Today’s commentary is by Brian P. Hall, an assistant professor of English at Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland.
A student who had attended one of my developmental English courses only six times in 11 weeks stopped me in the hall before class to turn in a paper. I asked if she would be in class that day. No, she said, and gave me the excuse that I’ve heard most frequently in my three years of teaching at a metropolitan community college: “I have business to take care of.”
Angry that, once again, my class was not part of that “business,” I decided to have a candid conversation with my students about why school just doesn’t seem that important to many of them. I told them that most faculty members, including me, can only speculate on the attitudes and behaviors of students. I told them I was tired of trying to figure out the developmental English student, and I asked them to unlock the mystery.
For almost two hours, we discussed attitudes and expectations—theirs and mine. We had many moments of catharsis. I explained that faculty members do care, and that we create expectations so students will have continued success in college. The students stated that we (the faculty) seemed to have forgotten what it was like to be students, trying to balance our academic and personal lives. I asked the class to help us understand the life of today’s students, and to give us advice on how to help them succeed.
What follows are anecdotes and suggestions in my students’ own words—including italicized comments from particular students—that focus on what the majority of them felt were the most important areas to discuss. <Read more.>