One of the interesting facets of having completed 36 years of teaching is the observable differences between today's students and those that I taught at the beginning of my career. There's no difference, of course, in IQ — my current students are every bit as bright as those I taught "back in the last millennium," as I love to say when referring to my younger years. One thing I do notice, though, is that what today's students know and don't know is vastly different from what my former students knew and didn't know.
I try to stay current on some aspects of today's pop culture so that I know what my students and others are talking about. I'm not always successful in that endeavor, though — there's just so much to keep up with and so little time! It's quite a balancing act trying to keep up on (dreary) current events and to dabble in several of the many avenues of social networking as well as trying to do as much reading as possible on French Literature from the Middle Ages in preparation for my course lectures. Talk about having one's feet planted in two different worlds!
During one of our many interesting lunch room discussions last school year, a colleague mentioned something he had read online. One professor in a community college contends that he has found only one thing with which his students, who vary greatly in age and background, all seem to be familiar. Here's that portion of the article:
One of the things I try to do on the first night of English 102 is relate the literary techniques we will study to novels that the students have already read. I try to find books familiar to everyone. This has so far proven impossible. My students don't read much, as a rule, and though I think of them monolithically, they don't really share a culture. To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope. (And I thought everyone had read that!) Animal Farm? No. If they have read it, they don't remember it. The Outsiders? The Chocolate War? No and no. Charlotte's Web? You'd think so, but no. So then I expand the exercise to general works of narrative art, meaning movies, but that doesn't work much better. Oddly, there are no movies that they all have seen—well, except for one. They've all seen The Wizard of Oz.
The preceding quotation is from an article in The Atlantic online called "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower" by Professor X (really)
I'm not sure that we could justify applying his findings to all college students in America, but I've made enough allusions to things in the Wizard of Oz in my classes to know that most of my students always seem to catch them. When we learn the French -re verbs, I enjoy presenting one that's not in our book — fondre. I demonstrate its meaning by writhing, sinking down towards the floor, and saying "Je fonds" in a high-pitched voice. Most of my students catch on right away that I'm saying "I'm melting" and imitating the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. I guess that that would lend some credence to Professor X's statement.
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