Over the past few months, my two elementary-age daughters have brought home various fliers/permission slips for educational programs hosted by their school. It’s kind of ironic because last year they were not ‘invited’ to participate in anything (that I recall). So a few months ago (I think it was actually the beginning of the school year), I was at a school event and asked about enrichment or tutoring programs for the girls. The woman with whom I spoke is the Reading Specialist for the school. When I inquired about opportunities, she informed me that her program was only for kids who did not score well above ‘Meets Standards’ on the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) or those who were identified as students who may not pass the Reading and Math portions of the test. So I started asking a bunch of questions (y’all know how I do) about the programs available for Title I students, grants to offer programs, etc., etc. Her eyes started to glaze over because I was mentioning programs and grants she had never heard of (SMH). My point was this: If the district/school gets Title I funding for my girls, why are they not participating in any of the programs funded with those monies? I don’t think that my expectations are unreasonable, even though they do not need remediation or supports, they should still benefit from those funds since the school does.
Not that I am awaiting confirmation/approval from anyone on this, but just thought it was kinda funny that once I started asking school and district officials about Title I money/programs, my kids start receiving all of these forms for various programs.
If you didn’t already know, I started my new job as an Academic Advisor at a technical college here in Georgia. I am very excited about this opportunity but also a little overwhelmed/nervous and some other stuff. You see, when I was teaching in the K-12 setting, I had the opportunity to see students everyday and discuss their post-graduation plans with them. I even helped some of my students research colleges, prepare for the SAT, etc. But this advising position is different. Every new student who enrolls in the college comes to our office first. We review their test scores with them and go over the requirements for the program they plan to pursue. After we do the initial advisement, we help them register for classes, and they speak with their Program Advisors for future questions. I am still a little uneasy about sending so many newbies on their way, but I have been assured that many of them will come back to see us!
Almost every student I met over a 2-day period planned to pursue either a certificate or diploma at the college; very few set their sights on an Associates degree. During our advisor training, we were encouraged to ‘advise up,’ meaning, talk to the students about the benefits of pursuing the degree. In most cases, the degree is only a few credit hours more than the diploma program so it’s in the students’ best interests to pursue that route instead. An added bonus is the fact that any student who enrolls in the college can get almost an entire program paid for by the state of Georgia. Yep, the education is FREE. No strings, special terms, conditions, or fine print. All they have to do is enroll, attend class, and maintain passing grades and the state will pick-up the tab. See, now I won’t feel guilty about buying that $1 Mega Million or PowerBall ticket because our state’s lottery system funds the Georgia HOPE Grant, which pays the tuition at all technical colleges throughout the state. Can you believe that? This program sounds so good that I may try to add-on some type of training outside of education…
Here’s the interesting part: The looks on the students’ faces when we encourage them to consider pursuing the Associate degree. Most of them will say, ‘I’ve been out of school too long,’ or ‘I didn’t do well in school so I don’t know.’ I even had one ask me, ‘Do you really think I should do that?’ after I praised his extremely high test scores and told him that he should consider the LPN program, as he only wanted to earn the certificate in the phlebotomy program. I am amazed that something as simple as encouraging, guiding, and counseling someone is not done more often. Instead of thinking about ‘What ifs’ I know I need to approach every situation with the ‘There is no time like the present’ attitude instead. After all, despite being an average student in high school or dropping out and later earning a G.E.D., the fact that many students decided (on their own) to further their education is definitely a step in the right direction!
Well, it’s official: I am back at work! Can you believe it? I can’t…I am so excited (and tired) that it hasn’t really hit me that I am officially employed again after almost 4 years. Actually, I have two part-time jobs now. One is a seasonal position and the other is a grant-funded Academic Advisor position with a local technical college.
The Academic Advisor opportunity literally came out of nowhere. I applied for other positions with this particular college in the past but never secured an interview. Honestly, I applied for the position and went on about my business of working the part-time job and looking for positions elsewhere…then they called me for an interview! Like several people told me: It would only be a matter of time before I found something (or something found me). Patience really is a virtue, huh?
We (there are four new advisors) just finished our second week of training yesterday, but we actually had the opportunity to do some hands-on advisor-training for the past 2 days because the Winter quarter begins January 8th and we had to enroll LOTS of new students. The actual advising is the interesting part. We get to work with students from all age ranges, ethnic and racial backgrounds, etc. The majority of the students we have advised thus far are recent high school graduates (less than 10 years out of high school) who have decided to earn a degree, diploma, or certificate. It is interesting to talk to a lot of the students, especially those with very high test scores because they could have easily gone on to a 2 or 4-year college upon graduating from high school but for whatever reason, they did not.
As a former teacher, I cannot help but wonder how the ‘system’ fails so many students with potential. Sure, not everyone has the potential to attend an Ivy League, but a lot of students that I’ve seen could have been successful in another higher education setting. Despite the obvious flaws in the system, I am eager to meet students where they are and hopefully help them create the path that leads to where they want to be.