Professor Learns What Life is Really Like As A College Senior
The best way to understand the pressures facing today’s college students is to travel with them for a couple of days. I did just that as the coach for a team of four seniors that my school sent to the National Team Selling Competition hosted by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
Here are some of the things I learned that I hadn’t fully realized about the students I teach everyday in the classroom:
Students Test Their Limits to the Point of Getting Sick
College students participate in so many outside activities that going to class is almost an unwarranted distraction. They become so worn down that by mid-October they become stricken with what they refer to as “the campus crud” or more accurately stated — a cold virus.
Two of our team members showed signs of the crud prior to our departure. I didn’t think much of it until the cabin pressure on the flight caused one of them to have a swollen face due to a sinus blockage. When we stopped at a Chick-fil-a before our connecting flight, I didn’t know whether to order chicken nuggets or a bag of ice to help reduce the swelling.
Health problems continued to plague our team. During a practice session at the event the next afternoon, another student was downing so much cold medication that I was afraid she was about to overdose on Day/NyQuil. We took a quick trip to the Indiana University Urgent Care center for more potent medication.
Everything Is Public
From the moment we left on Wednesday until our return on Friday, everything we did was photographed and sent to friends and family on social platforms. I didn’t really understand the extent to which photo sharing had taken over this generation until we were all evacuated from the hotel at 2:30 a.m. due to a fire alarm. When I returned to my room, I took a quick look at Snap Chat only to find that one of our team members had a Snap photo of me outside barefoot wearing my t-shirt and shorts.
It’s no wonder why students are a bit reticent to speak in class these days or why they are more reserved in expressing emotions. Within seconds, social platforms now allow thousands of people to see and hear you make a mistake or say something wrong. I surely felt concerned about a number of students back home seeing a photo of one of their professor’s on the street in Bloomington, Indiana in the early morning hours.
The best way to learn about the new world of food allergies is to order lunch for four college students. We tried to order a pizza and ended up with two. One was lactose free and the second was normal with cheese. While we ate the pizzas, I noticed another student wasn’t eating the crust, only the cheese and meat, because of an unannounced gluten allergy. We probably should have ordered a third pizza to meet everyone’s dietary needs.
One of our team members was also so health conscious that she had to eat three distinct meals a day at 8 am, noon, and 6 pm. Unlike the junk food I was eating, she wisely focused on fruit, salads, and proteins. I only saw her eat French fries once.
Sometimes I think that my classroom in the business school is a dining hall, especially during early afternoon classes. Students are always eating something. But, this trip reminded me that students are healthier eaters than previous generations. Perhaps, that is why they can battle through colds more successfully and perform with less sleep than students from years past.
Swollen sinuses, inflamed glands, social platform addictions or even the threat of allergic reactions were not going to slow down our team. They won their division and came in second overall in the competition of 25 other schools.
The four students I coached gave me a rare glimpse into the lives of busy college seniors. While I saw a few things I didn’t expect to see, I witnessed enough to know that experiential learning is a potent supplement to traditional classroom education.
Grades and tests reveal quite a bit about what students learn and retain. But, it is experiences like this sales competition that exposed their true character including their mental and physical toughness. It also gave the four of them a chance to put their classroom knowledge to practical use and to discover how their education stacked up against their peers from other schools.
While traditional classroom education is being attacked by online and experiential learning opportunities, I still believe the physical classroom is the best venue for higher education. Sometimes though it helps for professors to venture out into the real world, like to a sales competition in Indiana with four seniors, to refresh their skills on how best to relate to the students they teach everyday.