Monday, November 10, 2014

St. Michael Students Learn About College Through Panel Discussion

Last week at St. Michael High School in St. Michaels, Arizona, our Navajo Outreach Coordinator, Meg Holladay, organized a panel discussion of five teachers talking about their experiences in college. This was part of Blueprint for Success, a college-exploration activity that Reader to Reader is running at SMHS.

Students are very curious about college: what's it like to be there? Are professors mean? Is it hard to live with a roommate? Through this panel, teachers were able to tell their college stories. About 25 students, mostly juniors, came during their lunch period to hear them.

The teachers who volunteered to be on the panel had all had very different college experiences. They had attended Penn State, Notre Dame, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State and the University of Colorado, and Georgian Court University (a small women's college in New Jersey). They had majored in fields as diverse as biology, English, education, and the history of ideas.

Here is Meg’s report on the discussion.

I asked the teachers four questions:

How did you choose your college? When you got there, was it the way you expected?

One teacher said she hadn't expected to like a women's school, and her heart had been set on another college, but when she visited Georgian Court, it felt like a family and she fell in love.

What part of college was the hardest for you, and what was the most fun?

As the hardest part of college, several teachers mentioned social life: getting to know a new set of people, making friends, a divide between Native and non-Native students at UNM. Another teacher talked about trying to balance academics and social life. One teacher said that the intellectual exploration he did in college was the most fun part; another mentioned an English majors' club that organized events like bonfire poetry readings, and another talked about being a mentor for younger students.

What was your single favorite class and why?

One teacher said that her hardest biology class in college, a class in which she'd spend whole days studying, was also her favorite. Several students were incredulous that her favorite was such a hard class. Another teacher told the students about a child-development class in which he was the only man, and many of the women in the class were his grandmother's age--he said he got in touch with the part of himself that says "awww" at pictures of babies.

What part of college has most impacted your life today?

One teacher talked about the writing skills he gained, and how they've been applicable in many more places than he thought they would be. Others talked about social and intellectual skills.

Then we opened up the discussion to student questions. Students asked the teachers what they had written their application essays about, how much writing they had had to do in college, and what they had been afraid of that had turned out okay.

I think that everyone, including myself, left with a better idea of the range of experiences a person can have in college.

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