Friday, September 21, 2007

Humble Beginnings

This portable classroom has been my "home" for more than a month now. It sits on the edge of a parking lot on the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg College and I spend my days inside advising and mentoring juniors and seniors from 16 different high schools about how to be successful as full time college students. Harder than it looks!

The students aren't the only ones who have had a transition to make.

I've moved from hands-on teacher with complete control over curriculum and my classroom to an advisor/academic coach who has no real control over what these students learn and how they learn it. It's a letting go I wasn't prepared for. I'm also not the only one learning how to let go - parents are having to release their babies into the real world two years sooner than they anticipated. This choice to leave the traditional high school for full time college at 16 or 17 years old isn't without cost. Their tuition and textbooks may be free, but the cost is high for some for them.

They left their friends behind. They struggle to remain in clubs or sports. If they want to stay connected to their "home" high schools, they will have to navigate conflicts with their classes and the high school schedule. Not so easy.

We're all learning together what this program is all about. I'm finding that involving the students in as much of the process as possible is what will enable all of us to be successful. They're great kids. I'm privileged to know them.

I coordinate weekly "seminars" on different topics. This week I held one about College Advising and introduced them to an academic advisor at the college who will help them on their path to the AA degree and beyond.

I have a lot to learn to make sure these wonderful students graduate with both their high school diplomas and their AA degrees, but I'll do whatever it takes to ensure their success. We may be small and in a trailer on the edge of a parking lot, but we're mighty in spirit, and that's what matters most!