A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I have recently shifted from working as a student assistant at a senior college in Queens to working as a college assistant at a community college in the Bronx. My current job is a plus in every way including pay, allotment of hours, and environment. My new job is also closer to my home and allows for me to complete my classwork at work, during work. If it is slow, which it almost always is, then it is assumed that I can complete readings, refine my surmises, and edit expositions.

The other huge difference is that now I am dealing with mostly non-traditional students, whereas at Queens I was mostly dealing with traditional learners, and freshman at that. The students at the community college in the Bronx are typically older, which means that their confidence with computers is lacking; this simultaneously implies that the will not know how to interpret the traffic signals associated with being an efficient surfer. For example, you may have to explain to a non-traditional student that there are different suffixes at the end of email addresses that give you clues about a url's purpose (i.e. .edu vs..com vs. .net vs. .org). You might also need to show non-traditional students where the spell check is on the 2007 Microsoft Office, but you know what: I don't know that shit either because I use Microsoft Office 2003.

I guess the emphasis on non-traditional, adult learners is how to catch them up with their traditional counterparts. How do you play catch up with students who have zero time or tolerance to "play school"? How do you make them arrive at milestones and landmarks of academic achievement. They are not the performance-driven little monkeys that freshmen can sometimes be; their motivations are self-induced and don't have the leisurely stride of the traditional, middle-class student. When teaching non-traditional students you have to start at a competent rationale before you even lay down the spiel. They say students can smell b.s. a mile away, well let's just pretend that non-traditional students are aardvarks and traditional students, well they have the nose and work ethic of something like a bumble bee.

I greatly enjoyed Helene E. Gold's article in the October 2005 issue of Portal: Libraries and the Academy. In it, she builds upon the work of several experts in Adult Literacy Instruction, and deciphers their ruminations. For example, she explains the cause and effect relationship between andragogy and percentages of degree-seeking students over 25, "In 1970, 28 percent of degree-seeking students were over 25; in 1980 this increased to 37 percent and in 2003 to 43 percent" (2005, pg. 470). According to Gold, there are several reasons why there has been an increase in the median age of the typical college student. "This dramatic increase in the number of adults returning to higher education over the last 30 years is attributed to a variety of factors,including a need for skill training related to advances in technology, the potential for increased earnings associated with a college degree, and increased marketing and program offerings aimed directly at the adult leaner" (2005, pg. 470)

More importantly, with non-traditional students there can be no pedagogical artifice. For example, the science of teaching children is called pedagogy, but the science of teaching adults is called andragogy. Even using this sentence to illustrate the importance of prefixes would go a long way with non-traditional, adult learners. And the reason is simple, non-traditional learners need to see the need for them to know a concept; they are a captive audience that is earned, not inherited, and the techniques that you use have to be active, like "small group work and problem-solving exercises" (2005, pg. 471). More importantly, adult learners keep you on your toes because they force you to recognize the faults and boring or ineffectual parts of how you teach. For example, Gold writes, "instructors must not be intimidated by the student...must be prepared to show how a concept of theory applies to the everyday world" (2005, pg.471).


Mark said...

No wonder you knew what was what in class (Li's 790), as you're way ahead of us.

Spicaro said...

well, one of the advantages of working at an academic library is the fact that most students don't really use their libraries so that leaves me ample time to catch up with school work. also, as an educator and hopefully future academic librarian, i am open and eager to any and all theories, practicum, and practical strategies that come around