Maybe Nursing is Not for You…

1 Jun

… but please, don’t be a nurse…

I have never been one to stomp on a student’s dream.  As an advisor my job is to support and encourage a student’s dreams and plans for achieving their goals.  However, it pains me to talk to students who swear that getting a nursing degree is their one and only career goal — and s/he continuously fails basic math AND swears that s/he can’t stand anatomy and physiology.

I believe all human beings are smart, capable, and have something positive to contribute to the world — no matter how big or small.  So if you know a fellow student (or perhaps this person is you…) who just hasn’t figured out what that special SOMETHING is yet, there is hope for you yet.  Please understand:


I am 34 years of age and my vision of my “ideal career” shifts as I learn new things about myself.  The person I was at 20 is not the same person I am today (thank God!).  Allow yourself some wiggle room for discovery in your first semester or two of community college — whether you are a student who is fresh out of high school or 45+ years of age.  Take that course that interests you — just because it’s available.  Worst case scenario: even if you don’t like it, at least you’ll know early on rather than wasting time and money on a major that doesn’t suit you.  Best case scenario:  you love it and decide to switch your major to something that moves you!

So, if you are currently a nursing — or pre-nursing major — only because it’s the only health career you know of, please take a look at this site:

This site offers a wealth of information on at least 100 different careers in the health field.  Once you find something that peaks your interest, make an appointment to talk with your advisor and your career counselor to discuss developing a career path that is unique to your interests.  Just don’t end up like this…


Summer School is a Waste of Time and Money

12 May

Registration.  I absolutely hate it.  If I could give away part of my job to somebody else, it would be mass registration days.  The days when hundreds of new students arrive on campus needing to enroll in a course, “fix” their financial aid, buy overpriced books ($165 for a basic math book is ridiculous #imjustsayin), etc.  Some of them bring their children, parents, baby carriages, and significant others with them to share in this important moment in their lives.  While I appreciate the sentiment, deep down I wish they’d all just stayed home as extra people only adds to the chaos.  Everyone asks the same questions — OVER, AND OVER, AND OVER AGAIN.  Our office is generally business casual.  Today we traded in our cute heels for sneakers and flip flops so we can make our way through crowds of frustrated students who have been in one line at least two hours, only to be told to go to another line to wait for another 3 hours.  It’s not unusual to have a student or two in desperate need of some home training who cusses out the entire staff just because she’s tired of waiting so long (and it usually is the females — when did young women get so aggressive?).  At least this go-round, I was able to sneak away for 22 glorious minutes of peace during my lunch break.  The first 8 minutes were stolen by a woman who cornered me in the kitchen asking questions about her courses.  I obliged, knowing that she was just nervous about everything school related and just wanted to make sure she was doing the right thing.

All of which leads me to wonder why people enroll in summer school anyway.  Most of the students I saw today are first time college students who are all gung-ho about school and want to do it — all or nothing.  I explain to the student that summer school is only 6 weeks, as opposed to the normal 15 weeks.  There is no time or space for “course shopping” or getting used to the whole pace of college.  If a person has waited so long to finally “do school,” why not wait a few more weeks and start in the fall?  What is it about American culture that makes people think they are “behind schedule” and that they must make up for their lack of a degree by putting themselves through summer school hell?  I’ve taken a few summer courses myself thinking I was keeping myself “on schedule.”  To be honest, I don’t even remember those courses as I was barely keeping up.  I could maybe understand if a student is close to graduation and needed just a few more credits so they could finally “just be done with it” as folks often say.  But is it wise to allow new students who had never been to college before and mostly deficient in basic skills?  School should be enjoyed.  Exercising your brain cells should be fun.  It shouldn’t be plowed through like a chore.

Why Can’t Learning Look More Like This?

31 Mar

Yeah…  I love TED Talks.  If you ever need some inspiration for a new idea — or a new way of looking at an old idea, TED Talks is the place to go.  If I ever got invited to do a TED Talk, I’d just cry.  But back to the video…

Physics, art, theater, world cultures, psychology, technology, a little animal behavior research, and a lesson on teamwork thrown in for good measure.  FOLKS, THIS IS WHAT LEARNING SHOULD LOOK LIKE!

Are Community Colleges Preparing Students for Change?

23 Mar

Let’s be honest here.  There is no magic ticket to the perfect career anymore.  Students ask me all the time, “What kind of job can I get with this degree?”  That’s exactly the kind of outdated thinking we need to get our students out of.  Career services websites are riddled with those little charts giving a sample of careers that are matched to majors (I’m not against these charts, btw… They just need to be used correctly). The truth is, jobs change, industries change, and people have to change with them — if you want to be employable.

