Reflections on Dream 2016

 

hope_graphicLate last month, more than 2000 people descended upon Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency for the Dream 2016 conference, a forum where community college educators, administrators, researchers, policy-makers, and thought-leaders come together to share in the conversation that began with the Achieving the Dream movement. To say it was an inspirational event would be an understatement. For colleagues who have attended this in prior years, they warned me that it would be informative, overwhelming and inspiring. I was not disappointed. If there was ever a place where one felt part of a much larger mission, one that existed to help better mankind through the education of some of our most vulnerable and under-served populations, this was it.

Our learning lies in the telling of our stories.
~ David Price, Open: How we will work, live and learn in the future (quoted at Dream 2016)

Digesting it all has taken awhile. Like most of you, I’m sure, when you return from an academic conference that hits in the middle of a busy semester, you are running from the moment you return, catching up with all the important emails that required a more thoughtful response, answering questions and reviewing student assignments (if you also teach, as I do), refocusing on the backlog of reading needed for the next committee meeting. It can seem like a lifetime ago when you were there, among all those people who shared an excited commitment to the mission at hand.

Expand knowledge beyond the shores of wonder…
~ heard during one of the sessions, Dream 2016

And then you realize it… at least I did…that I was DOING the work that we were all talking about. As I would occasionally fall into the haze of recovery from travel or just plain mid-semester overload – you know, that feeling where you know there is something you should be doing but your brain is stuck in neutral – it would dawn on me as my next move was decided, that I was framing my responses in light of the lessons I’d learned from the many presentations I had attended at the Dream conference.

Transformative change requires three kinds of change at the same time: Structural, Process, and Attitudinal. And it must happen on multiple levels.
~ notes from presentation on iPASS, Dream 2016

Panicky students sent emails about assignments after two snow days fell on two consecutive Wednesdays that was then followed by Spring break. Taking a deep breath, I reflected upon the best way to diffuse their panic while making the best of the learning objectives for the course.

[We are] not just a community college, but THE COMMUNITY’s college.
~ Jim Jacobs, president, Macomb Community College, heard at Dream 2016

Over the next 10 days, I responded and reviewed and reassured students. I sent out pro-active emails and announcements from Blackboard. I offered to meet with students outside of class. I offered to look over their work in progress and provide feedback. And, for the most part, it seemed to work. About 1/3 of the class was ready with the several assignments that were due. And another third was nearly ready.

It’s important to remember the stories. People will forget the numbers (data). But they will not forget the stories. History can promote thought. But…humanity promotes action.
~ Wes Moore, author, speaking at Dream 2016

There were still those students who could not complete their goals to catch up over the Spring break in spite of the availability of technology to work on assignments, in spite of my availability to help guide them. There were other factors that challenged them – those life issues faced by many of our community college students that we often talk about. But we made a pact and set some new goals together, including new deadlines with high expectations while not leading these students out the door. I believe in them and let them know it. I believe each and every student can succeed to the best of their ability and potential. And I share that with them, too, so that they can begin to believe in themselves.

Change your lens…by addressing each student as a Dream Scholar.
~ Tamika Narvaez-Payne, Dream Scholar student from Bakersfield College

Hope is a powerful tool.

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