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.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Visitor 25K

This time, the visitor had a very good reason for being here

Well, it’s official. Five O’Clock Somewhere has had its 25,000th visitor.

This one was an AOLer in the UK, in (what else?) the UTC+0 time zone. He or she arrived on an inquiry about “how to teach an evening class.” Well, those of you who follow my blog probably can already guess my answer.

The main thing to remember about an evening class is that many of the students are taking an evening class because their day is otherwise occupied by working for a living. There are a lot of what are called “non-traditional students” who, instead of entering college straight from high school, have been out in the real world, sometimes for a very long time, before returning to a classroom.

These students often have families that they have to take care of, and they nearly always have bosses that they have to please – and some of those bosses are horribly unenlightened. They do not recognize that by getting an education, my students are becoming better employees. Or maybe they’re worried that if my students learn too much, they may threaten the boss’ position by becoming better qualified. Whichever is the case, such sadistic bosses, after being told which evenings my students have class, seem to take delight in making them work overtime on those evenings.

When I teach non-traditional students, I work to make accommodations for family and work situations that my students have to deal with. This is not the same thing as leniency. The students do still have to do the work. But I’m willing to work on scheduling to help students accommodate family and job obligations. For example, if some students have to miss an essay peer-review session, I will give those students an opportunity to get together and do the peer review on their own; if they can show me notes to prove they have done so, they get credit for the peer review.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I greatly enjoy teaching evening classes, because the non-traditional students bring a much greater sense of responsibility to the class. They have learned that anything worth getting has to be earned, and they most definitely don’t whine to me that I can’t give them a failing grade because they need a passing grade to meet prerequisites for their intended major field. The students who arrive in my classroom straight from high school have apparently been successful with that argument, and last year one of those students even took such a complaint to the Dean of Students. Yes, I did eventually give him a passing grade, but not until he actually completed the work required to pass the course.

Back when I was an undergraduate non-traditional student with a 100-mile commute and a toddler and husband to take care of, I once had an instructor who seemed to think I had no business whatsoever being in college at all. He seemed to think I should be staying at home and taking care of the kid, and he did not give any sort of leniency – when I had to miss an exam because of a family emergency, he refused to take that as an excuse, and he was about to give me a zero on the exam, which would have meant I would have failed the class. I was saved when another instructor, hearing the argument, poked his head in the office door and offered to allow me to take the exam with his class, which hadn’t taken that particular exam yet. My instructor clearly wasn’t happy with the idea, but by that time several of the other instructor’s students were right there with him, and the glare of public exposure meant my instructor had no choice. I subsequently enjoyed a half-hour of the other instructor’s office hours, with his students, gaining far deeper insights than the class lectures from my instructor’s classes ever even hinted at.

So I have vowed never to be like that instructor of mine, and I aspire to be like the instructor whose students enjoyed his company so much that they trailed him after class to his office and spent his office hours in avid discussion of the concepts involved in the course. By the way, the subject wasn’t English; it was math. Oh, and the instructor who put me down was a tenure-track associate professor, but the really brilliant instructor was “adjunct faculty” – a fancy way of saying part-time instructor with (at least at a major university) no future.

Getting back to the original question: The key to teaching evening classes is to recognize that the students are usually much more mature than day students, but they also have other obligations that they have to work around. Make accommodations, but don’t give any free passes.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home