Thursday, June 19, 2008


That's me!

I went to the office the other day to take care of a few office things, and could overhear a colleague doing incoming student advising down the hall. It brought back a flood of memories of my own incoming advising. I remember meeting with an advisor, a professor I eventually took for numerous classes, and one of the profs I really appreciated, even then. We talked about what I had planned to take: chemistry, calculus, a foreign language, and something else? (What was the something else? I can't remember. A Geology class, maybe?)

I remember thinking I wasn't signing up for enough, yet having the sense that Professor R thought I was signing up pretty much for what I could do. And he was right. But also, I got the sense that he was sort of bored; I wonder how many of the same old, same old incoming student schedules he saw with chemistry, calculus, and something or other else? Probably just about every one, with maybe a pre-calculus for variation. Later, taking his classes, I never got sense that he was bored in the least, not when he lectured, not when I asked questions in office hours, and certainly never on our field trips.

I walked over to the English department to get some paperwork done so that I wouldn't have to take the composition class. I never saw the English department there again. Seriously. And that was just the first of many mistakes I made in college. Yes, I had passed whatever preliminary test let me "get out of" taking the writing class, but I would have benefited greatly from actually taking a writing class. (And it's fairly common, if you think about it, that the people who teach college writing never took the class they teach. I guess the same thing is true of folks who teach various lower level math sorts of courses in colleges? I did sit in on a semester writing class when I was doing a certificate in teaching college composition, which is a lot more than most folks, I suppose.)

I remember being so excited, looking at the catalog, thinking of the things I could do. There was a full quarter class offered at a research area, and I dreamed of being able to do that, but never did. (I also never did SCUBA, which would have made sense there. I'd still like to, someday.) And a class on evolution and ecology, which I did end up taking, and loving, probably the single most exciting class in my undergraduate career.

I can't help thinking, when I think of our incoming students, that I hope they love college as much as I did. But I also hope they learn to study more quickly than I did!

1 comment:

  1. At my undergrad institution (a small LAC), we weren't permitted to test out of comp. There might be placement differences, but everyone took a freshman writing course. The few transfer students sometimes had previous fyc courses from other colleges counted, but those courses had to be approved to count for credit. I think the requirement was a good thing and the fact that I took fyc does make me different from most peope teaching it, including my fellow comp/rhet-ers.

    When I teach intermediate composition - a sophomore level course frequently populated by seniors and juniors fulfilling a requirement - I can often tell which students tested out of fyc. Many of them are less prepared for upper-level writing courses.

    I had reasonable advising as an undergrad. My first adviser was a phys. ed. education professor (it should be noted that we had coaches with PhDs in areas like kinesiology). She was very direct about which courses I needed to take as a freshman, sophomore, etc., and helped me fit in electives and choose courses that fulfilled the requirements in ways that spoke to my future major interests. But again, small liberal arts college with a lot of gen. ed. requirements - there was a definite structure to any scheduling/advising.