Teaching and college administration has been my calling for well over a decade. From 2005-2009, I fulfilled that passion at ITT Technical Institute. When I read the news today, that they were no more, my first thought was, “Good! This is long overdue.” It was quickly followed by, “What will happen to all those students?” I am going to put aside the analysis of all the bad things done under the banner of higher education while the colors of ITT Tech flew high upon the helm. I am not going to think about the fortunes gained and lost by shareholders, employees, and taxpayers. Today, I want to talk about that secondary concern…the students.
Now that the school is closed, where will these students finish their education? As outlined, some will seek loan forgiveness, some will drop out, the rest will seek a new college. My hope is that most of them will find another college. My fear is that many that wish to finish somewhere else, will find that there is no room at the inn. State and private schools have record numbers of applications and not enough seats to accept them. A similar scenario for different reasons awaits them if they remain in the market driven college realm. Those systems have experienced significant slowdowns, with several meeting the same fate as ITT Tech, or operating as a much smaller college.
If you are like me, you look at that data and ask yourself – “What can I do about this?” My brief answer, in two parts:
- I will prepare myself to meet more students who have had a negative education experience, or hear more negative than positive these days regarding college overall. It is more than school closures – it is noticeable safety issues, degrees with few marketable skills, high debt, the list is truly without end. When I hear these issues in class, I will actively listen and not try to defend. I will facilitate understanding.
- I will support local movements that seek to meet with students and provide options to them. Even though these students are not “mine”, I am pledging my willingness to educate any one of these affected students. I will do so formally through my University, but also ask other education leaders in the region what can be done. I think about the RED teams that a city will dispatch to court an employer or secure a regulation that will facilitate solid job creation and economic development.
I choose these two actions because they are within my area of control. I proudly work as an associate professor at University of Phoenix. I have been active in causes supporting business and education for two decades in and around Riverside, CA.
One thing I teach first year students is that they need to assess their skills and abilities, then apply them to the problem at hand. I can imagine no better service to students than to follow my own advice and work tirelessly until I make a positive difference in their lives and help them reach their career and academic goals.
What will you do? #ITTTechstudents
Note – Bruce Baron and the San Bernardino Community College District are already doing great work, see the article here
I teach freshman because I believe the first few classes in college set the tone and level of academic rigor for both the student and the thousands of people working in the college. I want to be someone that makes a difference in the lives of others. Their successful completion of their academic goals IS my purpose and why I wake up (almost) every day excited about what I will learn if I ask the right question.
Teachers, and I use the term broadly since teaching does not only happen in a four walled classroom, must keep why at the top of their vocabulary list. As we teach, we share our beliefs, opinions, upbringing and biases with our students. Accepting this is a good practice to incorporate into our mentoring and teaching opportunities. We are products of our environment and our environment is not always neat and pretty. And that is great. Nature has purpose and order, but that purpose and order comes from a place that can be chaotic and dirty and hard to grasp without a larger focus. Our mission and our students’ goals provide that larger focus.
Don Quixote and Sancho with Cervantes watching
While building the foundations of an effective writing practice, I drill home the value of answering why. Why are you writing this paper? Why are you taking this class? Why should your reader pay attention to the points you make? In my experience, fulfilling the why is more important than your actual point of view or argument. In writing, justification (the why) is what matters. You can say anything. But if you don’t bother to state why you believe something or how you developed a conclusion, you are wasting everyone’s time with your words.
In the academic or the personal lives we lead, helping those around us know the why of our decisions can build a movement people can support. Knowing why the chicken crossed the road is more important than knowing the type of chicken or GPS coordinates of the road. College is about developing minds to incorporate a wide variety of opinions and facts and experiences. Those who work with students to create a positive First Year Experience do better when they take the time to know the why of their work. Isn’t that why we chose to be right here, right now, in the first place?
I’m in heavy training mode these last two weeks thanks to my full time faculty position with University of Phoenix. I get the pleasure of working with first year students to support their career and academic success. What I am learning is too large to put into a list…but I have dozens of PowerPoints and Word documents at my disposal!
What is clear, from all of these resources and the excellent Wiki page the faculty and staff have put together, is a structure that has been built over decades – and I get to stand on it and say – LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! Hopefully I will do more than that. My hope is that I will be able to add a wall, or a floor, or even a curtain to a window of this amazing and ever changing structure.
What I see all to often in my professional career are folks who just never look down. Perhaps it is fear, perhaps it is hubris, perhaps just bad training or not enough hugs as a kid, these people forget their history and think they need to destroy or radically alter the city-scape they inherit in order to “leave their mark”.
In short, those people are wrong. We all know these people. We also know that they typically do not last. Their lack of vision and limited growth potential make them poorly equipped to do much useful for an organization. The employees we need to hire, train, value and care about are the ones that know they stand in greatness only because of the greatness of those who came before them. And they understand the obligation to continue that good work.
It is better to be part of something larger that will last for decades. Anyone can bring down those around them to stand tall for a minute, but the quicksand they spread all too far and wide will eventually bring them down as well. In parables from business, religion, history, or politics, our systems work best when built by caring hands who intend to grow what is in front of them and conserve it for the ones who will do the work when they are gone.