As we celebrate the opening of our new Poinciana Campus, we introduce a weekly series that will feature important information about this newest Valencia addition. This week, we’re featuring English Professor Michael Robbins, who transferred from Osceola Campus to serve the Poinciana community.
By Dani Moritz-Long
The idea of college can be scary – especially, English Professor Michael Robbins explains, when you grow up with the media’s erroneous, pompous portrayal of a typical college professor. This issue is amplified when you lack people in your life who have been through college and know better than to believe that all professors are man-eating monsters just waiting to fail students.
But while to many of us the idea of Valencia professors assuming the media’s portrayal of educators is preposterous, it’s more than plausible to many of Poinciana’s first-generation college students who are facing higher education with very real fears.
Michael’s solution? Humor.
Much like Hogwarts’ Professor Remus Lupin instructed his students to employ laughter to defeat boggarts (shape-shifters who assume the identity of their victim’s worst fear), Michael is quick to infuse humor into his curriculum. While he doesn’t necessarily encourage his students to picture him clad in a vulture-topped hat and green dress like Neville Longbottom did to alleviate his fear of Professor Severus Snape, he is a fan of pointing out the “riddikulus.”
This semester, Michael purposefully began each lesson with a very clear message: your professors don’t know everything, and we aren’t scary. Then, he pointed out the “riddikulus” by deconstructing the idea that composition is about following written-in-stone rules, and essays can be formulated with a universal equation.
For example, Michael instructed, a convention of writing dictates you shouldn’t start a sentence with a conjunction. But, he added, writers (including himself) break this rule frequently.
Empowering Poinciana’s students through this kind of humorous and positive teaching style is something Michael is extraordinarily passionate about. Having taught Valencia courses at a Poinciana high school, Michael knows the potential is there. Students just need a little help to get there (which is why Michael gladly traded his 10-minute commute to the Osceola Campus for the 40-minute drive he now makes twice a day to the new campus.)
In the end, Michael hopes to be a part of changing the Poinciana culture from “if I get to go to college” to “when I go to college” and setting realistic expectations for a college-level education.
As an English teacher, he’s also aiming to improve the students’ writing.
“They don’t have to be Hemmingway,” he said. “But, what I’d like them to know is they have to be adaptable. I want them to know that they aren’t just here to learn facts; college is about learning how to think.”
With a chuckle he added, “MLA format would be nice, too.”