When I tell folks what I’m doing this summer, they say, you should wait for a sabbatical to do that. But my students are drowning, and I don’t know if I can save them, but I can give them a fighting shot at swimming to safety on their own if I go now. It can’t wait. This is my blog about how to build a better (world history) course. I write in the hopes that others will see my work, help me, and perhaps consider how to help poor students succeed in their courses. And, if I write my thoughts down, maybe they’ll be better thoughts than when they’re tangled up in my head.
This is not a blog about feelings or inspiration: I have both, as do you, but we don’t need better feelings or more inspiration, we need better tools to teach our students.
I’m increasingly distressed at the failure of my poor students. These folks can be train wrecks as students. They often come from un-supportive homes, have uneven or limited access to technology, they are ignorant of college as an institution and ignorant of how to navigate institutions in general. I can see their failure and I know it’s historically rooted. Responses to poverty tend to be condescending (poor dears) or systematic (let’s create a scholarship fund), neither of which I find useful.
After years of teaching poor students at four and two-year schools, I started asking colleagues: “If I could do one thing to help poor students succeed in my classroom, what would that be?” Most folks suggested additional resources (buy them tablets, pay for college), which I can’t do. Others suggested pointing out resources my college already has, which is sound, but insufficient. You see, most students drive to college, walk to the classroom, finish the class, and drive to work or home. Car- class – car. Continue reading