still have to hear the good stuff.
So every Monday and Wednesday mornings, I’ll be doing my best to pass on my expertise about English grammar and basic writing, while my blog will have to go on the back burner until the afternoon. Forgive me, but it is for a good cause.