First, a process thing: I’m using the combination of Twitter + Hahlo + my iPhone this semester to encourage me to reflect a little on each class. It’s a good habit to think about your teaching regularly, and this combination (140 characters, plus playing with the phone) makes it fun enough to do. (For more academic uses of Twitter, see academhack’s great post.)
Ok–now the actual point of this post. One of my early tweets from this semester is about the makeup of my League of Extraordinary Gentlemen class. Upon further reflection, The class isn’t really half athletes–more like 35%. But about 1/4 of the class plays the same sport. A few thoughts:
1. I’m not a professor with a bias against athletes. While I have concerns about how quickly the cart of Division I athletics begins to wag the tail of academics (and at such a high expense!), that systemic problem’s got nothing to do with my experience in the classroom. The proportion of athletes who are engaged students in my classes is at least as high as the general student body.
2. Having said that, it is a Very Hard Thing to stare at the cold fact that 25% of my class (i.e., the ones on the same team) will definitely be absent on certain days. The problem isn’t even that they’re missing more classes than are allowed according to my policy, which I don’t think is the case, but that so many students will obviously be gone on the very same day. That sort of thing is hard to miss, and it’s demoralizing, both for me and for the other students.
3. And yet, whoever’s providing academic advice to the athletes is doing exactly the right thing: I’m the only person teaching an English course explicitly pitched to nonmajors this semester, a course which also satisfies the International gen-ed requirement. It kills 2 gen-ed birds with one stone, and in an environment that’s friendly to to students without a strong background in the formal analysis of literature.
It’s a pretty strange position, but probably unavoidable without several more sections of courses like this one, to spread the impact. (Again, I’m not speculating at all about the performance of the students themselves in the class! “Impact” here is only “the psychological impact of the travel days.”)
How have you dealt with similar situations?