Monday, November 21, 2005

Those Who Can, Do...

...and those who not only can but also explain in a way that illuminates the process, teach.

I realized today how many of the bloggers I call friends are somehow involved in academicia. Colleen, Jessica, Polanco...teachers all. Even the ones who don't teach for a living have some connections to education. Lily home schools. My wonderful friend Phil has lead seminars in screenwriting, as well as his online blog. The mighty Daniel uses his craft to teach as well.

I salute you all.

Because all of you, at one time or another probably had a schmoo like me as a student.

I used to teach as well. Part time, at a local College. I taught computer graphics.

The kids loved me.

Partially because I didn't take attendance.

That's not entirely true. I did take attendance, but it wasn't a big thing with me. I figured if they thought they could do the work without showing up for class, fine by me.*

And, quite honestly, some of them could. Some of them were better than me, and were only taking the course because it was a requirement before they could take a more advanced course. I gave them their assignments and their due dates, and if they got the work done, and didn't want to be there, then don't be there. I also told them I would welcome their presence in the class, and if they wanted to help out in any way, that would be fine as well. Not all of them disappeared, but none offered to help.

Oh, well.

The only ones that I really monitored for attendance were the ones who received special aid for their education (TANF Grants), and the one who was there as a condition of his parole. The aid students quickly fell into two groups: the ones who got it and the ones who didn't. "It," in this context, is the desire to use this chance to make something of themselves. Of those students (five in all), one never showed up, one disappeared after two classes, two stuck it through and did a decent job, and one fought tooth and nail to stay in that class. There was a mix-up with her paperwork, and she spent much of the semester getting it straightened out. Twice I was notified to drop her from the class, and twice I was told to reinstate her.

Good thing those other students weren't there, because she always had a computer, whether she was 'there' or not.

My favorite, though, was the parolee. He was a suburban kid, busted for drunken driving, posession, and a few other crimes many of us were lucky not to get caught for when we were that age.

He was a hustler. A playa. One of the first classes, he told me how he was going to make his first million.

He enrolled in this particular course because he thought it would be easy. I called the class "What Does This Button Do?"**

By the second week of class, I would have to pry him off the computer half an hour after the class ended.

At the end of the semester, his father came up to me and shook my hand. "You're the first teacher he's ever had to get him interested in anything," he told me.

At that moment, I realized why people teach.

Unfortunately, the school decided they didn't need my services any more. Partially because of the 'flippant' way I wrote the syllabus. Partially because I didn't make that big a deal of attendance. But also because I didn't give the students a 'solid academic grounding.'

In other words, they wanted me to have them read books. They wanted me to have them sit there in front of these new G4 macs with 1 gig processors, and read books.

That's what the other instructors were doing. I found this out from another student. She had opened up a chat window on her machine, and was instructing her friend who was in another classroom.

This wasn't what I had meant this post to be about, but I ain't erasing it now.


*An attitude first formulated in my Sophomore year, when I had to take a course called "Drama as Literature." There were 12 plays on the reading list. I had already read 10 of them. The professor would do a Q&A on Mondays and Wednesdays, and there would be a test on Friday. After the second week, I only showed up for the Friday tests. The prof came up to me after the final exam.
"Do you know how many classes you missed?" he asked me.
"About two-thirds," I replied.
"About two-thirds," he said.
"How did I do on the tests?" I asked.
"You got all A's," he said, "but you still should have come to class."
"To participate in the discussion."
"You stopped calling on me after the third class," I told him.
Perhaps I should have shown up. But the class met at 8. I needed my sleep more.
**In my view, that's the only way to teach computer graphics. Most of the first few classes were just getting them used to using computers as something other than a browser and entertainment center, and to not be afraid to explore the toolkit.


Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Funny you should mention that, got two days teaching this week, working with little ones on bullying.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Those Who Can, Do ... I hate that expression. Though I think I would have loved your class.

I'll be honest, I went into teaching because I panicked out of getting a Ph.D. in philosophy. I didn't think I'd help anyone in the world if I wrote esoteric papers on epistemology. It also bugged me that people graduated from high school without knowing how to read a bus schedule. I stayed because helping people is addicting.

Daniel, you rock.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Very hard I'll have you know...

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

No doubt.

1:42 AM  
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