I've worked in education since I graduated from my undergrad at 22. For the last three years I have worked in an adult degree-completion program for a small, private university. Degree-completion programs have a "questionable" reputation in some arenas because most people who did a traditional degree can't fathom being able to complete a course in 8 weeks or complete a degree in 13-18 months. I won't get into the differences between andragogy and pedagogy, but I will say that I have found that working in this environment has profoundly and positively changed my approach to teaching.
I don't grade to give grades anymore, I grade to provide feedback so the next paper will be better. Due dates are important, but a late paper is rarely because the student is slacking off. Most of my students work full-time, have children, spouses, etc. but they have decided this is the point in their life when it's time to do their degree. They can't put it off any longer or they have come to a place where they can't go further without it, so they sacrifice to make school work for them. When I'm teaching my focus is on providing content and activities that can be used by the students the next day. They're adults--they want to see why something is important before they will commit to learning it. There are a lot of pitfalls with that attitude, but it's the reality they're living and what I'm teaching had better be worth missing their child's soccer game or an opportunity to earn some overtime money at work. Frankly, sometimes it feels like I'm performing, but isn't there always an element of performance to good teaching? My students are motivated and they expect me to be on the top of my game.
These thoughts are on my mind because for the first time in a long time I have a student who is not committed at all. It's obvious she's here to get the piece of paper and has no intention of connecting what she learns in school with what she's doing in her life. It doesn't really bother me, but it does put her in stark contrast to her classmates, and it has repeatedly startled me. Having become so accustomed to a certain caliber of student, regardless of their abilities, this woman has reminded me of the struggles that many of my peers battle with, trying to keep their students motivated and engaged. She's become my gauge, my reality check, to what other schools and other students are like. I'm surprised to report that I'm grateful.