Monday, November 3, 2008

Waxing, Philosophical

New reader, hot from NaBloPoMo? Continue on for today's tidbit, or get to know the Matron ( or both) from her introductory course or Satan's Familiar (in honor of the half hour she spent searching for him throughout the neighborhood, today).

On other fronts.

For her new job, Dr. Matron is required to take this edifying online course: The Philosophy of the Community and Technical College.

  • When was Minnesota's first community college established?
  • What school district offered the first vocational programs?
And so on. She did the entire course yesterday afternoon, slogging through legislation, formation, and consolidation as the intrepid Community and Technical College system took shape before her very eyes. It was not a very wild ride.

But! She was evenhanded and understanding right up until the personal Teaching and Learning Statement she was required to write, complete with rubric for format and content, offering no real room for the individual jig or magic trick. So the Matron will be all rubric and good student, line up goal and pit it to strategy and outcome. Fine.

But really?

Teaching at the community college level is teaching on the front line of education, where your work matters.

Teaching at the community college level? These students weren't born into the language you'll be using, the precise and nuanced language of literature, art and theory. It's your job to help students learn this language and always, always remind them that they deserve to be fluent in it.

Understand that half of the people in your classroom are struggling financially. They all have full-time jobs. Many of them are parents. Most of them are ground breakers, the first in their family to attend college. Wow. You get to be continually amazed by and impressed with their persistence and courage, and you get to tell them that, too!

Someone can't write an essay to save her life? Well, Dr. Matron cannot do fourth-grade math. So there. But if someone sat down and reminded the Matron about fractions and the funny names for the numbers on bottom and top and how they all fly together? If she practiced adding 1/4 and 2/3? She'd get better. So will that writer in her classroom. Practice, practice, practice.

Standing in front of 25 community college students? You will be the recipient of endless, unanticipated life experiences. Recent emigres, new citizens, ex-cons, Iraq vets, single mothers, recovering addicts--you name it. And if you're receptive, they'll teach you (nearly) as much as you teach them.

And even though the Matron moans about her job and sometimes reproduces one of her more taxing students on the old blog? She loves every minute of teaching. When she's standing in the midst of a heated, full-classroom conversation and students are putting together X with Y and understanding C, and then a new hand shoots up, and there's, wait, one more concept, here, to incorporate--she's the conductor and the orchestra taps into a little bit of heaven.

There's that Teaching and Learning Statement. The real one.


kmkat said...

How sad that you cannot submit the Real Teaching Statement. It really seems to convey the experience and to differentiate it in a good way from 4-year college teaching.

Memarie Lane said...

I was the first in my family to go to college -ever, on both sides- but not the first to finish. How sad is that?

justhay said...

You do good work Matron.

Mrs. G. said...

So nicely put. My daughter put in two years at our local community college. She entered her four year University with 92 credits and fantastic preparation. We are grateful for her experience.

M said...

You should put that statement in as well!

Heather said...

I attended community college for my first 2 years of college. It felt like extended high school to me, but I know that I was lucky to have those experiences there. Different than the university, and neither better nor worse.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You are on the front lines of social constructivism--doing the hard work.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I love your statement -- and it is so true!

I was lucky, I was hired before that became a requirement.

When I have one of my own learning moments with a student, I always remember that there is a reason they are at my CC and not elsewhere at school... and that reason is their challenge.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

I love this:
...if you're receptive, they'll teach you (nearly) as much as you teach them.

And this:
...she's the conductor and the orchestra taps into a little bit of heaven.

And if you replace "Matron" with "Bad Mom," this is me:
...even though the Matron moans about her job and sometimes reproduces one of her more taxing students on the old blog? She loves every minute of teaching.

You are fabulous. We are so lucky. :D

Daisy said...

If I taught college, I'd want to teach in a community college like yours. It sounds like my elementary school all grown up.
Oh, yes, those fractions? All you need is a common denominator, which you get from finding the least common multiple of the current denominators. Then you need to use those common denominators to find equivalent fractions.
Then add.

JCK said...

I wish I could take your class. Period.

Anonymous said...

1/4 + 2/3
(1/4 x 3= 3/12)
(2/3 x 4 = 8/12)
3/12+ 8/12=11/12

Jocelyn said...

Here here! (*claps her gloved hands together enthusiastically*)

Tomorrow I have my class with the woman just back from deployment in Iraq; the "longboard" skateboarder who missed class last week because he was in court; the son of a Nigerian diplomat; a 16-year-old who just got her wisdom teeth out; a happy lad who lives at home with Mom and just had his car broken into and all his books stolen and who loves nothing better than an underground hip hop show; a volunteer at the elementary school; two constant drunks who set fire to things and shave each others' heads; oh, and then there's the front row.