Archive for the ‘first generation college students’ Tag
As kids, we often heard little sayings from older people, like ‘A hard head makes a soft a$$’ or ‘I can show you better than I can tell you’ or ‘You don’t believe fat meat’s greasy!’ More often than not, we didn’t even understand them but we knew that we had done something wrong and were on the verge of getting in trouble. I remember a lot of things Granny said to us as kids and now that I am an adult and parent, most of them make perfectly good sense. I often think about the wisdom she imparted to me, in particular, because I am sharing a lot of those lessons with my own kids.
Today was a fairly quiet day at work, as we are into the third week of the semester. That means: no registration (late or otherwise), no explaining financial aid intricacies (even though we clearly are not the financial aid office), and very little advising. None of the drama I wrote about a few weeks ago. But something happened today that got my dander up (yet another one of those sayings). A student came into the office because she needed to complete an assignment for the college’s new College Skills class, akin to the Freshman Seminar or Intro to College course offered on other campuses. The mere fact that she needed help is not what bothered me, but rather the fact that I helped her with the EXACT SAME ISSUE last week! GUess what she needed help with??? Microsoft Word! No need to adjust your screen or grab your reading glasses (for my over 30 crowd)…you read that correctly. And she is younger than I am. I can’t blame Smartphones, cell phones, the boogeyman, or Mr. Charlie. She is responsible for this deficiency. I have an almost-8 year old who has been a master at PAINT since she was about 4. I can’t even use that damn program. I can’t blame lack of access to computers either because they are available in the public libraries. And the reality is that she is not the only student who lacks basic computer skills.
But here’s the real reason(s) I am pissed:
1. She’s a young, Black woman
2. She has a child
3. She has a cell phone (much nicer than my pay-as-you-go)
4. She has hair the color of Wendy from Wendy’s
5. I ALREADY HELPED HER WITH THAT LAST WEEK!
Somewhere along the way she, and many other young women, have been complimented on their beauty, booty, or a combination of the two. And somewhere along the way she, and those countless others, came to the realization that they didn’t need to be ‘smart’ (or have common sense for that matter) because they were cute. Sure enough, as I am sitting there steaming and biting the hell out of my tongue, my late grandmother’s voice resonated in my head: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.” As a little girl I didn’t understand why she said this, but it always stuck with me. Brains last forever but beauty fades…I get it, I get it. She pretty much ‘programmed’ me to excel academically because she knew that it would take brains to succeed in this world. No, I did not know that as a kid but hearing her say that repeatedly, had an impact. So I struggled to remain professional while working with this young lady even though something or someone inside of me was yearning to take her and shake the hell out of her. Yes, that’s the level of irritation/ire I felt. But I have no desire to go to jail so I opted to sit and think about how I could express my feelings in this post.
I started doubting whether I could actually do anything for some of the students. Am I too hard on them? Is expecting them to come to school, i.e. a college campus, with their pants pulled-up, breasts covered, sans midriff tops or anything exposing their chest tattoos and stomachs too much to ask? Am I expecting to much for them to understand what it means to be a college student? Or that people died fighting for their right to be able to step foot on any college campus? When a student comes to me and says that s/he doesn’t know why an instructor dropped him/her from a class do I really have to ask if they have been to every class? Are or should the expectations at a technical college be lower than a 2-year or 4-year college or university? Here lately I kinda feel like I went into this thing blind. I mean, I expected to ‘advise’ these students on being successful in college but I often feel as though everyone around me has been bitten by the ‘This is how it’s been because people don’t like change and all you can do is advise them to the best of your ability’ bug. Some days I feel like I am still in K-12, or working for people from the same family. Apathy is both contagious and potentially deadly, depending upon the situation/environment.
I don’t know…maybe my boss was right: Maybe I do take things too seriously. After all, we can’t all be on time for work, care about the quality of service we provide to students, or advise them correctly right? Or maybe I am in this environment to learn a lesson (or two). I do know this: I am beyond making excuses for people. I, too, was a first generation college student. With regard to getting ‘homework help’ in high school, I was pretty much on my own, as I am sure a lot of people were. I am not knocking my family in any way but rather demonstrating that, at some point, we have to take ownership for our learning. Stop the excuses. Stop the ignorance. Stop the finger-pointing. Or at the least, pray that someone will intervene on our behalf and either show us the way, give us a stern talking-to or shake the hell out of us.
I will end this rant-gone-awry with this message, from one glasses wearing, book-reading, violin-toting, late bloomer to all the kids experiencing the same thing: It gets better. You’ll get smarter. You’ll outgrow your awkwardness. Even if you don’t, remember what my Granny said: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.”
Yes, I’ve read the book. And
hell yeah maybe there was some truth to the manner in which I handle change, but at least I don’t blame other folks when their late and/or half-arsed last-minute and ill-planned changes affect thousands of people. Or send them to the wrong department simply because I don’t feel like being bothered. The past 2 weeks at work have been the closest thing to hell-on-earth that I have ever experienced. With the transition to a semester system, advising and registering hundreds of new students (on a 19-hour work week), and a bunch of other stuff that does not fall anywhere within my job description, most nights I have been in bed and asleep/comatose by 9 P.M. And anyone who really knows me knows that I don’t sleep before 1 A.M.
