Let's Make it the Best of Times for Our Students
by Rosemarie Shamieh
I’m reminded of Dickens’ famous opening sentence: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
A former professor at Harvard University, Stephen Goldsmith, has dubbed today’s times as the “new normal” where “the current fiscal crisis isn’t a passing phase; it’s a new, enduring reality that must be confronted.” If you were at the recent Guild meeting, you heard several of our own esteemed colleagues express the very same sentiment.
Living in this “new” normal we are being asked to examine: What are we good at? (our Mission); What do people want from us? (our Market); How do we bring these together in a way that is true to our mission and generates resources? (our Margin).
This article isn’t about to answer these questions; I’m writing to remind our campus community of why we entered the teaching profession—because of the young and the old that find their way into our classrooms--our students!
Please allow me to introduce you to a few of our continuing education students:
- Meet Maher: Formerly employed as an engine assembler, Maher had never finished high school because at the age of 15 he needed to enter the workforce where he remained until he was laid off at age 41. Someone told him if he wanted to improve his chances of finding employment, Maher should enroll in noncredit GED classes at GCC. Traveling every day from his home in Van Nuys wasn’t easy, but he did just that, “And it was so worth it,” Maher said, “I walked away with more than just a diploma: I found hope--and my self-esteem.”
- And Sasha. A stay-at-home mom for over 20 years, Sasha has been taking computer and keyboarding classes at GCC since the start of the semester. It’s because of these classes, the dedicated faculty, and incredibly encouraging atmosphere that she is confident she has the knowledge and skills needed to reenter the workforce.
- And then there’s Nardeh. Within weeks of his arrival to the States from Iran, Narbeh was enrolled in noncredit ESL classes at GCC. The campus atmosphere and encouraging environment inspired him to take additional classes—classes he otherwise would never have considered taking. He took math and accounting, and just the taste of the technology offered him at Garfield has him wanting to pursue credit classes. His ultimate goal? To earn a US college degree in technology.
- Finally, let me introduce you to Hagop, who says, “Just because you’re in your 60s doesn't mean you can't surf the web like a pro.” He has taken both an Internet class and a second workshop on the topic at GCCs Garfield campus and is now teaching his granddaughter how to locate online tutorials for her math class.
These are but a few of the many hundreds of personal journeys that make up the fabric of our student population at Garfield.
In the words of Art Buchwald, “Whether it’s the best of times orthe worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.” While defining the “new” normal at the intersection of mission, market, and margin, let’s remember to make it the best of times for ALL of our students (credit and noncredit), and by extension, ourselves.
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