College and High School

I’ve been teaching my first college class for over a month now, and I’ve only got a week left, and I’ve come a few conclusions about the state of education.

First, despite my railing about the focus on student self esteem, it is obvious that many of my students have a low regard for their worth as students.  Admittedly, part of that is because they aren’t very good students; they don’t try hard or show up very often.  When they do try and show up, their writing reflects the idea that they don’t think very highly of themselves and their abilities.  This may come from teachers in high school berating their abilities, I’m not sure, but it certainly affects their attitude toward education.

Second, sadly I can use the same handouts, worksheets, and level of expectation towards my college freshmen as I can towards my high school freshmen.  The level of writing is the same.  The difference, though, is how fast they can improve it at that level.  I’ve had several students go from mediocre to quite good in a short amount of time.  Of course, they actually WANT to improve, so that probably makes a large difference.

Third, and lastly for today, students are clearly able to graduate from high school without a grasp on reading and writing.  I’m biased, of course, as an English teacher, but it seems to me that if there is one thing that every high school graduate should be able to do more than any other, it’s read and write.

I will say, though, that percentage-wise, there are 25% of my students in college that are really good.  Not passable, or adequate, but really good.  If I had the same percentage in my high school classes, I’d be doing backflips.  It’s funny how perspective can affect things.

Anyway, I’m off to teach again.  I wonder if I’ll have a full class tonight.

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Erb said,

    May 7, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Yes, I’m constantly amazed at how poorly students write when they start college — and how some really work at improving themselves and advance quickly, while others don’t care. I also think a lot of students want a formula on ‘what to do to pass (or get a particular grade.)’ They ask for rubrics, a word I’ve come to hate, and I never even heard until about ten years ago. I assume that’s something that became popular in schools. I also am shocked by how many wait until right before an assignment is due before working on it. Unless you are an extremely gifted writer, you need rewrites!

    I am teaching a first year seminar and we’ve been working on multiple drafts and developing writing, something a bit difficult for me as a poli-sci prof, not English. But it’s worked wonders for students, I just wish they did that their senior year of high school!

  2. May 7, 2009 at 3:19 am

    A friend of mine who teaches the same course gave me the advice of letting students rewrite essays to earn back half of their points. Apparently, it works for him. Unfortunately, only my top students have bothered so far and we are approaching the final week of class. If only we could convince them that rewrites are worth it.

    With one of my high school classes, I’ve tried making the rewrites worth as much as the first drafts and they have to be good enough or I don’t accept them. It works, but it’s a fight every time.


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