In my lifetime, I’ve taught hundreds of classes with diverse students: 4- H club members, prison inmates, senior citizens, undergraduates, graduates, and in the past year telecom union employees, primarily AT&T, using web-based instruction (this means at a given time, I turn on my computer and my camera in my home, mount my PowerPoint and start talking to my students who are located from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh).
I’m always loved teaching and believe that I was teaching even as a full-time college administrator, working to get board members and those whom I supervised to understand that our mission and actions should always be focused on students and their needs.
This past spring semester, I was lucky to teach two classes in modern American literature (my absolute favorite subject) at Edison Community College in which all of my students except two were exemplary. What does this mean? They attended class regularly with positive attitudes; they read the materials; they participated actively in class discussions; they submitted papers and exams in a timely manner; they made effective presentations as individuals and in small groups; and they respected each other.
Additionally, during the course of the semester, they became more and more competent. I decided to ask them to give advice to persons beginning or continuing college in the fall, realizing that students often pay more attention to other students than to their professors. I have chosen to share some of their words with you, their ages, and the universities/colleges they will attend this fall as well as their majors:
Mitchell Meyer, 18, Bowling Green State University, computer science: “Show up for class prepared and really get into the discussions; write your papers concisely at a college level, and be prepared to learn more than just literature.”
Alex Winner, 18, Wright State University, computer engineering: “Keep your audience involved in the presentation that you are giving. To do this, ask questions. Make your presentation creative and engaging. Don’t just read off the paper. Speak with emotion and confidence.”
Ben Smith, 19, University of Toledo, mechanical engineering: “Out of respect for the presenters, you should do your best to respond to questions they ask because you might find it difficult when you are the presenter and no one has anything to say when you look to the class for comments.”
Emily Moser, 17, The Ohio State University, business: “I was pushed to write about things which were not comfortable for me. I actually wrote a series of poems about sexual abuse, very challenging for me. None of the papers you will write are your standard, cookie-cutter types.”
Morgan McKinney, 18, Brigham Young University, communication-social media: “Give your assignments your full effort. Nobody wants to read a paper or grade a project that was thrown together in five minutes. If you want a professor to take the necessary time to grade your paper or project fairly, then you need to show you care about it. Go above and beyond what other people are doing.”
Rachel Zelnick, 17, Brigham Young University, biology/chemistry: “Make sure your topics and themes are unique and interesting. Watching your ideas being created and developed on a blank sheet of paper is such a rewarding experience. Don’t procrastinate. Do your assignments ahead of time so that you can create the best possible product.”
Lindsay Blankenship, 17, Western Kentucky University, interior design: “In my class during this project, there was a woman who ended up dropping the class because she couldn’t work with the other members of her group. It’s sad that she couldn’t stick it out because she was older, the only adult in the class, and she had more life experience. Being in this class has made me a better writer, a better public speaker and it has widened my sense of the world.”
Ashley Garland, 27, Indiana University, English/Spanish: “This class focuses on the reader response approach to literature; therefore, your response is very important as is your sincere effort and participation. The class does a great deal to promote and inspire creativity and personal growth.”
Corey Abbott, 18, The Ohio State University/Lima, health sciences: “As I finish this class and look back, I have made many great friends and have learned many valuable lessons that will allow me to continue to grow as a writer and as a person.”
Erik Matthews, 17, Wright State University, computer science or engineering:” “Basically, you’re dating American literature. You need to show up for your date, I mean class. Make a friend and help each other out on your presentations. When it comes to asking another’s opinion, it makes it easier for both of you.”
In conclusion, I like Erik’s dating metaphor, but I really loved Morgan McKinney’s references to a J. R. R. Tolkien quote, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” She uses the quotation to discuss the ways in which a college class can be a “stepping stone to becoming a more multifaceted person as you work hard and make up your mind to do your best and accomplish more with your life.” She concludes by conjecturing, “Maybe Tolkien’s enormous success really started when he was a boy and just wanted to get an A in his American literature class.”
The official 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War will be in 2015. According to the U.S. Department of Defense “On March 8, 1965, America’s ground war in Vietnam began when 3,500 Marines were deployed and ended on April 30, 1975, when nearly 3 million Americans had been on the ground, in the air, and on the rivers of Vietnam. More than 58,00 American lost their lives.” It is my intent to do a series on those in Bell and Harlan counties who served in Vietnam. Please email or call me indicating your willingness to be interviewed: Vivian B. Blevins, Ph.D. 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org Note woh as computers attempt to automatically change this in the email address.