These are not my students; they are the Didactic Pirate’s. Thank goodness, because I might go crazy if they were! I used to teach these students there — in fact, I started my university teaching career there.
I thought I would be smart and select an 8am class of English 101 to teach for my first time, thinking that surely the folks who selected the 8am slot would be the ones who wanted to be there at 8am, who were eager to learn how to write a college-level academic essay; eager to read thought-provoking essays and hear what I thought about them (ha!); eager to learn.
WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!
Instead, all but one (ONE of TWENTY-SIX!!!) of the students in the 8am class hadn’t registered in time to get the sought-after 2pm course (which would allow enough time to sleep off all the beer from the night before), and thus got “stuck” with the 8am time slot. If they came at all, they snoozed, drool dribbling onto their desks and my precious punctuation worksheets, their 18-year old bodies hurting from all that fun. (Surely their sleep wasn’t due to my magical instruction of the 8 comma rules, right? Hey – I didn’t say I was a good teacher then. I said I was a NEW teacher, then.)
The one student who wanted to be there at 8am came every session (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays – why we bothered with Fridays is beyond me!) on time (she was usually a bit early) and had done all of the assignments and was ready to discuss them. She was about 40, a single mom to an 11-year old daughter named Taylor. She selected the 8am class because she could drop her kid off at school, come to class, and then go to work for the rest of the day. She was grateful for the opportunity to be in college, to learn, and to change her life. How do I know? She told me each and every day. She wrote it in each and every essay. She related it in each and every class discussion (and, since everyone else was sleeping, each and every class discussion only had 2 participants – her, and me).
In ways I wouldn’t know for years to come, that one adult student, in my very first class, changed my professional life course. I always thought about her, and for a long time I yearned to be with and learn from students like her.
For the past 9 years this Sunday (that’s right – I started working with adult learners in higher education on September 12, 2001), I have had this joy. And ever since, I have been the grateful one.
Each and every day.