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Monday, August 22, 2016

Is It OK to Teach Grown-Ups? | Chronicle of Higher Education


Check Emily Toth Ms. Mentor out, who never leaves her ivory tower, channels her mail via Emily Toth at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge below.
 
Photo: Tim Foley for The Chronicle Review

Question (from "Daisy"): After a tough swim through sharks, I finally got tenure at "Jekyll Community College." I’ve now been offered another opportunity — or at least I think it’s one. The college’s Golden Adult Enrichment Program has invited me to teach a course in my specialty, modern American history, for students over 50. The program’s letter was so full of praise that for awhile I thought my mother wrote it.
 
I’m a very good teacher of traditional-age college students, but am I — at 35 — too young to teach a room full of adults over 50? And will teaching in the noncredit Golden Program mean I’ll be giving up my chances ever to find a job at a research-oriented university?

Answer: First, Ms. Mentor cheers and whoops. In our barbarous times, talented teachers are so rarely lauded and wooed. What a splendid moment.

And now it’s your chance to be selfish. What will the Golden Program do for you?

You’re obviously a classroom star at Jekyll, and the good word has gotten around town ("Psst! Take Daisy’s courses!"). Now that you have tenure, it’s the moment to ask existential questions — like "What is the meaning of life?" and "What do I hate?"

Most newly tenured faculty members are exhausted. They’re like successful job seekers, who want to rejoice but are often overwhelmed with post-victory depression and survivor’s guilt. Academe is supposed to be about the lofty life of the mind, but most academicians also have big, burbling emotions. (You’re supposed to pretend they don’t exist.) So in between taking long naps (you’ve earned them), let your psyche tote up all of the things you’ve learned that you didn’t know a few years ago, when you got on the tenure track.

For instance, you know much more about teaching now. You know how to create a syllabus to cover assignments, contingencies, late papers, and plagiarism. You know about having a hook — an opening gambit that starts the class. You know how to organize lecture notes and slides. You know how to grade tests and papers fast, and how to structure questions that are gradable. You’ve learned to establish authority in class and to speak loudly enough to reach the last row. You know how to encourage the eager puppies and how to cajole the unmotivated who want only to text or sleep.

Evidently you project warmth — the major quality students look for when evaluating women as teachers (see RateMyProfessors, which will probably depress you). And you know much, much more about modern American history than you ever knew in grad school, because you’ve had to teach it to people who often, well, couldn’t care less.
 
A lot of that will change in the Golden Program, should you decide to take that mission.
 
You won’t have students with youthful energy, twitching and trying to divert you from noticing that they’re not quite prepared for class. Adult students are, well, more adult. Now they want to learn bigger stuff.
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Source: Chronicle of Higher Education


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