We have a lot to learn from working-class students, who face unique challenges in higher education. As Tim Strangleman points out in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives post, students who are invited to analyze their work experiences deepen their learning and provide new insights for faculty, as well.
This year I had three great examples, all from working-class women, which I know I will use as examples for future students for years to come. One of the essays reflected on working in a bar. While there was some discussion of pulling pints and replenishing stock, the student focused on the casual everyday sexism of her managers and especially the regulars she served. She offered a litany of examples of comments, wise-cracks, and leers that are part and parcel of an ordinary contemporary workplace. She described how she tried to ignore comments from men waiting to be served, the advice that she might want to ‘cheer up’ after failing to laugh at their jokes, or the older man who called her ‘daughter’ but then ogled her while she bent down to refill the ice box. Her description was shocking and chilling in equal measure. Another student described working in a women’s fashion shop. She recounted having to face the Monday morning blues and the prospect of another week at work, traveling in on the train, being told by her boss to remember ‘that smile’, and dealing with one difficult customer after another.
The Working-Class Perspectives blog is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.