A little secret about teaching…

My paid occupation is teaching community college philosophy at a place I’ll call “Big Northern Community College” — or BNCC — because, we’re big, we’re in a northern state, and we’re a community college…

The Chronical of Higher ed has an op-ed piece that appealed to me today, kind of.  The gist of the story is that it’s a pleasure to see deserving students fail.  I have to say, in my dark, snarky and uncharitable moments, I agree.    Seeing to it that someone sees actual consequences from their actions, or more precicely inactions, in my class is temporarily rewarding.

Then I come out of that fog and feel rather badly for them.  The thing is, the students who drift away, have life complications or just aren’t ready for college are a fact of life at BNCC.  That doesn’t mean that I have to hate them or take their failure to succeed in my class personally.  It’s just another phase of their lives and sooner or later (or — not), they’ll get their educational acts together and do well.  I hope they do.

I’m also going to come right out and say it, I think that college isn’t for everybody.  I know we have a culture that insists on college educations for all and Obama has community colleges as a priority.  I think that’s fantastic in terms of increasing access to higher ed and I think the community college is the best way to make an initial foray into higher ed — for those who are motivated to be there.

The problem is that not every student is interested and motivated enough for college not to be a waste of time and money.  When those students realize this in the middle of my class, they often drift away.  Hating on them is simply spiteful and disrespectful of their decisions. A better solution might be to put some of that energy into making high schools better, so that an employer doesn’t need to see a college degree before they can decide that an applicant has a decent set of skills. 

I think one indicator of maturity is the harsh realization that not everyone is like you, and that’s ok.  Not every person has the same drive and determiniation concerning education that I do.  Not everyone HAS to have an A.  Sometimes other things are (gasp) more important than academic achievement.  Once I realized this, I think I instantly became a much better instructor and generally a better person.

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