Think about how technology has changed the world of work.  The internet has allowed people to work from anywhere in the world.  New job titles are popping up all the time.  Ten years ago, most people didn’t know what a green job was.  Now everyone and their grandma is thinking of ways to go green.  Think about how social media has changed the way businesses market their products and all the new skills marketing experts had to learn to stay relevant.  How many jobs have you seen that have shown preference for people who speak a foreign language — and many of these are low-wage customer service positions?  Take a look at these articles and you’ll see for yourself that it is seems almost impossible to prepare for careers that don’t even exist yet.

10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

Ten Majors That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

So, I’m curious…  How do advisors and other community college professionals push their students to prepare for rapid change in the world of work?

If you like this post, please subscribe by email or subscribe through your favorite reader.

Bookmark      and Share


What’s Good Advising Anyway?

26 Jan

Why is it that my students don’t think I actually studied education?  They’re all shocked and surprised when I tell them that, yes, I actually have a master’s in education and took some doctoral level credits — also in education.  Is it because I’m too personable?  They take my attempts at harmless hallway chatter and questions about their family members as simple niceties.  As a demonstration of appreciation, they bring me lots of hugs and food when they have something they know I would like — and I will often do the same for them.  I consider this a big part of my job as an advisor.  My students trust me and my advice because we have a relationship.

Unfortunately, many of my students’ experience with the US education system has often been a hands-off relationship.  Over-crowded classrooms in-part have made it challenging for teachers to get to know their students.  To some advisors, and faculty who also advise students, the job of advising is simply to run down a list of classes, checking off what has been completed.  However good advising should inspire a student to actively participate in the creation of their own professional and personal lives.  And the only way to do that is to learn a little more about the student than just what major they chose.  So when students meet an advisor like me who gets on them for not doing their homework, or takes notice when I don’t see them in the hallways as I often did earlier in the semester, students are honestly shocked. After being shocked, they often come back to me and say, “Hey, Miss Halona, thank you!  You really made me rethink my decision to do XYZ…”   And after 8 to 10 hours of students constantly coming in and out of my office, just when I think I couldn’t crack one last smile without seeming fake, it’s those bright eyes and thank you’s that make me happy to be an advisor.

Low-Income Students and Career Choice

12 Jul

What do you mean selling ice cream is not a career???

Like many kids, I loved the ice cream man. In fact, I loved him so much, I wanted his job! As a Brownie (younger version of Girl Scouts) in elementary school, I remember one of the activities we did was draw a picture of ourselves in our ideal career. The group of mostly white middle class girls drew themselves as teachers, doctors, a chef, a scientist… The mothers beamed with pride as their daughters talked about their future plans.  I drew a picture of myself handing out ice cream from a little white truck to all the kids in my neighborhood. My mom was highly embarrassed — how did I know? Because she told me so on the way home. All the other girls showed so much ambition. And the lone black girl wanted to dole out ice cream from a truck for a living…

Looking back on the experience, I don’t think I really had any idea what it meant to choose a career. I think children base their earliest career choices on what they see around them. If you have parents who are well educated and know how to maneuver their way to the profession of their choice, somehow you pick up tips on how to do that as you grow up. If you come from a working class family, like me, the process of becoming upwardly mobile is a bit more difficult to figure out.

Exposure to Other Options

In my new position as an Advisor at Prince George’s Community College (PGCC), I recently met a 17-year old mother who said she was coming to college to learn medical billing and coding. I immediately perked up and asked why she chose that career. She said they make decent money and she won’t have to stay in school so long. I gave her a polite smile, but inside I was burning up. Was that her only criteria for choosing a career? So many people from disadvantaged backgrounds make their career choices based on the money they think is sufficient for survival and the least amount of time needed to be in school. I understood the urgency of her situation — she was a young mother who needed to make money as soon as possible. However, in the short time I was with her (I am not her assigned advisor…) what was the best advice I could give her to get her thinking of the possibility of life beyond just securing an entry level job? There are lots of career possibilities in healthcare administration, however you need more than just a certificate to do the work.  What I thought this young woman could use was an opportunity to be exposed to other options.

At PGCC, there seems to be a huge push to get students to choose a major in their first semester — and I can appreciate the reason why. Students who do not have the proper guidance can wind up taking a slew of courses that never really lead to an actual degree. Pushing students to choose a major early gives them a planned course list that they can follow during the time they are enrolled in the school. It doesn’t mean they are not allowed to change majors — it just gives them a plan early on. However, the whole idea of picking a major assumes the student is coming to college with an ideal career in mind. It assumes that they come from high schools that had a fully resourced career planning office or even participated in overpriced career focused summer camps. The truth is, many of my students don’t know much about careers beyond what they saw in their immediate environment. So how do I properly advise my 17-year old mother/student?

