It can be really intimidating going into a classroom full of traditional students if you are a nontraditional. I talked about the need to network and be open to traditional students you come in contact with in a previous post. Overall, my experiences as a 30-something have been positive. Most traditional students have been very respectful and even helpful.
I do know that there is a stereotype traditionals have about nontraditionals. The biggest stereotype is that we tend to be know-it-alls in class. While I personally tend to be on the quiet side, this is actually something I have witnessed in a couple of my classes. My marketing class had well over a hundred students in it. There were two nontraditional guys who sat in the front and had an answer for everything and a story to go along with it as well. Even I had to roll my eyes at them a few times. I do think that probably helped them though so I am not criticizing them. It’s only when a nontraditional becomes condescending or disrupts the instructor that I take issue with it. As nontraditionals, we do have a lot to offer in class. Just be mindful how this may come across.
I also had a smaller public speaking class where I did experience an…interesting interaction with traditionals. For our final, we had a group project. I was paired up with two frat guys. I knew they were frat guys because…well they talked about it lot. We were supposed to begin working on the project the week of Thanksgiving but our instructor decided to cancel class since so many people had expressed that they were going out of town (our class met on Wednesday night).
It’s hard coordinating schedules on the best of days, but it is especially hard for a nontraditional who works a regular 9-5 to coordinate a schedule with traditionals who spend days in class and work part time or have other activities in the evenings. So we only met the one time before the presentation. On the day of presentation, they wanted to meet in the library but I told them I wouldn’t be able to. They decided to go without me and finish up the Powerpoint and we would meet in class. They arrived to class late. Presentations were just about to begin and we had only a couple of minutes to talk.
It wasn’t until we started our presentation that I realized something was off. One of them was super quiet during the presentation, while the other was super talkative. He was so talkative that he would actually repeat everything I said. When the time keeper raised her hand to signal we needed to start wrapping it up, he apparently thought she was asking a question and told her to hold on a minute and continued speaking. The time keeper finally had to say, “Thank you” to signal that we were over our time limit. It was then I realized that they were both drunk! Apparently, while working together in the library, they were taking shots. Honestly, I was more amused by the whole thing than anything else. It was a reminder to me that college is a different experience to them than it is to me. That having fun is as much a part of their experience as papers.
It also taught me that in the future, I will be pulling rank when it comes to group projects because that project was the difference between an A and the B! Yes, we got an 84 on the project and my final grade wound up being 89.2! I am more upset with my instructor than with the guys though. She really couldn’t bump that up by .3?!?