We’ve all heard expressions like, “You can take the boy out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the boy.” I think about that in smile-infested mid-coast Maine when I wear the t-shirt my daughter gave me, which reads, “I’m not angry. I’m from Philly.”

There’s often truth in such identifications, even if primarily they enable us to revel in bad behavior as sort of a tribal badge of honor.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about the applicability of that kind of thinking when it comes to old teachers. I’m not in the classroom these days, but I keep doing teacher things and thinking teacher thoughts. Remember the first (of a thousand?) M. Night Shyamalan movies? Well, I don’t see dead learners, no. But I see learning going on in all sorts of places.

And I see principles that apply to the tricky teaching-learning tango that professors and students attempt together every day also applying in nonacademic endeavors. I’ve seen that it’s really the dance of life—of growth and change. For some people, it’s the dance of survival.


In recent years, I’ve become involved with a nonprofit organization where I live that attempts to counter the opioid epidemic, the Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition. https://midcoastrecovery.org/ We all know about that epidemic because it’s everywhere and it affects people we know. A person undergoes change when one becomes addicted (when one experiences substance use disorder), and conscious self-change is needed when one enters the recovery process. That entails the hard work of learning, and it can happen in all kinds of nonacademic settings but also on the college campus.

Community College of Philadelphia, my alma mater (as a student and as a faculty member), has opened an Office of Collegiate Recovery, a resource for members of the college community to support their recovery https://www.ccp.edu/student-support/office-collegiate-recovery. Centers like this have opened at other colleges around the country.

They are premised on basic thoughts about recovery that resonate for a guy who used to teach his academic writing students about the scientific study of wellbeing and about various aspects of the “learning sciences.” As Pascal Scoles and Francesca DiRosa explain in “The Healing Pillars of Collegiate Recovery-A Community College Model of Recovery And Education”(to be published in the Journal of Student Affairs Research And Practice), individuals in recovery need (and services for them should provide) five things: “(1) a sense of hope (2) a secure/ supportive relationship (3) a means for self-reflection (4) avenues for mastery and competence exploration and (5) a sense of generativity and meaning.”


In Philly, it’s making a difference, as this Tori Skene piece points out. https://sobernation.com/community-college-of-philadelphia/ Faculty in all academic departments/disciplines encounter and want to help their students who are in recovery, but few of them are qualified to do so—unlike the staff at CCP’s Office of Collegiate Recovery. Quoted in the article is program founder and director Pascal Scoles (pictured), whose work in higher education and recovery has earned him numerous awards from the College, the city of Philadelphia, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania: “The recovery program can serve as an alternative… It can give a student in recovery a second chance.”

Students gravitate towards the peer and professional support that they find at the office. Seems to me that the OCR provides students with that and more—like a “home base,” an environment in which they can do things that increase those five critical factors in their lives.

In future posts, I will focus on how those five pillars that undergird student recovery programs also constitute a healthy approach to life for anyone. Recognizing the importance of such people, behaviors, personal cognitions, and social environments (to put them in Albert Bandura’s terms, which we’ve looked at in recent posts) can be a powerful turning point. Of course, paying attention to key things takes some effort. Next week, I will introduce you to someone who is doing just that.


Ned Bachus is the author of Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning (Wild River Books, 2017) and of the “Turning Points” weekly blog on nedbachus.com. City of Brotherly Love (Fleur-de-Lis Books), his book of stories, was awarded the 2013 IPPY Gold Medal for Literary Fiction.