Quick question: Why did you/are you in college? Because it’s the “right thing” right? Maybe you knew you needed to go to get a job. Maybe you went because you actually wanted to learn and/or get away from home. Or maybe you had a choice of either college, the military, or the workforce because you were NOT “…gone sit up in my house and do nothing”, to quote our moms/dads. Whatever our reasoning behind coming to or going to college, one thing was pretty consistent for all of us: we got sent to college with pretty much no idea what we were doing. In the grand scheme of things we probably all had things happen that we could have avoided if we knew better, or stuff we wish we had spent our time doing while in school. It’s a common practice that honestly needs to be stopped, and being a freshman college instructor I set out to stop it the best way I can: through my English classes.
This past semester I decided to theme my English composition classes “The College Experience” because in my experience English is that one class where you learn the most life lessons (if your teacher is willing) and because most classes actually set up to teach you about college are useless. So I thought, why not try to incorporate what you SHOULD get from college in a class you already learning stuff in? I sat down and realized that for the most part, there are three things people should be getting while they’re in college. We went through Communication, Organization, and Exploration in hopes that they would then be ready to learn some stuff.
We all know how important it is to know people. The saying goes "It's not what you know but who you know," and the same couldn't be more true in school.. College is the time where you build the relationships that you will carry with you throughout your life with the people who can help you reach your goals, so for the first couple of weeks in my classes I tried to recreate that with the Communication section. We talked about how to handle conflicts using words instead of fists (or guns for that matter) and I split them up into pairs and had the write Narrative Interviews of each other. These interviews were designed to get them to know each other and learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses, and our guest speaker for that section (one of my good friends Theron Wilkerson) introduced them to the importance of networking and building community.
Hopefully it helped them as we moved to Organization, because in addition to organizing thoughts together, a college student has to be able to organize time and money. Both of these were important for them to find a text to analyze for their rhetorical analysis blog posts. I'm sure you all already know about those, but the level of organizing that they needed to make these posts good was only emphasized by their second speaker, Ms. Christina Kanu. By the time their posts were done they were ready to move to the third and final section and the third and final paper, my personal favorite: the Argument
Before we get into writing arguments in any semester I always split the class up for their debate assignment. I give all of them a topic currently in the news (like this semester I had them talk about some of the religious freedom bills). These debates help them to create better arguments (most of the time) and encourage them to Explore viewpoints that are different from their own. My former students helped them to see that as well when they talked to them about life in college and their eventual next Composition class. College offers the opportunity for us to learn, and the best place to start is a class like a freshman English class (especially at an HBCU). I realize that not everyone will agree with my methods, but for those of us who may have students who don't fully grasp "The College Experience", diversifying what we learn to really help to teach students what they need to survive.
Is there anything you wish you had learned while in "The College Experience"? How would that have helped you through college and/or now? Be sure to leave your questions, comments, and concerns below and don't forget to like, share, and subscribe!