Teaching at a community college or for-profit institution presents plenty of benefits: a chance for the instructor to focus more on teaching than research; a chance for the student to thrive in a learner-centered curriculum; a chance for all classroom members—students and instructor—to enjoy the different perspectives that each member brings to the college environment.
Of course, teaching presents its enjoyable challenges as well, and most of these stem from the same source: the sheer diversity students. One student has enjoyed academic success in secondary school, while another student, although ambitious, has struggled throughout her schooling. One young student enrolls fresh out of high school, while another older student—perhaps with a partner or children—enrolls after years of navigating the seas of adult life and responsibility. One student feels comfortable with technology, while another student has limited experience with personal computers.
The instructor then must be able to meet the demands of all students, and this requires the instructor to have strong knowledge of her subject matter, compositional theory, and her students’ learning styles
As an instructor, I start with a simple premise: all students can improve their writing. In my composition classes, I view teaching as an opportunity to promote true classroom collaboration and increase student empowerment. It is through this empowerment—what Peter Elbow called “writing without teachers”—that students become excited and interested in their own learning. Although some students may not wish to initially embrace empowerment, I feel that my teaching style and course set-up are such that every student has access to her own educational agency.
The core activity in all my classes is collaboration, mostly in the form of workshopping, peer review, or online discussion board exchange. These activities allow students to engage with their peers and also see what their peers are producing. As an instructor, I also participate, adding to the exchange of feedback—student to student, instructor to student, student to instructor—so that we all learn and improve as writers and people.
As someone who has worked and studied in a variety of settings—I am a former community college student, a four-year-college undergraduate, and successful graduate student—I am familiar with the diversity students. Over the years, my fellow classmates and students have included prospective dental assistants, dieticians, musicians, administrative assistants, poets, novelists, lawyers, and filmmakers; my peers have also included traditional and non-traditional learners, as well as international students. My dual perspectives—as a student and teacher who has worked in different environments —help me empathize with all learners.