Students: A Comparison/Contrast

I love the community college concept.  Not everybody is ready for university, especially not all at the same given time in their lives, and a community college is a place where students can get a start on a degree that they might finish at university.  Community college is also the perfect place to earn a two or four-year degree in something that a university might not even handle.  Many students use the community college as a transition.

I love the idea of mixed ages in a classroom.  Older people have a lot to learn from the young, and the young desperately need good role models who are NOT related to them.  I wish our public schools weren’t so concerned with age-grouping and more concerned with placing a student, whatever his/her age, in the classroom that best serves the student’s academic progress.  If that means 17-year-olds sitting next to sweet little 9-year-olds, so be it.  If discipline was enforced as it should be, there would be no problems whatsoever, and nobody should be allowed to move on to the next level until the current level has been mastered.  Wouldn’t that mean some kids would never graduate at all?  Yup.  Them’s the breaks.  And I believe an employer should have the right to assume that a diploma guarantees a certain amount of literacy.  As things stand now, we’ve got college students asking where the pencil bin is kept, and trying to turn in essays using the same code they use with their cell phones.

I have many students who are fresh out of high school, but most of my students have been out of high school for a long, long time.  Factories are shutting down in this area, one after another, and people who believed Ford or General Electric or RCA would take good care of them if they devoted their lives to it are learning otherwise.  Good people who supposed they’d be working in these factories until they retired are out on the streets, and now they have to learn a lot of new skills so they can get a new job.  These people are serious students; they mean business, whereas many of the 18-year-olds are still looking around the classroom for that bin of community pencils, asking if they can do something “funner” in place of the required ten essays,  and texting their friends underneath the table.

My adult students seldom miss a day.  My teen students miss all the time, and are genuinely amazed when I won’t give them a list of “all the stuff I missed when I was in Cancun.”

My adult students do every assignment and turn it in on time, or even earlier.  My teen students forget their books, forget we were having a quiz today, forget their pencils, and didn’t know we even had an assignment.  “Can I turn it in next week?  No?  What do you mean, no?”

Well, Doogie, when I say “No,” the hidden meaning is actually, well, guess what?  “No.”

My older students consider it their responsibility to get their books, buy their pencils and paper, and bring it all to class every day.  My teen students hate to lug those huge books around, assume I’m going to furnish them with pencil and paper, and often sleep during class.  And it’s not because they’ve got a job that kept them up late.

My adult students turn off their cell phones when class starts.  The younger students will take a call right in the middle of a test, and they seldom stop texting.  I used to ignore the college rule that all cell phones must be turned off, because adult students occasionally had children or older parents to consider.  However, I later had to make a rule that cell phones must be placed on top of the table and not touched while class is going on.  A lot of the younger students can’t deal with the withdrawal, and try to argue about it with me.

My adult students are seldom late, and if they are, it was for a good reason AND they cleared it with me earlier.  If it was a true emergency, they bring documentation.  My younger students are almost always late, sometimes as much as an hour, and it’s usually because they overslept.

Most of my adult students understand that if they don’t learn these new skills, their families are not going to have any means of support.  Most of my younger students are out to get a degree.

My adult students, even those who’ve been out of school for thirty or forty years, are almost always fairly good spellers.  My teens rely on spell-check for even the small, simple words.

My adult students are chagrined when they misspell a word on an essay.  My teen students get angry because they can’t use their cutesy texting codes on a formal college essay.

I am speaking in generalities, of course.  I’ve had moronic adult students, and I’ve had superior teenage students, but for the most part, the generalities are the truth.

What has happened to our public schools that they are graduating these kids who can’t do even the simplest academic things?  WHY were they graduated?  Are they “parental fantasies?”  I’ve had my share of those, and they’re not any fun.  Are they troublemakers, and the school just wanted them out of there?  Did they just get too old, and the principal didn’t like the idea of them wandering the halls?

Many of my adult students never graduated from high school; they quit school to work in the factory, never dreaming that Ford would sell them out with not so much as a backward glance.  Many of them have a GED, not a diploma.

They still do better than the majority of my teen students.

