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Friday, September 20, 2013

What it's like being a retiree taking college classes with teenagers.

I'm into my second year of art classes (I take one class a semester; this is my third class) at the University of North Florida. The first two classes (Drawing I and Drawing II) were taken in the evenings, and I was not the only older person enrolled in them, so I didn't feel out of place. But this class (Two Dimensional Design) is a day class, and I'm the only older person in it. Even the instructor Laura Colomb is much younger than me. This is the first class in which I've felt out of place.

I'm pretty amazed by the young people around me. Some of them are clueless about their lives, like elementary school children. They are smart. The requirements for enrolling at UNF are stiff. Yet, some of them seem like they'd rather be doing something else, like texting on their i-phones. Some of them miss classes or don't do the required work. When the teacher says that, if you miss the class critique you're automatically dropped two letter grades on the assignment, and several of the students don't show up, I wonder why. They probably didn't do the assignments and stayed away. Some of these students just don't have their priorities in the proper order.

Some of these students are pretty darn good artists already. Seriously, they don't need this elementary art class, but it's a requirement (I think) for the program. It's a good class. It's foundational to the various art majors. Maybe some of the students are bored by it (but none of them seem bored). Some of the students seem to have trouble staying awake. I think back to my college years and wonder if I was so sleepy in my classes. Maybe they're overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do in all their classes. Or maybe they're tired from staying up late partying.

I had quite a bit of interaction with the students in the first two classes. In this class, I've tried to strike up conversation with one or two of them. It just doesn't go very far. They talk to each other okay. But I think they see me as an outsider. I don't think they object to me being there. They are friendly all the time. But what can we possibly have in common? Of course, we have the art class in common, and we do discuss our art work to some degree. But that's about it.

Here's the thing, though, because I'm so much older than them, I feel that I should be a model student. I want to mentor them in some way. I want to reach out to them and help them. Of course, most of them do not need my help. But maybe one or two I could help. But, we don't talk. So I pretty much stick to myself and my work. Maybe that's the way it should be.
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