Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bottoming out

**Note: I actually wrote this out by hand in a journal Thursday. On Friday, things happened that were better, but I don't know if I have the time and energy and to-do list to write up an additional post later. Maybe I will.**

I am feeling sad and demoralized. Perhaps it is the time of the semester, or perhaps it is me starting my period and I am just super emotional? I just feel unhappy and like I fundamentally do not belong here.

Part of it was from when I looked on our fin aid website and clicked on new instructions about “load” ---- basically you not only need to take a certain number of units every semester, you need to complete (not drop and not fail) a certain number so that your passing "load" is high enough. But the sample schedule they showed as a “success” made me want to cry. It showed failing math and dropping history and keeping two pass/no pass exercise classes as a success. And I don’t even think students should be allowed to take more than a few non writing or math intensive classes over their whole degree! Sigh. But for an AA degree, you can take a whole lot of what I would consider to be "not really college classes" and not ever deal with the college level ones and still be able to finish a lot of our degrees.

A while back in a meeting, the dean said something about none of the other GE classes for the AA requiring English 101 as a prerequisite. This startled me at the time, and now it worries me a lot. Where I last was, and where my nephew is going to school, English 101 is a prerequisite that "unlocks" almost all of the other classes; you have to learn this stuff because you won't be able to pass anything else without using those skills.  I know that many of the GE options here are crap as far as requiring any writing or thought ---- like personal health or personal finance ---- and while they may be educating “the whole person,” and they might be useful and necessary, they seem so light in content or difficulty that they don’t seem like they should be called a college class at all. These also make me sad. To add to this, most of what I consider “real,” academic GE classes do not have much of a writing component, and I guess you don’t have to pass English 1A before you take them either.

All of this is leading up to my dissatisfactions with my super early morning class today. It actually went fairly well, for them, but I guess that just makes me feel more depressed and out of place. They are so sure they will never ever need any of this information, like how to check out a book from the library or how to tell the difference between a book and an article. They also scoffed loudly and complained when I pointed out that 102 and 105 are different possibilities that both work for transfer; they don't plan on transferring anywhere and won’t ever need to take another English class, they complained. Sure, fine. That may be true for them and their certificates. But I am sad and worried that they are right about 90-95 percent of my class not ever being required or necessary for them ever again in their AAs here. The class just went so poorly and so many of the students were disengaged and texting and slumping and staring off at nothing. They made the one or two students who were making an attempt, making an effort, stand out pitifully.

After class I was so tired and distracted that it was hard to catch up on my grading. What I recognize that I do really really well is to make students understand the research process and really bring them to understand what it is their professors do as researchers. I am very good at understanding what they are not familiar with and bringing that out. But, most of the students here will never interact with a professor and never take another class that thinks about disciplines and scholarly research. And that makes me sad. When students have a basic desire to go somewhere with this process I am good at awakening inquisitiveness in them and having them transform into pre-majors with interests in something or other. But most of the students here, I can’t get any sort of response from them, and they won’t need any of that. I can’t get my students to understand or care about the research process because in some way, they aren’t students. Maybe I am wasted here and do not fit. There is a way in which I fit so much better at the last place, the 4-year school with many first-generation students and a willingness to boot those who didn’t get it at a basic level. Which is funny because they didn’t pay any attention to me, include me in the group, respect me, or pay me anywhere near what I deserved.

Maybe I would fit better working in a first-year experience program at a 4-year school, or the bridge/ACE/TRIO equivalent in a writing program at some sort of selective school. Sigh. But I sure don't feel like I fit in here.


Fretful Porpentine said...

I know the feeling. The dynamics are obviously different at a four-year school, but when I was teaching basic comp it was like so many of them were only here for a semester or two, getting this cheap simulacrum of an education. They would be enrolled in two or three different remedial classes and in the non-credit "learning skills" class that was mandatory for anyone taking more than one remedial class, plus Intro to College Life and maybe an exercise course, and that was their schedule. Then they would come away from the first semester with a ridiculously inflated GPA because College Life and the exercise course were the only things that counted for credit, and then crash hard over the next semester or two, and vanish forever. It was demoralizing. And I know it's still going on, even though I'm not the one who has to deal with it any more. We don't do students any favors by not asking anything of them.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Ye gads that's depressing. I really think you should try to look for another job. This seems like a dead end. I know it's really hard to go back on the market. I am there right now. But it might make you feel less helpless.

Belle said...

You're probably too down to make important decisions. (I'm going through that myself, but temptations are great.) But that sounds really awful. Can you change your approach, or is it too late in the term? Can you focus on something that they might see as immediately relevant? Like composing a business letter, or a job app letter? How comp can help them do that?