The spring semester began at my university last week, and this week I’m also beginning to teach my community college class. Professors are just as anxious and excited about a new semester as students! We don’t know what the class dynamic will be like. We want to know why students chose our classes. We get that most often it is because the class fit a student’s schedule. However, we hope that some come to the class because the course description intrigued them. Either way it’s our job to teach.
This semester I have more men in my classes, which is about women and madness, than ever. I’m excited because these men are as fully engaged as the women and both genders are already thinking carefully about the texts we are discussing. In addition to my university work, I’m teaching at a new community college, and having taken a year away from the community college I think I’m nervous. Teaching students of approximately the same age is quite different than working with adults with widely varying life experiences. I suppose it’ll be like riding a bike – there will be a few bumps and bruises, but I’ll remember how to pedal.
The thing students should hold on to is that each semesters is different, and even with every rating system out there their experience with a professor and a class is unique to them. We teachers prepare for each new semester and tweak and reshape class material during breaks. It’s a dance we do to make ourselves better, and we hope that you do the same process for yourselves between semesters.
This morning I spoke with a very concerned mother regarding her son’s ability to cope with the social environment of the University. This family is affluent enough to afford private school tuition, but doesn’t take trips to Aspen every weekend to ski, nor do they vacation in Europe on a regular basis. The family is making sacrifices to give this student the opportunity to attend this very expensive institution.
What is the problem you say? Well, many, though not all, students here are able to afford lavish lifestyles, and it makes other students feel as though they cannot keep up or fit in. What the mom and student do not know is that MOST of our students are receiving some sort of financial aid. That MOST of our students aren’t traveling the world. This student feels out of place when he really is the norm. Nonetheless, these facts don’t negate this student’s feelings of inadequacy.
Here are a few tips to combat the affluence blues:
1) Before you apply ask students about the social climate of the school. Usually, the admissions office will pair prospective students with current students. Ask them to honestly tell you what the campus environment is like. What is even better is a visit before you sign on the dotted line committing to attend.
2) Find activities where you can be an All-Star Rookie Freshman. One of the biggest problems for students is not finding a venue where they excel. They are bored with their high school activities, or are unable to continue them at the college level, and don’t know what to do next. College is the time to try things you’ll never have time to do when you have a full-time job so try what interests you. Join a greek organization, intern somewhere, play ultimate frisbee and touch football, and attend student government meetings. Feeling like you excel at something is one of the easiest ways to be happy.
3) Choose a major that matches your abilities. Number three should probably be number one. Many students want a proscribed career track that guarantees a lifetime of comfortable earnings. However, many of these same students actually hate the classes that go with that proscribed major. They are prospective pre-med students who hate biology and chemistry. They are engineering students who hate math. These students end up failing these courses not because they aren’t capable, but because they are following a path that is a bad fit for them. One of the best things you can do for yourself is be honest about your desires and abilities and act on them. The path may not be straight and narrow, but it’ll be one where you can succeed above your expectations.