I will end this semester with my post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Facilitation. As a licensed social worker, I can truly say it’s been a pleasure to experience the field of adult education while getting practical experience in it for the past three years.
When I worked in social services, I facilitated orientations and conducted workshops for adult job-seekers. I had a semester of adjunct teaching experience, and was thinking about teaching again. Then I heard about CUNY SPS holding an open house at the Graduate Center. That’s how I heard about the program. The SPS representative told me that, whether or not I became a teacher, the program would make me a better workshop facilitator. In other words, I couldn’t lose. She was right.
Making the shift from social services to higher education was a culture shock for me, as I realized how much my students had to overcome in order to be successful college students. My first class, Adult Development (ED 602), couldn’t have come sooner. My classmate, Marie B, and I decided to research the relationship between college readiness and mentoring. My eyes were opened when I began to see systemic challenges my students are facing.
Two years later, I distilled our research into a lesson plan, Introduction to Seminar, which my colleagues and I taught this semester. The lesson reviews the four skill sets incoming freshmen must master to be successful in college: academic behaviors (study skills), contextual skills (knowing the culture of college), key cognitive strategies (problem solving skills) and key content knowledge (solid academic foundation). The other tangible result of my being in the program is that I created an online learning website to use with my students this semester. I am using my final class, Developing Programs for Adult Learners (ED 603) as an opportunity to engage my colleagues in a review of our curriculum.
More importantly, the way I’ve changed as a result of my participation in the program has been the biggest benefit to my students and me. I have become more knowledgeable, understanding, and empathetic which manifests in me having much more patience and increased ability to meet students where they are. In addition to learning from the professionals studying with me in the program, I have been consciously modelling the behavior of my Adult Learning & Program Facilitation teachers—Prof. Susan Fountain and Dr. Carol Robbins. They are both inspiring, experienced, creative, ethical educators who really know how to educate adult learners.
Again, it’s been a pleasure.
Rhonda Harrison is currently studying at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.