Saturday, October 3, 2015

Meeting my students

Each fall and spring for many years, I have met two or three classrooms of students, just as Lawrence Levine met his students this week at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

Some drop out, some work hard and become the stars of the class.

Sometimes there is a deaf student in my class, requiring an interpreter.

Sometimes there is a student with spina bifida or some other serious physical disability.  She may arrive each day in a wheel chair and need someone else to take notes for her.  

Often there are students with various types of learning disabilities who require special conditions for testing at a different location.

Always there are students with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.  

There are students who speak almost no English, with perhaps Russian and Persian as their first and second languages.  

There are veterans who have served in the Middle East and have PTSD. 

There are students with anger issues who provoke other students.  Once there was a pushing and shoving match between two women in the classroom.

Each group of students is a unique challenge.

Increasingly in the US there is a student in a classroom who decides to bring guns to campus and shoot his classmates and teacher.

Lawrence Levine was killed by his student two days ago.  Sixty-seven years old, like me, and an adjunct professor teaching English, writing skills--a part-timer, like me.  

Gone because of a student with mental illness and easy access to an unlimited number of guns.

May Levine rest in peace.

May none of us rest in peace until gun laws are changed to prevent sales to men with mental illness and/or criminal records.

Someone else will be called in to finish teaching the course, Introduction to Expository Writing, one that students take who need some practice before they take college-level writing courses.  I've taught that course many times.

The first assignment for the students in Levine's class was to write "an essay where students had to choose a subject and support an argument with evidence and reason," according to the NYT Times.

Apparently this killer couldn't write an essay on his favorite subject, guns.  He used bullets instead of words.  Argument and reason were beyond him.

Some students remaining in the course, and others across the US, will write an essay on gun control this fall.  They will marshal arguments for greater limits on access to guns and bullets, or perhaps they will write against any changes in our gun laws.

It's up to all of us who can write letters and essays to take up the cause.  

We must donate our time and money to gun control organizations in memory of Lawrence Levine, his students, the students of Sandy Hook (2012) and Santa Monica College (2013) and Virginia Tech (2007) and so many others.

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