Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Why I teach night classes

It’s not just because I don’t do mornings.

This week, John Rosemond’s Parenting column (which is syndicated in many newspapers nationwide, and which you can find at discusses kids who, even though they may have reached adult age, are still children in other ways. Primarily, they have a sense of entitlement – they believe that whatever they want, they should get.

Rosemond blames parents. Certainly, that’s where a lot of the blame lies. Many parents have taught their children (mostly without intending to) that they are entitled to whatever they want, and that they don’t have to earn anything. When these children reach college, they are still children, and not young adults, and they don’t understand the concept of having to work to earn a passing grade.

But I don’t think it’s just parents. Much of the blame must also be distributed to the public schools that the students come from. It’s not just the parents, but also the educational system, that places more importance on students’ self-esteem than upon actual academic accomplishment. Under this belief system, it is wrong to tell a student that his or her level of accomplishment isn’t enough – that might cause the student to devalue him- or herself. And if the student devalues him- or herself, the student may give up on life.


The best way to get a student to feel good about him- or herself is to give the student a challenge that stretches the student’s ability – something that, at first glance, looks like it will be too much for that student, but it’s within reach if the student just works harder. I tell the student that he or she can do it. Almost always, the student does.

The major reason I teach evening classes is that I don’t like to be faced with a classroom full of straight-out-of-high-school students who have been indoctrinated all of their lives with the idea that they don’t actually have to do much of anything and life will still hand them everything they want. In the evening classes, I get the students who have learned that life isn’t all a free handout. Either they didn’t graduate from high school, or they graduated without learning anything, but they’ve been out in the world, and they’ve discovered that the real world isn’t a free ride, and that they really do need to learn more. Sometimes, they made bad decisions in the past, such as becoming a parent as a teenager, or getting involved with an abusive partner.

With the straight-out-of-high-school set, I have to deal with the attitude of entitlement. Some of these students just don’t seem to understand that I don’t GIVE grades; rather, the students EARN grades. If a student’s paper got a failing grade, that student EARNED it. With the non-traditional students in my evening classes, I don’t even have to explain myself. Those students understand the difference between being given something and earning it.


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