So, how entertaining does a college instructor need to be to engage college students in learning this day and age?

My community college classes are typically three-hour sessions that happen once a week. Our local community college is a top-notch institute of higher learning and this is a perfect system for me. I only need to schlep the 10 mile distance to the community college once a week (per class), then I have a whole week to do the homework. It’s a rare day that I can’t focus well enough to give the instructor and his/her subject my full attention for the duration of the three-hour class.

I don’t expect every instructor to dazzle me with sparkling, engaging lectures. I don’t expect them to dance and sing or stand on their heads. I do expect them to know the material through and through. I expect them to be able to answer questions. I actually like it if they say, “I don’t know,” some of the time. Just shows they’re human too. If they then go and find out the answer or, depending on the subject, solicit opinions from the class, they get even more points.

I don’t know where this idea came from that a teacher has to be a performer. I mean, I think standing up there and reading a lecture in a monotone is not good but I don’t know why students expect their teachers to be witty and animated and entertaining every minute. I think this expectation has its roots in a couple of things. The first and maybe most obvious is that this generation of college students was raised on television and video games and I won’t go there for now. The second and perhaps a bit more subtle is that the parents of this generation of college students have been too involved in their children’s educations.

I can write about this honestly because I *am* the parent of a college student and I *was* involved in my children’s educations. I did volunteer work for my children’s schools from the first day I dropped the almost-3-year-old off at co-op nursery school up through the second and last high school graduation. I’ve done everything from clean toilets to balance a long-neglected PTO checkbook to read to struggling elementary school kids to campaign (unsuccessfully) the school administration to keep a beloved alternative middle school open.

I always *tried* to stay out of the relationships between my kids and their teachers. It was HARD! It’s so tempting to want to get in there and help them with do their homework for them. After all, it’s so easy. For a 40-something-year-old, that is. And it’s hard to watch when your kids are misunderstood or overlooked or underestimated. But they need to learn how to resolve conflicts and other difficult situations by themselves. I wasn’t perfect. There were a few times when I intervened if a situation didn’t seem to be resolving. And there were a couple of times that I flat out lied to a teacher to finagle someone an extra day on a project.

There were other parents who would complain about the most trivial of problems at the drop of a hat. Move their kids out to expensive, private schools. Sue the school district. Etc., etc. On the other hand, there were kids dropped off at the elementary school who were moved to a different school every couple of months, as the family moved from apartment to shelter to van to apartment, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Kids who didn’t get enough to eat or were up all night because mom or dad had friends over getting high or whatever.

School isn’t always going to be fun and exciting. Teachers aren’t always going to be funny and entertaining. Even the best of teachers are going to have bad days. Also, teachers rarely have just one student to focus on. They have a whole classroom full, 25 or 30 or even 35. Each one of those students brings his or her own unique set of talents, habits, issues, and general baggage to class.

I think we need to encourage our kids to approach school as a place to learn, not to be coddled, indulged, or entertained. Not every day is going to be perfect. That’s life. We need to support their education and support their teachers but we need to back off on micro-managing all the little everyday kinds of problems. Some days are going to be boring. Some subjects are going to be hard (or boring) for some kids. When our kids get to college, we aren’t going to be there to finagle extra time on projects. Our kids have to learn to manage their education on their own.

I am definitely not a traditional college student, having been through my own education and that of my children. I try to approach each class with the attitude that I am there ready and willing to learn. I try to give each instructor the benefit of the doubt, knowing that they have worked hard to prepare lectures, labs, and activities that they believe will enable students to learn the subject. At the same time, they are dealing with a myriad of issues that often have very little to do with my individual needs as a student. Sometimes a teacher might not be the best lecturer but is always there to give a struggling student individual help.

Fellow college students, you are in college to get an education and you need to participate in that process. Go to class. Be on time. Do the homework. Be prepared. Participate. Ask questions. Try to understand that teachers are human beings and that the vast majority of them care about you and want to see you succeed. That’s why they are in the business of teaching.

Am I on the right track or am I just an old bag? Grok grok. You asked!!! Grok grok.

3 Responses to “Edu-tainment???”

  1. Pooh Says:

    Amen to all that you said! Especially the part about participating in the process, and making the learning YOURS. (and not just for college students.)

    What got you started on this thoughtful, inciting insight?

  2. jane Says:

    I am reminded (very tangentially) of a time when I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade. we ran into my teacher at the Farmer’s Market one Saturday. I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to discover that she shopped there. it never even occured to me that they had a life I guess. I find this particularly amusing because my father was a teacher and he had a life outside of the classroom.

  3. Jay Says:

    I, if you don’t mind, am going to use the last few paragraphs as a send-off for Ashlan on her way to higher education. They are well composed and concise.

    That said, Rey and I have had some conversations about a few of his professors. Two in particular who are brothers. One is a very good, interesting lecturer, while the other has good information but is not an interesting presenter. Rey continues to take classes from both, although I know which one he would choose if they happened to be teaching the same class.

    Giving them a chance beyond the initial impression is so important.