I really, truly, honestly wish that a high school diploma was reserved only for those students who earned it, all by themselves.  Maybe then it would mean something.

As things stand now, a diploma could very well mean your kid was just such a pain in the neck, well, ANYTHING to get him out of there.  Or it could mean your kid showed up.  Or it could mean “oh, young lady, we know you can’t do it but we don’t want your self-esteem to suffer so here you go, a diploma, just like all the other kids are getting.”  Or it might mean the school wants your kid out before he’s old enough to collect social security.

Good luck, employers.  Have fun figuring out which applicants EARNED that diploma.  It shouldn’t take you long.

And good luck, serious students who have to sit by people who troll in late, empty-handed, and expect a college professor to give them a pencil and who then complain that the eraser is so small.

Oh, and parents who demand that their kid be given a viable diploma when the kid hasn’t earned it?  Shame on you.

Administrators who let these parents get away with that?  Shame on you.

Not quite last but most certainly least, Kid who skipped through high school in Mommy’s pocket and who expects to skip through college the same way:  You’ve got some surprises coming, baby.

And to my students who mean business, do the work, write the papers, participate in class, and have good manners:  Thank you.  I appreciate you every single moment.  Tell your parents they did a good job with you.  I love you.  I’d like to clone you and fill the room with you.

And I’m so sorry you have to sit by Cell Phone Phil and the Borrowed Pencils.


Comments

Students: A Comparison/Contrast — 16 Comments

  1. I suppose the thing that infuriates me the
    most are parents who write their kids’ essays
    for them. I also “helped” my kids when they
    were researching a paper, but it was only
    things like borrowing books from the university
    library for them, or proofreading their footnotes
    and bibliographies. I have been continually
    astonished when a certain friend and her
    husband research and write their kids’ college
    essays. Their excuse: “L. is not very good at
    writing and should use her energy for doing
    other tasks she does excel in.” …and they
    wondered why another daughter, A., was
    always “too nervous” to do well when taking
    an exam. Grrrr.

  2. I suppose the thing that infuriates me the
    most are parents who write their kids’ essays
    for them. I also “helped” my kids when they
    were researching a paper, but it was only
    things like borrowing books from the university
    library for them, or proofreading their footnotes
    and bibliographies. I have been continually
    astonished when a certain friend and her
    husband research and write their kids’ college
    essays. Their excuse: “L. is not very good at
    writing and should use her energy for doing
    other tasks she does excel in.” …and they
    wondered why another daughter, A., was
    always “too nervous” to do well when taking
    an exam. Grrrr.

  3. Unless you have a strong admin in a public school, you are fighting parents all the time who insist their kids have cell phones so that they can contact them constantly. Many of these parents lie when their kids are absent or tardy so the students get excused instead of unexcused absences. There is absolutely nothing that the school can do other than calling the parents liars, which doesn’t go over too well. They pull them out of school for vacations when the rest of us are learning and then complain if their children’s grades are lower. The apples aren’t falling far from the trees these days. Believe me, it’s a constant and exhausting (many times no win) fight in the public schools; it isn’t though we’re not trying. We just don’t have the power.

  4. Unless you have a strong admin in a public school, you are fighting parents all the time who insist their kids have cell phones so that they can contact them constantly. Many of these parents lie when their kids are absent or tardy so the students get excused instead of unexcused absences. There is absolutely nothing that the school can do other than calling the parents liars, which doesn’t go over too well. They pull them out of school for vacations when the rest of us are learning and then complain if their children’s grades are lower. The apples aren’t falling far from the trees these days. Believe me, it’s a constant and exhausting (many times no win) fight in the public schools; it isn’t though we’re not trying. We just don’t have the power.

  5. I have a rule regarding job applicants: send in a resume with a typographical error and you’re not getting the job. If you can’t take the time to be thorough in preparing such an important document for your own success, how can I trust that you’ll be any more careful at work? Sounds like some of your students might be my job applicants!

  6. I have a rule regarding job applicants: send in a resume with a typographical error and you’re not getting the job. If you can’t take the time to be thorough in preparing such an important document for your own success, how can I trust that you’ll be any more careful at work? Sounds like some of your students might be my job applicants!

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