  1. Don’t belittle student career choices. How do I know that the student’s mom did not feed her family and pay the gas bill with a career in medical billing and coding? I have seen advisors and counselors outwardly laugh when they hear their students talk about their hopes and dreams. They perceive the student to have low expectations, and never really offer any advice to get them thinking about other possibilities. Belittling a student’s thoughts and dreams only makes them not trust you; you can’t properly advise a person if they only see you when the meeting is mandated. Instead of belittling choices, let them know that that is a great place to start. Perhaps medical coding and billing can be a great job while going to college. But what other courses can she take that lead to other positions in medical administration and offer greater professional mobility (and yes, bigger paychecks and benefits…)?
  2. Ask about their feelings towards work and career choices. I went to a careers conference earlier this year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center on Education and Work. It is a conference aimed at career counseling professionals who work mostly in universities, however there was some representation of community colleges and community based organizations. I enjoyed the conference (and do recommend it…) however I was a little annoyed with the fascination with aptitude and personality tests. I have nothing against these as tools for choosing a career, I just think it doesn’t make sense to start off an advising relationship with them. Does the student come from a household where both parents are working? Some of my students come from families of multiple generations of dependence on public assistance. How does that affect a student’s career choice? Many students are already fearful of tests and may be feeling like their intelligence is being questioned — particularly after being placed in developmental reading, writing, and math courses.

Do you advise college students who come from families with low-income?  Do you feel like advising these students is different from advising other groups?  Tell me about it!

Twitter for Adult Educators (Don’t be afraid…)

4 Jul

***Note: This post is about finding Twitter conversations relevant to adult education by using hashtags.  If you are new to Twitter, you may want to view this Slideshare presentation on Twitter for Educators by Samantha Morra.

It seems that Twitter seems to be a bit scary for some of the adult educators that I meet — and I cannot understand why.  Some say they don’t see the value in it.  Others say that they don’t know what to talk about.  Still others say they just don’t get the whole social media “thing”.  What makes Twitter valuable for me is access to conversations on topics that I want to know more about.  Think of it as the daily gossip column on your topic of interest.

I know there is a lot of other “stuff” going on in Twitter.  One way to filter out the conversations you don’t want to “hear” is to use hashtags.  Hashtags are keywords — metadata for my web 2.0 geeks — that people put into their tweets to alert others of what they are talking about.  Those hashtags then become searchable by anyone on the internet who wants to find others who are talking about the same topic.

Hashtags are noted by the pound sign and your keyword (NO SPACES!).  For example, one of my interests is vegetarian cooking.  I found a website that I used for recipes for a July 4th cookout that I wanted to share with other Twitter users.

FirstTeacher 7:23pm via HootSuite

#Summer #BBQ recipes for the #vegetarian #vegan

Notice the 4 hashtags I used:  #summer, #BBQ, #vegetarian, and #vegan.  How did I know what hashtags to use?  I did a hashtag search in Twitter’s search function to find the terms that come up the most.

Here are a few hashtags related to adult education that I find most useful.


  • This hashtag is for any and everyone interested in adult basic education, GED, and a little bit of ESL.


  • Every Thursday evening at 9pm EST there is a Twitter conversation surrounding issues concerning black students in education.  I will admit that much of the conversation focuses on the K-12 experience, however that doesn’t mean adult educators couldn’t find anything useful in the conversation.  Every week there is a different topic.  A few weeks ago, the topic was black girls’ experiences in school.  It made me reflect on the black women I teach and what may have led them to drop out of high school.  I HIGHLY recommend you look up twitter user @ileducprof — aka Dr. Winters, one of the stars of this ongoing conversation.  She is a professor who researches the sociological aspects of education.


  • This hashtag is short for workforce development.  This is sure to be useful for those of you doing combined GED/ESL and job training programs, career pathways, community based job training, etc.



  • Adult education is in desperate need of more teachers who know how to use educational technology for the benefit of their own professional development and that of their students’ learning.  Again, this conversation is filled with mostly K-12 folks, but we can learn from others.


  • I have seen some good posts pertaining to nontraditional students in the higher education environment.  It is also a good hashtag for those seeking information on how higher education continues to change (while others argue that higher education hasn’t changed a bit in years…).  In any case, I find it a valuable hashtag to add to my list.

#esl, #efl, #tesol, #tesl

  • These hashtags are for those specifically concerned with teaching English.  Lots of people in this conversation specifically work with adult learners in community colleges, community based organizations, etc.

It’s great to use these hashtags to search for others who are having conversations on the things that matter to you.  However, in order to get the full benefit of Twitter and hashtags, you must PARTICIPATE in the conversations.  Share articles that were interesting to you, then tell us why you thought they were interesting.  If you keep a blog, announce new posts with relevant hashtags.  Ask other Twitter users you find intriguing a question about the work they do — I promise, most will be happy to talk with you online.

Are there other hashtags that you have found to be particularly useful?  Please share!