Tag Archive | students

Fallout From “Freshly Pressed”

festival_of_books1Since I was “Freshly Pressed” a week ago, so much has happened. It’s thrilling to receive such a terrific honor, but the best part has been all the great teachers and students who have responded to the post with their own experiences. One fellow adjunct instructor wrote a brilliant line I want to share with you. Listen to this: Education is about exploration, not memorization. I love it!

How true it is. Memorizing something is only good for something specific. I’ m thankful I learned the “Times Tables” in third grade, and I still remember being so proud when I got to the “9’s” — little did I realize I already knew all the “9 times 1 through 9.” Dah. But at the time, it was a proud accomplishment which I use to this day.

I also memorized the little jingle about the months of the year. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November. All the rest have 31, except February with 28 in leap year when you add one.”  I’m sure you can conjure up some little ditties you learned  helped you remember things you didn’t have to think about often.

We also had to memorize battle dates of the Revolutionary and Civil wars. How boring. That information stayed in my head just long enough to ace the test and then it was gone!

Wouldn’t have been wonderful to have learned history through the experiences of the people who lived it. Like a teacher who came into class one day dressed like a frontiersman or a woman with a spinning wheel and a butter churn? I would have loved history if I had a teacher who would have taught the subject by turning us on to how people lived. Wouldn’t have been a hoot to have a Confederate or Union soldier show up one day and argue their different points of view. What would it have been like to try a hard-tack cracker, which was the food the soldiers carried with them when nothing else was available? Or how about hearing from a person who brought a picnic lunch to watch a battle unfold in front of them like entertainment. Let them tell you about how they ran away when the reality of the noise of the cannons shook the earth and made huge holes in the ground and mud flew into the air. Let them tell of the cries of the wounded and the screams of amputations without anesthesia.

Assignments could also be so creative. How about writing a journal from one of the drummer boys’ or junior officers’ perspectives? Assignments like this would spur students into the libraries to read about such accounts and fire up their imaginations to think about life in a different time period that proved to be so integral to who Americans nowadays.

Learning has become lazy for so many students, but sometimes I think teaching has become so, too, not because teachers don’t want to teach but because so much of their time is wasted on administration or it is taken up with discipline issue which should begin handled at home Teachers in my day were respected  and if you got into trouble at school, you would pay the consequences at home.

I have lots of ideas, but no real authority or even education to make such changes come about. I just know what kinds of things would send me to the library to know more. I’m simply a person who never thought she wanted to teach, but discovered how much I loved being in front of a class to encourage blank faces into inquisitive minds who want to know more. What a quest!

A Day in The Life of an Adjunct Instructor

great teacherIf you have been following me for a while, you know I have been teaching writing as an adjunct instructor at the local community college for the past two years. I’d like to share something that happened in my class yesterday. I have a couple of darling male students who wanted to play the game, “Stump the Instructor.”  I realized what they were doing right away because I’ve been down this path before. I’m happy to tell you, the game was over as soon as it started when I flat out told them, “I don’t know everything. Look it up.”

I continued the class by telling him, “I don’t know everything about everything. But I know more about writing and English grammar than you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be sitting here.”  Done.

I think teachers who set themselves up as omniscient beings are asking for trouble. Even grade school children go to work to prove their parents and teachers are wrong about something. This is the very reason I tell my classes I don’t know everything. I tell them I make mistakes once in a while. I do so because it makes me human, and a better teacher.  My role is to coach and guide them through the class, instead of parking myself on some know-it-all pedestal. I want my feet firmly on the ground to connect with my students. I do this by sharing it wasn’t so long ago I was sitting in their seat. I tell them I was an adult student just like they are now, and say I understand they have other responsibilities in their life, which can throw a monkey wrench into their worlds once in a while. In the next breath, also share I graduated from college Magna Cum Laude in four years with two children and a part-time job. In other words, I subliminally say, “There are no excuses. If you want an education,  you will find a way to get it done.”

I know one of the best things they can do for themselves is to show up. When they are in class, they have the benefit of my experience. I give them tips on how to approach an exam, how to take good notes, and encourage them to ask “why?” As we go through the textbook from week to week, I try give them memory aids I’ve made up. Like ABIOOTU, which is my made up word for all two-letter prepositions. Then there’s the tried and tested, “I before E, except after “C” jingle.” And once in a while, I come up with something new. I before E

Yesterday as I stood at the white board explaining the difference between infinitives and prepositional phrases beginning with the word “to,” I had a spontaneous inspiration. I said,  “Here’s a Barbara tip  — the “V” in the word INFINITIVE tells you “to” is paired with a VERB, where as, the word PREPOSITION has an “N” so in this case, “to” is paired with a NOUN.” I realized I am a  frickin’ impromptu genius!

I love when my creativity has the chance to inspire others who want to learn. I even love teaching  students who still are lumps of clay, not sure if they want to learn. But I despise students who come to class only to collect their financial aid and have no intention of learning because they not only want cheat the system. Little do they know, they are cheating themselves, too.

So on it goes, from one class to another, from one textbook chapter to the next. Learning happens somewhere in the process. I can only hope that some of the things I try to teach will stick.

It’s Not Summer, But I Need a Vacation!

Finish lineTonight is the second to last night of my writing class. In a way, I’m sad, but in a way I’m very glad. It’s not bittersweet, it sweet bitters. In other words, this class has worn me down. I think this class has contributed to the funk I wrote about yesterday.

On Monday, we went through the final chapter of the book on homonyms — of course, to dumb everything down so people can understand, the authors now they call these words that sound alike and have different meanings, “Sound Alike/Look Alike” words.

Egads! Do the authors really think adult students are too stupid to understand the Latin word Homonyms? After all, if you know anything about Latin roots, you can figure out the meaning of the word from it’s syllables. But, I digress.

After we finished the course work, I had planned a spelling relay game to help them review the spelling words that might appear on their final. The reaction was unbelievable.

“Aw, this is stupid!”

“Do we have to do this?”

 “What do you mean, working in teams?”

There was so much push back from them, I blew a gasket and told them to forget it. Then I announced the class was over. I had enough of their lazy and apathetic attitudes, and I wasn’t going to hide it any more. They saw the “Wrath of Barbara” clearly, and they left like children, mumbling they would see me Wednesday.

I couldn’t understand what had just happen at the time. All of my other classes had fun doing this spelling relay. They enjoyed the camaraderie of working together as a team and the competition of going up against another team of their peers.  On one level, I was disappointed in myself for not controlling my temper better, but on another, I was glad to let out this frustration.

Deep down, I fear for these students. They have no idea what employers expect nowadays–especially with the big dreams they have for their futures. I have no idea how these students are going to make it in the “real” world. After all, working in teams and showing cooperation is all part of the corporate game.

So, I’ll give them their “practice test” tonight, the final on Monday and then wish them all well on Dec. 19th–our last day. They’re going to need it.