With all the things that have been going on at work and my personal life, I have been forced to step back and reassess myself and who I really am, as well as why I am the way I am. (Hope that all made sense) I have been working with my life coach @StephanieAlva of @MyLifeKeys for several months now. I will admit that I have made some noticeable growth and positive changes, but I also recognize that I have a very long way to go…..but I am human and some SHAT still bothers me.
The people in my family were raised with a very strong work ethic (now that doesn’t mean all of us still have it, but it was taught). I always take what I do seriously. I guess you could say I subscribe to the ‘Play hard or go home’ theory because you are either all in, or all out. I believe that any issue/problem with an organization is a reflection on me, as I am a part of that organization. Sure, I am a lowly part-time employee, but I still walk around with my I.D. badge that clearly identifies me as an employee. And as long as I do, I expect the organization to make a positive impression with our ‘customers’, i.e., students. BTW: I do not refer to them as customers….that’s org speak. I cannot tolerate people passing the buck or simply telling students ‘I don’t know’ simply because they are not in the mood to deal with an issue created by their department. Or worse, sending students to an office to ask about things NOT related to the duties/responsibilities of that office. When the hell did it become acceptable for people to do as little work as possible, while still giving the illusion that they are actually ‘earning their keep?’ Did they not get the memo about our country being in a recession? Or that there are thousands of more qualified and better-educated unemployed people waiting for an opportunity to actually do some work?
For almost 4 years I wanted nothing more than to find a job. I have one now but I am working and reading anything I can find on becoming a successful (key word) entrepreneur. Yes, I love working with students and helping them as they get started with the high education journey but I’ll be damned if most days it seems as though 80% of what I do has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose for which I was hired. I am starting to feel like ‘Peggy’ from those Capital one commercials. I am literally running out of excuses to give people!!!!! And when I have to say, ‘I am sorry, but I do not have the answer to that question. I do not know why they sent you to this office because we do not handle fill-in-the-blank issues,’ I just feel like I am yet another person giving them the runaround. But I digress because I have to catch-up on 3 weeks work of data entry, which I could not get done because I refuse to have students wait while I enter crap into the computer.
The more I think about it, the more I wish our ‘customers’ would start demanding better service. Or at the least, take their ‘business’ elsewhere. As the tried-and-true saying goes: ‘Money walks, and b.s. walks.’ A school cannot pay its bills if there are no students.
‘I am done with school….I don’t need to learn anything else!’ That is what I have said time-and-time again when asked ‘What do you plan to do next? Ph.D.?’ I can’t even lie: I love learning. My problem is that opportunities to utilize (most of) the things I have learned are scarce, unless of course I belong to the ‘right’ sorority, church, etc. So whenever I have conversations with people about what I know about education, leadership, curriculum, etc. they look amazed and ask, ‘Why aren’t you in a classroom?’ Rather than give them the entire story about the drama with that school system, I just say: ‘I got tired of the politics.’
Lately I’ve gotten a bit nostalgic about the time I spent in the classroom. Yes, even the memories of the ‘problem’ students can still make me smile or literally laugh-out-loud on most days. But even more than that, I am thinking about going back to school to sort of re-invent myself. Actually, I will be going back to school next week. Not another grad program, but instead I will be enrolled in the E-Learning Design & Development Specialist certificate program at one of Georgia’s technical colleges. And I am really excited! I get to learn something new (for free) and I am not required to sit in a class and listen to someone lecture (zzzzzzzzzz). BONUS: Did I mention it was free? Yep, thanks to the Georgia HOPE Grant (and people like myself who buy lottery tickets hoping to win $300 million dollars) I get to take two of the classes for free. Had it not been for Governor Nathan Deal’s new legislation, I would get to complete the entire program for free but I can’t complain…
The enthusiasm I have for working with first-generation college students, helping them choose a career path, encouraging them to think beyond the certificate/diploma/degree and most importantly, stressing that learning should never stop, has motivated me to add another dimension to my professional repertoire. I will admit that I knew very little about technical education before I started working as an Academic Advisor. My definition of technical education was limited to references about cars, heating, air conditioning, and computer stuff; however, the past 4 months on the job have completely broadened my definition and given me a new-found respect for technical colleges and the programs they offer. More importantly, I know that students really do learn in technical colleges and the instructors really teach. Students must work to earn their certificates, diplomas, and/or degrees. In fact, our college provides a guarantee to prospective employers that offers free (my most favoritest word) training to any graduate of our college who may lack all the required skills. Wow. How many 4-year colleges and universities do that? I can sure think of some folks who need to go back for basic training in the areas of speaking and writing, but that’s a different post altogether.
As April 5th nears, my excitement builds and I have yet another example to share with students why learning must never stop.
So I am sitting here, at the computer, with nothing to do (unless I count Tweeting as ‘something’). Yes, I am at work but this is an unusually slow day. As a matter of fact, the past few weeks have been pretty slow. Our ‘peek’ times fall around registration and orientation days. When I am bored, my mind begins to wander….
‘What am I supposed to be doing?’
‘Am I in the right place?’
‘Am I better suited for a K-12 classroom?’
‘Why do I feel like I am not making a contribution?’
*Sigh* I feel a little guilty for having these thoughts, especially since I’m an Academic Advisor at a technical college. After all, students come to me (us) with questions regarding course selection, career choices, etc. How in the heck can I (correctly) advise someone on a career choice when I don’t even know what I want to do???
I guess I just have to take comfort in knowing that sometimes the blind leading the blind just works. Especially when they smile, say ‘Thank you so much!’ and come back to see me.
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!