As a 16 year veteran educator, I am always keen to what students feel and how to address their concerns.
At a roundtable discussion with students at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, N.C. after Secretary Duncan’s town hall meeting last week, the students were open and honest about educational reform and the need for jobs in this country.
Their voices were clear: institutions that provide high-quality education, ongoing use and creation of technology to fuel educational practices, training programs for non degree-seeking displaced workers, are important priorities to ensure a strong American economy.
Johnny, a 25-year veteran of the Hospitality industry is a displaced worker who found himself at Wake Tech because he was laid off and has found it difficult to find another job. There was no laughter in the room when he stated that “age” discrimination is real and that he has faced it while trying to become re-employed. He was adamant when he said a bipartisan coming together to create jobs must occur now to ensure America’s stronghold as a world leader, especially in terms of the economy.
Fiaunna, a mom of a high school senior, is unwavering in her opinion that we must reform how we teach young people and the uses of technology in the classroom. After receiving a bachelor’s degree years ago, she noted that her two years at Wake Tech has been a stronger learning experience than her time as an undergraduate at another institution. After her previous job as a veterinarian’s assistant was eliminated, she took it upon herself to return to school. She is learning the hands-on skills that she needs to be highly successful as the owner of her own veterinarian facility one day. She notes that traditional colleges and universities must implement courses that will make graduates more career ready. Internships, hands-on experience in fields of study, and real-world experiences are just as important as traditional study.
Keyona is a young woman who was accepted into several universities but her family could not afford the tuition. She decided to attend Wake Tech. Her experience has strengthened her control of herself as a student and she feels a sense of comfort and belonging because of the innovative practices that have been implemented at the institution. With sincerity, she says that the financial challenges of furthering her education are real, and that she and other students would like some relief in terms of ways to pay for their education.
Jeannie, a nursing student, was a stay at home mom who has returned to school and strongly believes that giving students the support they need to be successful is a hallmark of a great institution of learning. Wake Tech’s open and clear communication and varying class times were instrumental in her choice to attend. She notes that schools should be aware that easy access to information through websites and simple instructions for registration and other processes draw students in.
The voices of these students and the others in this discussion were powerful.
Students want their voices heard. They plea for high-quality educational services, but more than anything, they want to be assured that they will have jobs to match their skills upon completion of their degrees.
Angela McClary-Rush is a teacher at Williamsburg County School District in South Carolina, and a 2011-2012 Teaching Ambassador Classroom Fellow