Apparently there are many students out there who dread the mature age student. I was very curious to discover more about this since I am one and to see if I’m the type they dread. The main complaints seem to be: mature age students ask moronic questions in class, they give long accounts of their experiences or opinions, they try to ‘correct’ the lecturer’s ‘mistakes’, and some of the much older mature age students, say 50+yrs, try to befriend the younger ones in the class. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to “The awkward moment when the mature age student won’t shut the fuck up”!!
Hopefully I’ve not been guilty of these crimes, at least I don’t think I have. I certainly ask questions in lectures (I’m a curious-minded person) and quite frequently I’m the only one doing so but only in lectures where it appears the lecturer actually welcomes it.
There’s also the problem of younger students not understanding the mature age student’s stage in life. It’s almost certain that a mature age student doesn’t live the same life they had at 19. We’ve all been 19 but they’ve never been older than they are now. I had an interesting but awkward conversation with a really great guy (19yrs) from one of my classes. He was asking me what I used to do before studying and I informed him I used to be a Personal Assistant. I then explained that I’m only studying part-time as I have 2 young children I want to take care of. “Oh” he said, “so your studying part time, so what are you doing now [when not studying]?”. I was a little baffled, I said again, I have two young children to take care of. “Oh” he said, “so . . . you don’t work. . . . . . . I suppose the kids keep you busy??” he sounded very unsure when asking this. I was laughing to myself inside but I just said “yes, very busy”. He’ll find out one day!
On the good side, many students like the mature age ones because when they say they will do something they actually do it, apparently it makes group work so much easier. Also, they sometimes like hearing about mature age students’ experiences (but not when they waffle on).
I don’t think I’m dreaded by the younger students. What I have found in the last 12 months is that quite a few of the younger students approach me and want to talk to me and, shock horror, want me to go to the uni bar with them! I wasn’t expecting that! I try not to talk about family life with them as I assume most of them don’t want to hear about it but if they ask questions I’m happy to oblige. So, I suppose being respectful of where they are in their lives helps break down the barrier as well as not being patronising and giving them unwanted advice. Whatever I’m doing it seems to be working for me and that makes life at uni so much better.
At the end of last semester (2012) one of the great (& young) students from my Italian class and I were having a long conversation when I said in mid sentence “… as a mature age student…”, she cut me off, put her hands on my forearms, looked very directly into my eyes and insisted “You are not a mature age student!”, to which I started with “but…”, she cut me off again and repeated more emphatically “You are not a mature age student! The worst mature age students I’ve experienced were in my philosophy classes and they didn’t shut up! Everyone hated it, we were there to learn from the lecturer not to hear them waffle on like they know everything” (I’ve paraphrased that last sentence, my memory’s not that good).
I must be doing something right!