Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Decent Suit

The only thing I really don't like about being an adjunct at the Community College is that I don't get to know my students. I am only there two nights a week, for an hour and half. While the people in the class are nice, and for the most part motivated, I just can't seem to get a handle on who they are and I don't like that. The students in my classroom are people and I always believed that the best way to reach people, especially people that don't like the subject you are teaching is to make a connection.

This brings me to my real issue. C is a young woman who was in my class last semester. She really struggled with the class, but never said more than two words to me until the end of the semester. She waited until everyone left and then came to me with tears in her eyes. She explained her math phobia problems and the fact that she had been working one-to-one with the math chairman for years. I felt bad for her. I gave her an extra week to hand in a take-home assignment and tried to give her encouragement for the final. Unfortunately, she didn't pass the exam, but did do better on it than she had on previous exams. I felt I had no choice but to fail her, making it impossible for her to graduate and go on to the four year college that had already accepted her (not one of the better schools, but a school that could give her a chance for success.) I got a very sad e-mail from her, again explaining her phobias with math and her efforts. Not really knowing her, I called the Chairman. I now know I Suit that I like and respect. This man, spent quite a bit of time on the phone with me. He said, "You are the teacher. I will not tell you how to grade. I respect what you do for the students you teach." After some prodding, I got the feeling that if it was up to him, he would have given her the D- she needed to graduate. I felt relieved because in my heart that is what I wanted to do all along. I not only changed her grade, but changed two other grades as well. I like to be fair and if she passed, I wanted to pass the two other people with the same sort of grades. This girl and the two others in the class are not going on to be mathematicians. They were just fulfilling a graduation requirement. I wish them all the best of luck in their chosen fields of study and am glad to not be the one to hold them back. I thank the Suit in charge of the department for getting to know this girl. He helped her pass the remedial math courses she needed and gave me the encouragement to pass her. Too bad there are not more administrators like him. The high schools could really use a person of his caliber.


Jonathan said...

I find the college people are very reasonable. They know they have a high school teacher teaching lower level courses (which many of them may prefer not to teach anyhow), and are either immediately accomodating, or are willing to sit down and have a real conversation.

It's hard to get used to the observations. (We have non-evaluative observations by colleagues) With time, I have found some of them to be useful.

I guess the strangest thing is the mix of adult students with those fresh out of high school. The interactions in the room tend to be quite positive.

I am a little overwhelmed with the extra teaching and the extra prep, but when a 40 year old with a C thanks me and says that algebra was never understandable before....

Pissed Off said...

I agree 100%. I love the mix in my college class. I'm lucky that the community college I teach in is very student oriented. They don't give courses away, but provide students with the serrvices they need to pass. If only more of them would take advantage of these services.