Class based value differences are real and impact the education process. Generally educators are from the middle class, while at CC2 the students are all from poverty. Here is a typical scenario (from J. Sza) between the two groups:
Student: “Are we doing anything today?” (Values leadership, feels powerless over destiny)
Teacher: “Did you read the syllabus?’ (Values self direction)
Student: No answer. (Feels powerless, assumes teacher untrustworthy)
However, what I do is say, “Yes, we are doing X. If you look at the syllabus, that is what it says we will be doing.” Students at CC2 immediately pull out their syllabus. It reinforces the idea that I do know they want leadership and it tells them that the leadership can be found in more than just my person.
When I introduce the syllabus I also explain that it is a map of the class and can tell them what work they need to make up if they had to be absent for any reason. This pushes them towards self direction, without requiring them to change their culture for my class.
writing: short writing, long writing, research papers
tests: short answer, vocabulary, paragraph answers
quizzes: over reading, vocabulary
questions over reading (in class or at home)
Teaching in the miniterm at CC1, I use all of the above. Most of the students are returns from four year universities. They expressed shock that I returned their papers back to them within a few days. I consider the prompt return of papers a requirement for my teaching. If I expect a lot from them, I also need to do a lot.
I use the same types of evaluation in my freshman comp II class. It’s about literature. I usually use less writing though. And this semester I have added an oral report.
What to do with a compliment?
The chair of my department once said, in an offhand way, that she thought of me as a literature teacher. Having primarily taught composition for her, I was a bit concerned. When I went back and asked her what that meant, if there was something in my composition teaching that needed to change, she said, “Yes, I remember that. I think of you as a literature teacher because I feel confident that you could take on any of the literature classes I needed and do a good job. I don’t feel that way about everyone. And you stepped in to take the miniterm Brit lit class and did a great job.” She also said there wasn’t anything she felt was negative about my writing class teaching. So, whew!
The most frequent student comment I get is how much they were afraid of English and how they aren’t any more, while in my class or having finished it. Just this semester one of my CC1 students who is a first-generation college student said that. So did her mother, when I met her at church. I guess that is one of my favorite comments from students. I most often receive it from students who have been in the work world for a while and then come back to school.