Whew! One class down,…

Whew! One class down, one to go. I had Asian American lit. this morning; fascinating demographics. About two-thirds of the class self-identified as some variant of Asian-American. And of the 20+ students, there was only one guy. What does that say about gender/career/money/ethnicity? I leave that as an exercise for the student. :-)

I'm still buzzed from class; did my standard identity spiel, was mucho fun. Ran out of time before running out of material, which is always what you want. What I want, anyway. I gave them a ton of reading for Thursday; if they get through it, then they should be fine in the class. If not, better they figure it out now rather than later. :-) I think it was a fun, exciting class for them -- we'll see how it goes.

I've got to say; much as I've loved all the student populations I've worked with, it's a bit of a thrill teaching at a R1 institution, with students who are clearly both bright and committed to academia. At other schools, I had students who were stretched so thin (between job, school, and often child-rearing) that they could barely make it to class, much less do homework reading. I don't think that'll be an issue here. It'll be interesting to see what the actual issues of teaching this population are...privilege, maybe? Entitlement? Expectations of high grades, whether earned or not? Hmm...

Gotta run now and go get a parking pass. Then back here for fiction writing. I was going to give them the same spiel, since both classes center around identity, in very different ways, but there's a student in here who's in my morning class, and I hate to make her sit through it twice. I may try something different. Will think as I walk...

My office has a window, and looks out onto trees and a beautiful old building. It's nice, being a visiting professor at Northwestern. I could get to like this. (Too bad I'm only here for ten weeks!)

6 thoughts on “Whew! One class down,…”

  1. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    R1 is a research 1 institution, sorry. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_I_university)

    It’s very colloquially used among academics as shorthand for the top tier research schools, mostly when we’re talking about the job market, because R1’s generally have light teaching loads (to allow faculty time to research). Kevin, for example, teaches 2/1 at most (two in the fall, one in the spring), and often less, because he gets government grants from the NSF that lower his load to 1/1 or 1/0.

    Many colleges have more of a 2/2, 2/3, or 3/3, because the emphasis is on teaching, and they typically also have less money available for hiring more faculty. And community colleges are likely to have 4/4 or 5/5 or even 6/6 loads, which as you can imagine, leaves almost no time for research. Or the rest of your life.

    R1s tend to have highly competitive admissions and very bright students. But Jed would remind me that excellent small liberal arts colleges, like Swarthmore, also have highly competitive admissions. And of course, there are bright students everywhere, and hard-working students everywhere, who may choose a lower-tier university, college, or community college for a variety of reasons (often sensible financial ones!).

    It’s always tricky talking about student populations, because they’re filled with exceptions. But that said, there are broad trends. Most of my seniors at Utah were married. Most of my students at Roosevelt were working full-time. Most of the Mills students lived on campus (which affects commuting time, participation in campus readings and events, etc.) That kind of thing.

  2. Thanks for the clarification!

    When I graduated at 22, I thought everyone went away to college for four years and came out with a degree at that age. Now, I’ve attended a small liberal arts college, gone to grad school at two state universities, have been a librarian at more state universities (including an “upper-level” two-year school, i.e. only juniors and seniors), and am now at a community college. The differences are vast.

    The biggest mental adjustment was grad school in North Dakota, where, as in Utah, many of the undergrads were married, at 21 or younger, and not because they “had to.” I was flabbergasted.

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    It’s funny where our blind spots are. I was shocked when I ran across a statistic that in 2002, 15.5% of Americans had college degrees. I mean, I knew that a lot of Americans didn’t go to college — but more than 80%??! I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that, even though I should know better, after teaching at Roosevelt, where so many of my students (more than three-quarters of the university) were the first in their families to go to college.

  4. But the numbers are more confusing: 63% of high school grads go to college, more people are in college than in high school (I guess the point is that a lot of people take more than 4 years to finish, if they ever do). Keep in mind that the 20% who have ever taken a college course includes a lot of older women who didn’t. If you broke down the numbers by generation, I think the blind spot would disappear.

  5. I have one idea of what happens at R1 institutions: the opposite of entitlement. I think these kids are heavily pressured, prone to lose perspective on how much they have, yes, but also they lose perspective on how much they have to offer the world already.

    When you’re trapped in that world, there is an escalating sense of the material goods that constitute enough (worldly travel, fancy houses and clothes and parties) but with it comes the expectation that people will have to earn escalating amounts of money and prestige.

    Helping these kids find their voice – especially in the face of pressure to pay back the financial costs put into them – seems almost harder than finding a voice when you’re stretched thin by choices you made young.

    Umm, or that might be more true in a math department than an english department.

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