Brave New world: Teaching Students Who Make Waves – J36

Four brief case studies, representing new and changing populations on
campus. The group has left lots of time at the end for discussion. “We
don’t have any easy answers.”

  • Kari Warren, ” ‘Did My Mom call you yet?” Teaching Millenial Students (And Their Helicopter Parents)”
  • Heidi Hanrahan, “‘I’ve got to pay the rent': Teaching the Working Class Student”
  • Elizabeth Vogel, “‘What does analysis mean?': Teaching the mainstreamed ESL student.”
  • Bethany Perkins, “‘You just don’t understand': Teaching the Asperger’s Student”

Overall, but not universally or uniformly, a theme of working against the institutional expectations for the benefit of the students.  I was a little surprised at this, I suppose because I feel great confidence in my own institution’s ability
to support the students it admits; I’ve served on the admissions committee, and our discussions often hinged on whether we have the resources to provide the level of support that a student needs.

As it happens, each of the four female speakers chose a male student for the case study. (I asked them whether that was intentional, and the panelists looked fairly shocked and told me they hadn’t even noticed.)

These are my rough notes, lightly edited, with my own comments inserted in square brackets.


Kari Warren, ” ‘Did My Mom call you yet?” Teaching Millennial Students (And Their Helicopter Parents)”

Often relates to students through popular culture, in order to help students become better at more traditional areas; yet today’s students are increasingly remote from her pop culture icons.   Referred to Ferris Bueller, got no response and blank stares.  Most students not born in 1986, not even on the radar of those students.  Summarized contents of Millennials Rising; these students are sheltered, confident,  pressured, team-oriented; for the most part, these are positive.  Milennials are bright and hard-working. Described the environment at a small, nurturing, selective, private college. Feels pulled between the college environment that wants to keep the parents happy, and her own authority as a teacher in her class.  Add “entitlement” to the mix – problems.  Recalls “Harold,” who was likeable and organized. At midterm, Harold was a B- student. Got several calls and e-mails from his mother (“helicopter parent”) “came at me like a spider monkey” with a “forceful inquisitiveness” that disarmed her.  By end of term, Harold had slacked off; never got around to pulling up his grade. After the final grades were in, first Harold then his mother asked for extra credit; in Warren’s words, “I caved… I gave him the grade bump, and quite frankly, I’d probably do it again.”  “Did I give in… or did I create a new space for collaboration between teacher and student.”

Heidi Hanrahan, “‘I’ve got to pay the rent': Teaching the Working Class Student”

Asked a student why he still hadn’t handed in a research paper.  Does not usually chase after students; but “John” was a quiet student who seemed to be throwing away a solid B.  John almost immediately responded with the statement that he’s working full-time. “I know my grade’s going to suffer, and I’m okay with that.”  John said “since this class isn’t going to pay my bills” it’s at the bottom of his list.   Institutional context… students come to Shepherd University mostly looking for career development. Faculty face pressure to ensure that high-risk students stay enrolled.

Elizabeth Vogel, “‘What does analysis mean?': Teaching the mainstreamed ESL student.”

International students are a growing segment of the population. Are universities capable of supporting students who need this kind of attention?  Vogel’s “stalker student” was non-threatening; sweet, demanding, non-threatening, but ever-present in the hallways.  He had difficulty with English, his comments on literature were extremely literal; visited the office often, but not for substantive reasons, more focused on reasons for past assignments.  Vogel is a composition grad student who was happy to have a valued literature class, and thus felt institutional pressure not to make waves.

Bethany Perkins, “‘You just don’t understand': Teaching the Asperger’s Student”

Perkins was not present; another panelist read her paper.  Asperger’s Syndrome does not affect cognitive or language processes, but does affect interpersonal relationships, empathy with others, group dynamics.  The big question here is whether hand-picking groups to avoid having the AS student disrupt the learning process for the small group members is actually robbing students of the lessons the might learn by a close encounter with “difference” in the classroom.