Friday, January 11, 2013

The Crystal Ball of Community College Success

Class begins Monday.  I'm reviewing the three rosters I have been granted:  Composition 1, Composition 2, and Introduction to Literature (they threw the adjunct a bone).  There are fifty-four unique names on the rosters.  I know from previous experience that one third of those students will not make it to midterm.  And no, it's not because I am a horrible, mean, hateful hater of a teacher.  My midterm rate is just slightly better than the college average.  So there.

Most of those eighteen students will not bother to formally drop.  They will just disappear.  No good-by, no fond farewell, no lingering stares as they turn and walk inevitably into the fogbanks of time.  Alas…  The small, mean, and terrible part of me wishes, since they are going anyway, they would leave as soon as possible.  It would save a lot of time and I could use that energy for the thirty-six students who will remain.
Speaking of which, of those who complete the courses, approximately twenty-seven percent will receive a grade of either an 'F' or a 'D'.  Math is hard, but I think that means nine or ten of them will have to retake the course.  This leaves the intrepid twenty-five students who pass.  Less than half of those currently enrolled in my courses are not going to make it.  I know that before day one.  This is slightly better than those who charged the Union line on the final day of Gettysburg, but not by much.

Being that I teach at a community college, I see all types.  There are those who have fallen from a 'real' university and find themselves in my classes.  There are those from the 'wrong' parts of the city who never, but for a state-initiative, thought to find themselves in college in the first place.  There are those with wise parents who send their progeny to save money on the first two years.  There are those returners, close to, or perhaps older than, my own age. And, about once every three semesters I have a student who doesn't appear to understand where he or she is at all.
And what I teach, it is not mind-bending.  We're not splicing cranial nerves or charting asymptotic relationships.  It's reading and writing and talking, with a little jargon and testing thrown in.  That's it.  And less than half will pass.

The predictive element in their lives (and mine) is whether or not a student will show up and do the work.  That's it.  There is no other secret.  <Yodavoice> You either do, or do not.  There is no try </Yodavoice>.
And that is what we all face.  I have goals for 2013.  They are not impossible.  Trust me.  If you knew me you would not doubt this.  But the question remains, will I show up and do the work?

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