New Things Are Scary

My 5-year-old son will be starting kindergarten in the fall. It is our first foray into the world of early-childhood education. Despite the fact that I successfully navigated schools and colleges, and have been an educator for 12 years, this has me nervous.

See, I know nothing about little-people education. You can laugh but I’ve never felt so incompetent. I know kindergarten is different from “back in the day.” I have no idea the skills you build, the sequence of learning to get a kid to figure out math in his head instead of on his fingers. I’m a bit daunted.

All of which has got me thinking a lot (too much) about how scary and mysterious the world of community college must be for new students, too. If you have no experience with college save what you see on movies and television, that first foray onto the campus must be the source of some anxiety. The situation is all the more difficult if you are a new immigrant, the first in your family to attend college, an older student, or any number of other subsets.

As professors, I think we forget what a strange new world college can be for our students. They have questions about how the whole system works; questions about where to even go to find things out. Instead of focusing solely on our content area, we have a responsibility to help students understand and manage their community-college experience. That can be as simple as walking through the college’s Web site with students or inviting a guest speaker from student-support services to come to your classroom.

Walking in the door of the neighborhood elementary school for the first time, I was nervous. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect. Students feel the same way in our classes. For them to succeed, we need to help them feel comfortable and connected.

How have you successfully welcomed students and helped them navigate the unknowns of community-college life?

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