I get a lot of questions from people about teaching community college. A lot. Most of my friends did not go to community college and they want to know what the differences are between it and a four-year school. A lot of people I know are literature and/or creative writing professors, and although my job title is Assistant Professor of English, I am neither a lit person nor a creative writing person. I teach developmental writing, Composition I, Composition II, and what would be considered at a four-year school low/entry level literature classes that still focus largely on learning to talk, read, and write about texts.
Most of my students (please note: I did not say all) come to community college from sub-par high schools. Heck, probably from sub-par pre-K (if they even had early childhood education) through high school. That’s about 13 years of crappy and/or uneven and/or disrupted and/or an education that I would never allow for my own children. Now, a crappy education is still better than no education at all, but it is very hard to catch up from those many years when you should have been learning x, y, or z and you did not. Nor did you learn a, b, or c. And it’s not your fault you didn’t learn any of those things, but sadly, you are left standing with a high school diploma and a very low academic skill set.
I joke that my job is the same as the clean up guy from the movie Pulp Fiction. If you don’t remember the scene, or if you haven’t seen the movie, the clean up guy is called when a kid holding a gun accidentally shoots himself in the head in the back of the Vincent and Jules’ car. They need to car, but the car is now covered in brains, skull, and blood. Not knowing what to do, they call the clean up guy.
My job is akin to the clean up guy. Students come to me with below basic skills, and I tell them how to clean, cover, and patch up those skills so they can move to the next level. Repeat. We do it again. Repeat. We do it again. Again and again until they’re where they should be in terms of being a college student who should know how to do x, y, and z with a text, with words, and with ideas on paper. At times it’s repetitive and I feel like I am banging my head against the wall of a system that was created to screw my students over, but at other times–when students make progress and not only I can see it but they can also see it–there’s really nothing as satisfying.
Oh, and if you’d like to call me The Wolf, I’m totally cool with that.