29 September 2016

Dancing in the Hall by Linda Cobourn


It was one of those rare moments, a spontaneous celebration erupting out of nowhere. The adult students in my Communications II class were learning the rhetorical strategies of pathos, ethos, and logos by presenting short skits. The last skit provoked a lot of noise, with one student bursting into the classroom waving a loaded eraser while the student portraying Pathos cowered under a desk crying. So loud had been her screams that several male students and the dean showed up at our doorway.



To “get back at me” for the disruption my class had caused, the professor of Music Empowerment chose to bring her students out to the hallway to sing “I’m Every Woman.” I led my class out to join in. There we were, forty students and two professors, dancing and singing during class hours. 



I watched the faces of my students: they were joyous, elated to be engaging in a few moments of revelry, casting off their cares of being adult students with jobs, families, and financial woes.



Adults need the opportunity to play. In 2016, studies report that 30% of adults are working at multiple jobs. With the responsibility of children still living at home and elder parents needing care, the adult of 21st century America is stressed, tired, and on the verge of emotional collapse. Some adults have also returned to school for greater employment opportunities following job loss.



College programs designed for adult students are different than traditional programs.  Most adults who return to school are only on campus for class and library use. It is no wonder that adult students feel isolated. This sense of isolation is a reason only one out of four adult college students finish a degree. Reasons students drop out range from financial to family concerns, but high on the list is emotional overload.



Continuing education should bring with it joy in acquiring new knowledge and self-satisfaction in reaching a goal, but the opposite is often true. The overwhelming work required of higher education squeezes out the little leisure time left over from other responsibilities. Adults who do manage to finish their degrees report that they feel elated when the process is over.



But there's nothing wrong with a little elation along the way. We should all occasionally dance in the hallway.



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Dr. Linda Cobourn is a literacy specialist who works with at-risk learners and non-traditional college students. Her research interests include building college-ready skills in middle school students and providing academic support to adult learners. Dr. Cobourn also cares for her disabled husband and autistic son and writes about the experiences at http://writingonthebrokenroad.blogspot.com/

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