(#66) Thirty Years. A New Semester. Some Enduring Lessons.

One of the perks of teaching is that every semester we (faculty and students) get to start fresh. Regardless of what happened last term, we can craft a new direction.  It’s almost like an academic mulligan.

When we kick off the fall term tomorrow morning (August 29, 2011) at Florida State College at Jacksonville it will mark the beginning of my 30th year as a classroom teacher.   That’s a lot of syllabi, tests, graded essays, and faculty meetings. But more than that, the years have provided me with enduring professional and personal relationships.  The profession has allowed me—nay, required me—to be a constant student. At the end of the spring semester, I mentioned to one of my classes, “I think I am starting to get the hang of this teaching thing!”  If nothing else, I have become a student of student success.

One thing I know is that when it comes to student success there is no magic bullet, no easy formula, and for goodness sake, there is no standardized test that will foster it or measure it. 

As we begin this new semester, I want to share a couple of thoughts I shared with the faculty and administration of Ferris State University (Big Raids, Michigan) last week at their retention summit. (NOTE: Ferris State has developed a wonderfully collaborative initiative to examine and increase retention and graduation rates. They could become a model.) I will share this information with my students as well this week.  When it comes to persistence to graduation (“stick-to-itiveness”), the data are interesting. For instance, CCSSEE (Community College Survey of Student Engagement) 2008 found reasons that students dropped out of college (that is, did not persist in their studies) included

  • Financial issues (45%)
  • Conflicts with full-time employment (38%)
  • Care for dependents (29%)
  • Academic issues (19%)

Being successful in college obviously requires academic rigor. That goes (or should go) without saying.  But there are so many other factors that our students must face. (At the Ferris summit, a student panel shared many of the same factors that CCSSE found.)  

A colleague from many years ago told me, “Steve, we teach so much more than our content areas.” 

How true.

For instance, our students need to know their national history. But more than that, they need to know how to apply history to current political debates. They need to know how to identify assumptions and confirmation bias—separate fact from fiction. That will help them much more than being able to regurgitate dates, battles, and names.

They need to know basic information about financial literacy.

They need to practice basic civility—and know how to apply this in the world beyond the campus. (Wouldn’t it be nice if our political leaders and talking heads would help by modeling such civility? Ah…the topic for a future blog post.)

They need to know that time management is a myth.  They need to learn how to manage their priorities

They need to know how to be curious. Embrace change. Live with an open mind. (NOTE: Image to the left is a creation of “digitalart.”)

They need to know how to identify and use the resources that their colleges and universities provide for them.  I think it would be safe to say that they will never again be in one location that offers so many resources for their success.

They need to know that their success is in their hands and a reflection of the choices they make. Their today is the tomorrow they created yesterday. (See my blog post “Today-Tomorrow-Yesterday.”)

They need to be confident that the teachers they have will do all they can to guide, demonstrate, and model behaviors that will help them achieve their dreams.

And the above is just a partial list. You could identify more.

I look forward to the beginning of another semester in the classroom. I look forward to growing a lot more. And I am appreciative of the opportunity to work with a new group of students and to be a part of (if even in a small way) their journey.

Best wishes to all for an energizing and passionate semester.

[Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.  Please pass it (and any of the archived posts on this site) along to friends and colleagues. You can also follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. If you get a chance, visit my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/stevepiscitelli) and click on the “LIKE” button.  Also, if you have suggestions for future posts, leave a comment.  Have a wonderful week!]

© 2011. Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog.


About stevepiscitelli

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2 Responses to (#66) Thirty Years. A New Semester. Some Enduring Lessons.

  1. Pingback: A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2011 in Review « Steve Piscitelli's Blog

  2. Pingback: (#116) Simple Strategies for Adjustment and Transition to the College Culture « Steve Piscitelli's Blog

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