Stigmas can change, as last week’s post suggested. I’ve seen that happen since I walked in the doors of a community college as a freshman, since I walked out of the same college’s doors after 38 years of counseling and teaching, and since the publication of a book that sings the praises of nontraditional students and the community colleges that serve them.
Two years ago, Open Admissions: What Teaching at Community College Taught Me About Learning launched at Philadelphia’s Mermaid Inn, springing me into a round of bookstore, library, and college visits.
Two lessons that I learned from the Open Admissions writing/publishing experience concern stigmas: 1-how durable they can be, and 2-how nonetheless change is possible. Slowly but surely, stigmas about community college are being replaced by accurate and positive perspectives.
I plan to continue pecking away at misconceptions regarding nontraditional college students and the colleges and teachers that serve them so well. That was my intention two years ago when I began writing the weekly blog that I now call Turning Points.
Teaching nontraditional students taught me the importance of pivotal moments in our lives. I saw them occurring (or not occurring) in my students’ academic careers. Psychology taught me (and them) how we can effect real change in our lives.
Reading, writing, working on a nonprofit board, and doing other volunteer work has shown me that the same principles apply beyond the classroom. Consequently, my articles have broadened in focus in the last two years.
Another take-away from my “post-retirement” work has been the reminder that other people matter so much in learning and changing. I’ve seen it in recovery work, in organizational planning, in music, sports, writing, and teaching. We know this but don’t necessarily plan accordingly. At the second anniversary of the publication of a book that I had to write but that nobody had to publish, I want to thank the blessed souls who contributed to that process.
Early readers James P. Brady, Vince Castronuovo and Kathleen Bachus got me off to a good start with questions, concerns, and encouragement. Editor supreme Raquel Pidal prompted architectural and spiritual changes by asking all the right questions. Publishers Joy Stocke and Kim Nagy steered me through the practical and artistic process of making a manuscript into a book—and getting it out there. Tim Ogline designed a cover that captured the book’s essence.
And thank you, readers, who appreciate that community colleges, “the least sexy niche in higher education,” deserve recognition and support.
I will keep you informed here about changes in the field and about my ongoing writing projects. Because I plan to dive deep into that work in the months ahead, I will post less regularly than I have during these two years, but my passion and commitment to nontraditional students and to the schools that serve them remains constant.
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. Bachus’s article, “Learning From Turning Points in Our Teaching Lives,” was featured in the May issue of NEA Higher Education Advocate, which reaches over 150,000 college faculty in the U.S. http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/1901eAdvocate_ThrivingFinal.pdf