Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Urban college teaching

Jennifer Tronti at Teachers College Record reviews a book that echoes her experience:
Like J. D. Scrimgeour, author of Themes for English B: A Professor’s Education In and Out of Class, I remember that my early experience as an instructor required a gradual “acclimation” (p. 7) to an atmosphere, not exactly foreign, but not fully native to my constitution. In an urban community college, my first writing course consisted of: one student with Tourette Syndrome, whose intermittent outbursts and discussions of his fictional work-in-progress punctuated the class period, one couple, recently divorced, who inexplicably sat next to each other during every class session, two deaf students (and their interpreter) whose academic well-being was far beyond my meager skills at that time, one outspoken former prostitute determined to write an account of her life and profession, several students who were part of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program who frequently wrote about their “past” lives (both legal and illegal) in their essay prompts, and a smattering of the general students to be found at any urban community college—young people just out of high school, one living in her car, others blindly following their “expected” path, and the best writer of the bunch, a soft-spoken young man whose white tank top, baggy jeans, and prominent tattoos silently proclaimed his gang affiliations. Like Scrimgeour, I also humbly cringed before these students, uncomfortably aware of my own sense of privilege and autonomy, an inherited sense of mobility that remains stable despite any wealth or dearth of academic and economic opportunities. So few of these students—his or mine—seemed to be in possession of this independent outlook.
Read the whole thing.

No comments: