Lessons Learned From Teaching College Freshmen

1. “My printer broke” has now replaced “The dog ate it” as the top excuse for homework not turned in on time.

2. English composition (“English Comp”) may now be called communication (“COM”).

3. COM employs more communication theory and less actual writing, thereby stimulating (in this observer’s estimation) less powerful communication than did English Comp.

4. Tell the class they can do an assignment for extra credit and students who don’t need extra credit will do it; students desperately needing the credit won’t.

5. Students who beg for a writing assignment extension will be the ones questioning why the teacher doesn’t have papers graded and ready to return to them at the next class meeting.

6. Nobody shows up to Office Hours for help until the final two weeks of class, at which point there will be a run on the bank of times available to meet.

7. Students will wait until the week before finals to text or email the teacher asking what they can do to rectify their inaction of the past four months. (They won’t word it quite that way.)

8. Teach of Helen Keller’s inspiring life and watch students continue spelling the icon’s name as “Hellen” all semester, despite pointing out the error each time it rears its ugly head.

9. Give reading assignments and class lectures on Karl Marx and Socialism, and then learn something new from a student: Karl Marx nailed his 95 Theses to a church door.

10. Introduce Henry Ford and the Industrial Revolution, and then read student essays to learn it was actually either Harrison Ford or Gerald Ford who was the great industrialist and auto innovator.

11. Provide handouts of biographies with timelines of Karl Marx and Helen Keller showing Socialism as the common theme, while also revealing the aging Marx died in Europe just as Keller, a toddler in Alabama, lost her sight and hearing; then learn from a student in a writing assignment that Marx and Keller were “great lifelong friends.”

12. The best students in class make it all worthwhile, doing every assignment beautifully; but the college allows you to award them only an “A” when you want to give them a triple-A rating, like a good bond that you hold as an investment for the future.

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