Failed Audiences

No matter how long I teach and no matter what odd circumstances the classroom gives, I never cease to be amazed at the lack of enthusiasm and lack of professionalism and civility I feel from my students. More this term than any term. And perhaps I am an idealist–or perhaps I just expect so much from my students. But I cannot believe the amount of students over these last two terms who are so under prepared for the classroom setting. I have students who do not bring their books to class–students who waste class time text messaging and sleeping– and I have students without writing utensils and without notebooks. I have students who slam doors and laugh and giggle–that’s right I said giggle–acting as if they never finished high school.

Perhaps I am getting old. And perhaps I am starting to see with some hind sight. And I do not mean to romanticise but education never came easy for me.

Students feel as if their time were wasted discussing Pulitzer Prize winning material–as if it is rebellious to act as if they do not want to be in school. Students who I believe are privileged to be attending college and receiving a top notch education from qualified and caring instructors seem to simply not care or treat the business of literature not as art but just as words. Words with no meaning for them. And try as I might I find it more dificult each term to create that meaning for them.

Sometimes in class I mention how previleged we are to be in school and discussing questions of meaning and interpretation. For example, the US Census Bureau in 2004 listed 15.9 million students attending college and I know Chomsky throws the number 3 out of 10 in his lectures as the number of students that make up the educated class as he calls it. 3 out of  10 privileged enough to attend college. Maybe I feel this way because my sister only attended a few classes and my parents never attended college. My Grandparents never finished high school and so education has always been an ideal–something sought after. I remember worrying and planning how to pay for school and how to prepare for every class–I remember working hard and believing that the work I put in would pay off.  And so I feel I have to instill discipline and professionalism into every class and lesson plan I put together for my students.  Even if that makes me unpopular and even hated. I feel that more and more–I feel hated by my students for being so serious–for being too intense when it comes to my course materials and classroom time.

And I can relate to being pretty capricious and thoughtless in my own youth–I’ve flunked my share of classes and I have been kicked out of my share of classes. I remember Mrs. Wodishek’s English 10 class. Cursing and joking in class and being asked to leave the class to write one thousand times–I will give creative writing a chance. And I do remember the paddle that was hangin above the desk of my grade school principal’s desk.

And I wonder if my students understand how my own personal experiences have built my own personal pedagogy.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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