Friday, June 11, 2010


I've just finished posting the grades for my community college class. It is the last I will ever teach. While I enjoy teaching, and the students, I loathe the time-suck that it demands, and I hate the adjunct faculty system that allows the community colleges to avoid giving real jobs to the instructors that they currently pimp out for convenience store-clerk wages.

I had a great last class; lively, fun, and funny. Many of them did well, too, which I always enjoy. Some didn't, which is the nature of what I do. I once read a long-winded whinge from a community or junior college English instructor in which his snivel was that instructors like us were the
"...academic button men. (We) roam the halls of academe like a modern Coriolanus bearing sword and grade book, “a thing of blood, whose every motion / Was timed with dying cries.”
Um, yeah.

Word, dude, that's what teachers, instructors, and professors DO. Not everyone can master the Next Level, and if the Next Level - high school diploma, associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degees - is to mean anything it is going to be out of the grasp of an increasingly large number of people.

And so in that sense we're not "button men" but sensei, the blind man with the staff that hits the younglings and makes them think, makes them quick and alert, makes them good - that is, surviving - swordsmen and -women...or teaches them that they will be hewers of wood and drawers of water all their lives because their intellectual swordfighting skills are a danger to themselves and others.

That's teaching and learning and has been since the first australopithecene taught his kids to throw rocks.

Now, mind you, I do think we're doing a lot of this teaching and learning thing the wrong way, but that's fodder for the next post.

But tonight I didn't want to natter on about education. I just wanted to come to a full stop, a night's caesura, and mentally sit on the ground and think over the students I have stood before over the past seven years.I have loved some of you and hated some, too. You have frustrated and angered me, but you have also delighted me, and even enlightened me. I have grieved for some of you, lost souls you were in the howling midnight of a world you couldn't understand. And I have celebrated for the way some of you pushed yourselves high into the hills, above where you thought you could climb.

It was always a climb; sometimes a scenic one, sometimes a grind, always a challenge for you and for me. A climb worthy of us and our labor. But now I turn my back on the hills with no regret.

The light in the window tells me my family is home waiting up for me. I am longing for their silly laughter and their love, I am weary, and grateful for the gentle path down to the warmth, light, and love, knowing I will not walk these hills again.


Ael said...

I prefer the enabler way of training

Everyone passes, it is just that some take longer than others to meet the standard. If the student no longer wishes to spend the time it would take to meet the standard, then bowing out is under their control, not the teacher's control

NASA did something like this for their astronauts. It makes the students and teacher allies, not adversaries.

FDChief said...

Ael: I can't disagree, but to do this you have to be willing to extend the class time indefinately if the student doesn't choose to DOR. The military can choose to do this, since the cost of losing a qualified body (and the pool of qualified bodies is limited for astronaut training...) is higher than the cost of extending the training time to get the student through the POI.

And, in a sense, the student CAN do this themselves, they just retake the course. But given the time constraints - and the pressure of fitting butts in seats - I couldn't justify doing this for a typical college class.

But as I mentioned, I do have reservations about how we teach. But that is for another day.

Ael said...

Yes, our schools are organized like 16th century factories.

Lisa said...

Heartfelt. Your students were privileged, and the system has lost another fine instructor.