Wednesday, September 03, 2014

First Year Students Make me Crazy

Not because they mean to, of course, but just because they do stuff that doesn't work in college contexts.

I started a class by asking for questions about the reading.  A student raised hir hand and said, "I thought the reading was repetitive." 

What do I say to that?  It's not a question, and it reveals a depth of unawareness; does zie think I assigned it to bore hir and not because I thought it might be useful?  (I dealt with it badly, I must admit, because I wasn't prepared for a "it's boring" sort of statement right off.)

Another student came up in the moment I was starting class, stood in front of the whole class (but only talking to me), and told me that zie'd done the assignment wrong.  I always wonder what the question is, because it's not like I'm going to redo the assignment for hir, or suddenly say, it's okay, you don't need to do any assignments for the class!  You get an A for just appearing!  But yes, I know it's because it's the first assignment due, and zie is anxious.

And finally, the number of students who tried to turn in handwritten work (the syllabus states that work must be typed).  (No, I'm not impressed that you quickly wrote this during class discussion.)

All innocent first year student stuff, but in whole, it sort of makes me crazy.

I've come to think that one of the hardest parts about teaching is that just when students get really good at it, they graduate, and we get a whole new bunch who are anxious, confused, and yes, first years.


  1. Yes to all of the above!

    I'm teaching developmental comp (for the first time), and it involves considerably more hand-holding than I'm used to, since these are nearly all students who are at high risk for dropping out and they simply don't know how to "do" college yet. Being aware of that makes me pretty patient with this group (even as I answer the sixth "what's due tomorrow, again?" email), but I'm a lot less patient in other classes. (And the "it was repetitive" comment is irritating no matter how you slice it!)

  2. Anonymous11:21 AM

    I'm having a lot of trouble with those things this year too. And I seem to have a bimodal distribution and I have a big class. (And they're quiet and don't laugh at my jokes...) I feel totally off-balance.

  3. Yeah, I get it. My gosh, I feel like I'm bipolar on Tues/Thursdays because I have our senior seminar class in the morning and a first year class in the afternoon. It goes from being pretty high level to extremely lost in just a couple of hours. It's really frustrating. That first-year paranoia is a little bit cute at first, but it quickly starts grating my nerves.

  4. I don't mind the first-year flakiness so much when it comes from ACTUAL first-year students. Right now, though, I'm teaching second-semester freshman comp in the fall -- with, I think, one true first-semester freshman who came in with dual enrollment credit for English 101 and one second-semester freshman who started in the spring for some reason. The rest of the class -- eighteen of them -- range from students who are technically still freshmen but only because they have failed to accumulate enough credits to count as sophomores, all the way up to seniors. Every one of them theoretically has at least two semesters of college coursework under their belt. (Not always at our institution, but somewhere.)

    And they STILL act like they're in their first year and don't have a clue how to do college. Maybe two of them really have it together, and one of those is one of the two true freshmen.

    I am SO never teaching English 102 in the fall again. (I already swore off teaching 101 in the spring for similar reasons, but I was hoping this would be better for some reason.)

  5. I'm having the same sort of experience ... except that they're first-year *high school* students, so they're all 14 or 15. On the first day, I'd forgotten how deer-in-the-headlights they are, but they're slowly, individually, starting to warm up, make eye contact, etc. And they ask a dozen questions about what's due when and how they're supposed to do it, but they're trying so hard to please! Of course, what's super adorable in 14-year-olds is probably less so in 19-year-olds.

  6. Preach! And at a community college the only English classes *are* the freshman comps (and remedial), so there is no escape from the "housebreaking puppies" stage; that's all there is! If you are successful, the whole point of the place, is to "housebreak" them and then get them to transfer somewhere else so that the profs there do not have to deal with their adorable puddles of cluelessness.