Coddled College Kiddies: Ten for Today


It’s the gap. I teach from 1 to 3 then 5:30-9:45 on Wednesdays. So, I work in the adjunct faculty room in between classes, lounged on the couch, correcting papers as it so happens today. Last night, I had 8 more to correct for tonight’s class, which is right next door to the faculty room. 

Two other young instructors inhabit the room. A knock at the door, and I let in a muscular, sleeveless t-shirted young man, who could be a very young adjunct (they all look young these days) or a student. He drops his backpack next to one of the room inhabitants as he whisks past me without so much as an acknowledgement of my existence. He is intent.

Beginning with a list of his laudatory behavior loudly proclaimed–I completed this chapter, did this review…Will there be a quiz on this today?–he engages his young, dark, curly haired instructor with the milk chocolate skin and thick, black eyebrows. She has a gentle manner. 

“Yes, good, good. Very good…”

But then he moves on to the speech he made the other day in class, when he came to class dressed up in formal clothing, something not so easy for an out of state student who pays high fees to attend. 

“It’s unfair, you know. You kind of beat me down, took my wind a little, you know. I mean it was a great idea, dressing up, and then, you know, you go make it a requirement that everyone has to dress up. And it’s not fair. You know what I’m saying?”

She’s listening patiently, and so am I, though my thoughts are racing with this kid’s typical college student at this community college by the beach stance: the classroom is a democracy and I get to voice my feelings about what the teacher did, how it’s run. I shake my head motionlessly. 

He would do well to sit in on my class where I make it clear that college is not a right but a privilege. Don’t take my class if it doesn’t suit you. It’s not high school. There are other teachers for this intro course.

“I am trying to understand you. What’s not fair?” She replies to Mr. Whiny pants.

“Well, I thought of the idea of dressing up and then you make it a requirement. You know some people can’t afford to dress up for a class, like lower income people. And you made it a requirement. But you know I thought of it, kind of my advantage, you know, and then you made it for everyone to do. You took away my leg up.”

I groan–audibly. I’m not cut out for teaching any more, maybe. I get my carcass up from the couch and leave the room. 

Babies in College

 
 
Today a student handed me a note purportedly written by his mother, excusing him for leaving class early a couple of days ago. I teach college English. In the 20 plus years I have taught, this was a first.
 
In the last 2 years teaching at the same college I have taught for 16 years, my plans for at least one class per semester have been interrupted to remind students that they are in college. They don’t have to be in class like they had to in high school by state law, though it is probably a good idea, especially in my class. I do lots each class to justify my existence–that is, graded assignments and answers to eventual final exam questions–and missing a class is not recommended. 
 
However, students who must miss class are assumed to be adults responsible enough to find out what they missed and resourceful enough to recoup their losses. Big assumptions. They still ask me questions like, “Did we do anything while I was gone?”
 
Though less disturbing, I cannot count how many times students ask me permission to leave early, arrive late or miss class altogether. At first I believed they were simply not mentally out of high school, where their attendance was strictly required though their attention to the class while attending was not so strictly required. I can only assume so from the in depth, lengthy text messages I have received from my children while they were in class. Many students have confirmed the same, and judging by the persistent, nearly obsessive habit of texting or gazing into their phones–activity banned in my class–I believe the phone habit is a long-instilled layover from high school, or merely the product of living now.
 
Ironically, high school mandates attendance but not attention while college is just the reverse. Since I teach freshman, their education includes breaking the high school habits and convincing them that they truly are free now, free to succeed or fail–whether I give them permission or not.
 
I’ll admit that my jaw dropped and my face clearly had “wtf?” written all over it when I read the penciled note on a sticky note sized paper that asked to excuse her son for missing class the other day. Have I gotten much, much older recently or have my students gotten much younger? I am now convinced that the number of coddled college kids have increased and they have a tougher time growing up, thus the odd permission requests and absence notes. Or is it simply time for me to retire?
 

Credit: http://www.babiesonline.com