They’re not kids, of course.
They are college students and adults. They can vote and serve in the military. They are enrolled in university and this is their first semester of their first year. I teach their first class in the morning. And I feel honored.
When I learned that I had been assigned the 7:00 class, my first thought was, “How nice! I will enjoy teaching an evening class.”
Then I realized we were not talking about 7:00 at night.
My next thought was that there must have been some sort of clerical error; surely no one takes a class at 7:00 in the morning. I checked the course catalog; there were more than a hundred sections of Beginning Composition. The sections were listed according to time. My 7:00 a.m. class was the earliest offered at the university.
I told my students, on the first morning, that they had registered for the earliest section of composition offered. I asked them why they had registered for such an early class. This was not an icebreaker; I really wanted to know.
Their answers surprised me: “I like getting up in the morning. I want to study early in the day. I’ve always been a morning person. I work in the afternoon. I like all my classes to be one after another.”
These were dedicated students.
“I pushed the wrong button.”
(Most of them, anyway.)
Because I had never taught before, I came into the class with a lot of assumptions about my students. Because they had never been to college before, my students had a lot of assumptions about me. Most of their assumptions were that I had some notion of what I was doing (which was not the case). My assumption was also that they knew more about this going-to-school business than they actually did.
What I learned is that most of my students are the first in their family to attend college. Several were fluent in another language before they learned English. A couple of my students just moved from a reservation. One just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. These early morning students really want to be in class. They are determined to be successful. They are terrified they will fail. More than half of my class arrives fifteen minutes early to be sure they are not late.
I leave the house when it is still dark. The sun begins to rise over the mountains and turns the sky a brilliant pink. There is little traffic so early in the day. I zoom down the curving streets, unimpeded in the rosy glow of early sunrise. It is still dim when I get to campus, take off my helmet, lock up my scooter, take my coffee cup and books out of the wire basket on my bike. Chilled from the ride, I arrive a few minutes early, coffee in hand. They are already there: sitting silently in the classroom, waiting for me. We do some exercises, I ask them questions, they bring in their assignments, the time flies by.
I just had my first student conferences and I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I asked them to bring questions for me. They all asked the same questions: “How am I doing? Is my writing okay? What can I do better?”
I gave them the same answers: “You’re doing great. Your writing is getting better and better.”
But they all looked so concerned. So I said, “Just keep showing up at 7:00 and everything will be fine.”
Till next time,