I had the opportunity to be an adjunct professor at Paul Quinn College this fall. It was a big deal to me because teaching has always been something I just knew I would do and now I have the opportunity to do at the college level. What also makes this a big deal is that Paul Quinn College is also where I began my college life. This is me waiting for my panel interview. I was both excited and proud because it felt like I was coming home. For you to truly understand what I mean, you have to know that I did not graduate—at least not from Paul Quinn— but it was where I began to grow. It was where learned some life lessons, gained some life long friends and it was where I lost my voice. Working at Paul Quinn College is like finding my voice again and using that voice to teach young people who are a lot like I was.
As I walked the campus during my first weeks of class I looked at the buildings I attended class in, the grounds I used to run on, and memories came flooding back to me. I remember standing outside this set of doors talking to the guy that I was dating. This is the place where students used to hangout and socialize. He and I were discussing something now I cannot remember what, but I did not agree with him. Before I knew it, he had reached out to hit me and I tried to get away and go inside. I do remember thinking none of these people know how scared I am right now. No one knows that I need help. That was the moment I lost my voice. Now this area is used as a clothing closet to help students get ready for job interviews. Students at Paul Quinn College also have to dress professionally during the school day. This clothing closet helps those students who need more professional clothing as well. I volunteer here for a couple of hours a month so students can get help with professional clothes.
Paul Quinn College is an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) founded in 1872 by African Methodist Episcopal preachers in Austin, Texas for freed slaves and their children. Paul Quinn moved from there to Waco and finally to Dallas. You will see the schools institutional ethos "We over Me" in several areas on the campus as a reminder that we are stronger together no matter what our race, culture, socioeconomic status, or any other quality that makes us unique. Paul Quinn College has always been a small family like institution with a student population anywhere from 300 to 500 hundred students. This small family-like setting was ideal for me when I was a student.
The student ratio at Paul Quinn is about 9:1. Both my classes had less than 5 students in them, but because they are classes students need for certification they were allowed to “make”. These two students are in my Emergent Literacy class. One is a junior and the other is a sophomore. It was hard to conduct some of the engaging types of activities that you can do with a big group but it was easy for them to relax and ask the types of questions they needed to ask. Our sessions were intimate and productive.
There were 4 students in my second class., Reading in the Elementary School. This group was made up of juniors and seniors who are trying to get they course work together so they can being their student teaching. What is interesting about this group is that one of these students is an online only student from our newly established Plano campus which is comprised of students who are doing student internships in some businesses in Plano, Texas. They are taking their courses online. I use a screen sharing software and webcam to record and present the lessons for her and the other students in class. This was the first year that students were able to be in class this way. This group is more vocal and interacted well together.
As I began to prepare to teach my students, I kept in mind, my experience as a college student at Paul Quinn. I understand that just like I had issues and challenges they may also have challenges and issues. I understand that they are trying to find their way in life- just like I was. I have found my way home and so will they. I am here to help them find their way. As I prepared to teach them, I had in mind that more than likely my students would be placed in schools that are in low socioeconomic areas with students who have various needs and deficits like is typical of children who come from poorer areas of the city. I kept in mind the area that Paul Quinn is in. I planned my lectures with all of this in mind. I tried to plan ways for the students to learn what their students should come to them knowing, how to assess to learn what academic level their students are learning on, and gave them practical tips to teach them how to move their students to the next level. We even discussed ways to get parent involvement. I taught each lecture modeling how they would interact with their students, showing them different ways of engaging them, and also telling they how the student brain works so they can consider that when planning their own lessons for their students. This experience has been very rich and fulfilling for me. I know this is what I was meant to do. I look forward to many more opportunities to pour into these young future educators.
Thank you for reading
Pearl Garden, Ed.D has completed her dissertation research involving understanding the vocabulary instruction practices of early grade teachers. She has a passion for the new and novice educator, and it is her goal to help educators tackle the achievement gap with her research findings. She will use this blog to share what she has learned in “pearls of literacy”. The ideas come from her dissertation titled “A Content Analysis of the Vocabulary Instruction Habits by Early Grade Teachers”.