By Jeremy Sawyer
Students at the City University of New York (CUNY) have extremely busy lives. Numerous students work long hours while attending school full or part time. So instead of “working for the weekend” (a la Chris Farley), many students work all week so that they can attend classes in the only time they have left: on the weekend! Yes, CUNY runs classes on both Saturdays and Sundays, and these sections are quite popular. My last class (max of 50 students) at 9am on Sunday was completely packed and had students on a wait list. Students greatly appreciate these weekend classes, and I’m going to make the case that instructors should as well.
I began teaching on weekends while attending graduate school mostly out of convenience (like my students my weeks were busy), but I have since come to greatly enjoy this end-of-the-week educational niche. As I’ve discovered, weekend students are fervently dedicated to their education. Students in my classes intend to pursue fields like psychology, nursing, medicine, “the therapies” (physical, occupational, and speech therapy), and are often zealously collecting prerequisites. They drag themselves out of bed in the wee hours of New York winters to discuss Human Development, and they manage to look lively while doing so. Some of my students work overnight shifts the night before class, and yet are unfailingly present (physically and intellectually) the next morning, with only the aid of coffee. Other students hustle directly from religious services to midday weekend classes.
One thing I love about the weekend crew is that they are more diverse in age than typical weekday students. They tend to be somewhat older, and have more work and life experience under their belts. They are often returning to school or are intellectually exploring. I’ve had several middle-aged students, and even a retired professor in my classes. Having students spread further across the lifespan enhances classroom discussion of lifespan development. Many students are parents, and are able to discuss child development in terms of their own childhood as well as raising a child. Older students discuss the development of their grandchildren, and compare their children’s parenting styles to their own. I’ve gained valuable insights from the rich experiences and viewpoints of my students, who are also diverse ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socioeconomically.
Weekend classes have the added bonus that they’re held only once per week, in a tranquil building without the crowded weekday rush. Of course, that also means that the classes are longer. While a 3-hour long class seemed daunting to me initially, I’ve found that engaging students in a variety of active learning methods (and avoiding deadly 3-hour lectures) is the way to go. If you structure the time with a mix of activities, demonstrations, group work, and discussions (plus a short break in the middle of class), the time will actually fly. Having students introduce chapters or articles that they read for homework, pose questions and lead small discussion groups, and frequently pair into dyads and triads to discuss class material or video clips will help you keep bodies and minds moving across the longer class period.
There is also more time between weekend classes to content with, and it is key to keep students engaged during this time. If you are assigning longer written papers (in addition to frequent low-stakes writing assignments), you can align paper due dates with weeks after there is no class due to holidays, so that students engage in more in-depth writing over the two-week break. Finally, I’ve found that having students work in groups to create and deliver oral presentations keeps students engaged with each other outside of class, and allows students to follow their intellectual/research interests across the semester. Because of their deeper experience in education and the world, weekend students often have particular professional and intellectual questions that they are passionate about delving into more deeply if given the opportunity.
For all of these reasons, I encourage you to take the plunge. Become a weekend warrior, and your students will thank you for it. You can still have a social life. And if you play your cards right, you can get out of class just in time to catch the football (or fútbol) games.