Does Higher Tuition Require Different Instruction? Teaching and the Great Socio-Economic Divide

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OrtizBy Jenny Ortiz

As a Freeway Flyer, I teach a number of Composition courses and although each one has a slight variation given  the deptartmental’s academic desires for its students, my syllabus and my course workload tends to be similar for most of my classes. My Eng1100 at St. John’s University is very similar to my Eng101 at LaGuardia Community College. I have a a notebook with master notes that I  created throughout my teaching career, which contains the fundamental ideas/objectives that I want my students to leave the class with.

However, recently I fell into a conversation with two other Freeway Flyers about using a set of master notes for two different colleges. Is it okay given to do so given the socio-economic differences between the colleges and students? Should I teach the same lecture notes to a student at St. John’s who pays a couple thousand for every class and to a student at LaGuardia Community College who pays a couple thousand for the semester?

Obviosuly this was a question that both my colleagues were not only intrigued by, but were anxious to find an answer to. Do I tailor my teaching methods based on the socio-economic situation of my college environment? It’s understandable that within a university (4-year college) there are more traditional students and in a community college the nontraditional student is of higher percentage; given this information there is no doubt that the students from the different campuses will connect and understand the world around them in a different manner. Each way and student  is unique; one is not better than the other.

Again, the question is do I give more to my St. John’s students…more bang for their buck, while dumbing it down for my students in the community college? The question is now an insult, not only to the students but to myself and to my other Freeway Flyers.

The material I teach in class should always cater to my students; the readings I provicde should be accessible and allow them to grow as students. It is my job to help my students  develop an  understanding of critical thinking ; this is the purpose of every core class. I’ve always designed my master notes as well as the readings I choose to always challenge my students, regardless of how much they have paid for the course. It’s like saying because I’m a part-timer  I shouldn’t be given the same classroom materials that a full-time faculty member  gets. It’s absurd, because if that’s the case the learning part of college is hindered.

I believe college is and will always be the community that eliminates the socio-economic divide—regardless of whether one comes from money or not, a student enters college in the hopes of learning and of expanding her/his intellect. Of course students will all have a different udnerstanding of the world, but this only helps expand their educations.

In the end, it isn’t where a students goes to school, it is what that student chooses to do at that school. A student in a community college can get a much better education than a student from a 4-year institute simply because that student is willing to learn. So, if I teach from the same lecture notes in two different colleges, it is up to the student to rise to the occasion and use my notes as a stepping stone forward in her/his academic career.

How do other Freeway Flyers who teach at both 2- and 4-year colleges view this question of teaching based on socio-economic status?

About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 24 year old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off  earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun).  When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream.  If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.

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