These calls are different. Not like cold calls at my first job where scrubbing ash trays trumped drumming up people by phone to buy or sell a house. After all, these are my students. We meet online. I procrastinate, yes, but I need to make these calls, this call to Frank to say I’m concerned, I’ve wondered why he stopped handing in work, to say I’ve done my part, to say I’ve sent reminders and has he seen his average, just 33%, and does he plan to finish the class, which will end in two weeks, but I’m taken aback by the gravel on the other end, (the voice that doesn’t address me as Miss Gail or Professor or end the call with God Bless) but he demands to know who I am and says he’s just read 13 emails that say he’s failing and that he knows nothing about APA or computers, that it’s the computer that’s the problem, not that he’s not smart because he’s 60, (no youngster, not just out of school), and he’s owned his own business, which he’s sold. He just passed on a contract to go on the road with a band, and he’s putting everything into this college, these classes, and getting certified in Human Resources because he needs to, because he’s spent $1,500 to enroll and he’s paying tutors $40 an hour to help, and his computer and phone are completely synced (though he didn’t use that word) to the online classes, but it’s not enough, and he’s tried the campus, but the people there have jobs, they can’t just help him all the time, so that’s not an option, and I try to interject that maybe he’s taken on too much at once, maybe he should see if he can drop a class before he loses his money or fails, that I’m sorry he’s so frustrated and how can I help, but he’s miffed, no he’s mad, and he tells me so, because he needs this to work because he should be retiring, he should be a grandfather holding his grandbabies, but that’s not going to happen because his son was in the service for 20 years and now he’s gone, died in Afghanistan because when they asked him to re-up, he had no problem saying yes to the $30,000, but what good was that since now his son who served for 20 years is dead, dead, killed in Afghanistan, and now he needs this, he needs this to work so he doesn’t keep wanting to be dead too.
Gail Goepfert: “I’ve been an adjunct since 2008 teaching developmental English to online students who are struggling in their personal lives, their worklife, and in coursework because of limited skills. After a long stint in a public middle school, I realize I’m teaching the same material—basic writing skills. At the college level, these struggling students really want to get ahead—they’ve dropped out of high school, had babies, floundered making minimum wage, failed elsewhere to pass the essentials. They need to learn about style and language and audience when they write; I think about these elements constantly as a poet. Our needs are different, our experiences with writing most likely have been vastly different, but my students and I certainly struggle with language, and we know rejection or a sense of failure. Thinking this way allows me to be more empathic and supportive, to be willing to give voluminous feedback.” (website)