As I wrap up the final quarter of my seemingly never ending teacher certificate program, I continue to have funny collisions between teaching a class at DePaul and taking freshman-level intro classes that I didn’t need to take back when I was doing my undergrad at Northwestern. I could probably write endless pages about being the weird “old guy” in all these classes with 18-year-olds–let’s just say that I’m ready to be through being a returning student.
A couple of weeks ago, I gave my class a midterm (true/false, short answer, and the like), only to walk across campus and take a midterm (true/false) in my introductory educational philosophy class. My ID card now says “faculty,” so I’ve lost all my sweet student discounts, even though I’m only teaching one class. Oh well.
I’m like, totally sick of these, like, classes
I also have to resist the urge to be “ranting old guy” in these intro classes. Every time our philosophy teacher asks a question, I find myself looking around at all these non-responsive undergrads and stifling the urge to pipe up yet again with my married old guy opinions. I never used to be the talkative guy in these classes back when I was 18, but I can’t shut up now as a returning student. Maybe it’s that I’ve taught a lot myself, and I empathize with the teacher up there trying to coax responses out of 25 glassy-eyed education students.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s that I can’t help overhearing the conversations these students have with each other while waiting for the teacher to arrive. The following overheard snippets make me doubt that we’ll be getting many scintillating responses from the peanut gallery:
“Oh my God! I totally didn’t do that reading!”
“I, like, tried… but it was, like… hard. I mean, it like, didn’t make any sense, I mean.”
“It was, like, totally boring.”
“Karl Marx is like, really hard.”
“I like, tried to read a few pages, but then Mike called, and we got like, totally wasted!”
“Oh my God! I got so wasted too!”
And these are our future educators.
No groups… please!
As a returning student, there’s one word that’s sure to send a chill into my very core:
Every time a teacher says, “OK, let’s break up into some small groups,” I throw up a little bit in my mouth. Now, I understand that groups are good. Groups break up the monotony of the lecture format, get students cooperatively learning and thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the material. I understand the philosophy behind group learning.
But I can’t tell you how sick I am of getting grouped together with three 18-year-olds to discuss some topic or another. I always feel like Dad with the kids in these situations, knowing that Ms. “Like, Totally Wasted” will likely be relying on (you guessed it) the ideas of Mr. “Ranting Old Guy” (me), since they didn’t do that “like, totally boring” reading.
And guess who always gets “elected” group spokesman? You guessed it.
Reinforcing the stereotypes
Here’s an interesting observation from this particular education class (taught be a really excellent teacher, actually–I’m enjoying the class, despite the dreaded “group activities”):
Our class is 75% female. This is a required course for all education students, leading me to guess that the undergraduate education majors at DePaul are predominantly female (though this may be an anomaly in this particular class).
Yet every time we get into groups, each “spokesperson” for the group ends up being male. Only 25% of the class is made up of males, yet they always end up being the spokesmen? That doesn’t speak well for countering stereotypical gender roles, does it?
Now, I understand why I continue to be made “spokesperson,” despite my protests. After all, I’m almost the same age as the teacher and I talk all the time in class. This makes sense.
But why are all the other groups headed by the males in the class? And why is class discussion dominated by the men as well? Do college-age guys just speak up more in class? This wasn’t the case at Northwestern with my non-music required classes. I really felt that my classes were split down the middle in terms of gender makeup and class participation for the most part (though this may be a false memory on my part). The same was true for the music school in general.
Is this an education student thing, then? You’d think that with females outnumbering the males by a considerable margin, the conversation would be dominated by women. Is this class phenomenon (more females, yet the men “take charge”) just reflecting the way the makeup of the world of education (more female teachers, but leadership positions dominated by men)?
Does this mean that the type of students drawn to education as a college major are those willing to inhabit these traditional roles? Is this something that is being reinforced in the college culture, and the students are just reflecting that culture? Both of these options are worrisome if true.
My wife (who just took the MCAT and is applying for medical school) doesn’t see this in her pre-med courses. The classes are split down the middle in terms of gender, and class participation seems to be as well. Both men and women speak up and participate equally in her observations. Is this an “education thing,” then?