Today I say “so long” to my Purdue University Global (PUG) students, as it’s their last day in my class. Next week I will welcome my new group. I always get sappy during the last few days of class, especially when I have a great connection with the students. This particular class was super awesome. They shared and they allowed me to share. They taught and were highly receptive to my teachings. I enjoy learning from my students. It’s an intense 10-week learning experience.

Any teacher, instructor, professor, who says that they don’t learn from their students, needs to reconsider why in the world they are doing this day in and day out. Our students have diverse backgrounds and experiences, and through sharing, we can learn a lot from them. I learn about industries and fields that I’ve never worked in, companies that I’ve never worked for, positions that I’ve never held, family experiences I’ve never had, cultures that I don’t know much or anything about, and places that I’ve never been. For them, I share my experiences, adventures, skills, and strengths. I pour into them as much as I can for the time that we have together, hoping that some of what I invest in them has some long-term stickability.

Yes, I invest in them. That’s why I give them as much of me as I can.

I know that some of my students will be finishing their Bachelor’s degree soon, and they are either pursuing a Master’s degree, positioning themselves for a promotion or raise at work, leveraging this knowledge for the entrepreneurial goals, or just equipping themselves for whatever the future holds. I also have some students who pursued this degree because it served as a challenge, and achieving this goal will catapult them to the next big goal, even if they don’t know what that is right now.

In life, we are all teachers, sharing with the world our unique experiences and perspectives. There’s a small percentage of us who are blessed to have virtual and physical classrooms with 10, 25, 30, and over 100 eager students, waiting to learn, be challenged, and to challenge us.

So I’m both excited and nervous about welcoming my Fall semester, Atlanta Technical College (ATC) students to my classes this week. When you teach year-round (basically), you only have about one week before your next class, sometimes I get a two-week breather. There’s not much time to plan and prepare for the next group of students. So you have to be disciplined, create fluid and automated systems, be innovative and creative, and challenge yourself to do something new, bold, and exciting. Every semester I challenge myself to do something different. I don’t want my students recycling my lessons across campus. I don’t want incoming students thinking that they know what to expect from their time with me. Life isn’t predictable. I like for my classes to mirror life.

I look forward to the next 16 weeks with my ATC students. Every semester I challenge myself, and this semester is no different. I’m not sure if I’m prepared and ready for the ideas that I have outlined. I’m always experimenting with ideas. Some things work and other things don’t. It depends on the method of delivery and the format of the class—if its on campus, online, or a hybrid. Some students are more receptive than others, it has a lot to do with their backgrounds and previous experience. I find ways to bring in technology while also forcing students to think and research without first Googling it. If we’re supposed to prepare them for now and the future, then I have to do my part to bring them the now and the future. When I hear them say, “my other instructors don’t do that” then I know I’m on the right path.

Some of my students have goals of transferring to a 4-year college or university. Some desire to pursue their entrepreneurial or managerial goals. A few are angling for promotions or raises, and these courses, degrees, and certificates help them to get one step closer. Others are soaking up knowledge to be better, think broader, and see more. Some aren’t quite sure what they’re doing or where they’re going. That means that they need the types of learning experiences that will help them to see what feels right for them and their future. I’m glad to be of service.

In less than two hours I will stand before one of my classes, see their nervous faces, and give them a peek into the next 16 weeks, that will hopefully have a lasting and positive impact on them for years to come. That’s what many of my college professors did for me, and that’s my goal for my students. I may be teaching a student who is just like I was. I can’t let them down. So let’s do this!

~Natasha

Copyright 2019. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

I’m honored to share the video below of a brilliant man who is also my cousin.

Mr. Harold Wallace III is my paternal third cousin, who I knew when he was a baby and small child. We lost touch as he grew into young adulthood and manhood, but thankfully a few years ago we reconnected on Facebook.

Harold spoke at the TEDx that was held on March 27, 2018 at Pittsburgh State University (PSU) in Kansas. The theme was “Diversity in Our World“. The title of Harold’s speech is “The Everyday Struggle: Switching Codes For Survival“.

Harold shared a few nuggets of information that I already knew, like the cities where he grew up in California, that he was an intelligent child, and that he earned his MBA and is a staff member at PSU. But the bulk of what he shared about himself I did not know and apparently neither did his mother (for he apologized in the beginning for what he was now sharing publicly).

My eyes welled up with tears to hear him recall childhood memories of violence that he witnessed and experienced firsthand on the streets in L.A. County. I had no clue of the survival techniques he had to utilize to not become a negative statistic.

How in the world did he thrive in an environment created to destroy?

The only reasoning that I can come up with as to why Harold survived and thrived when so many didn’t and don’t is because:

1) God’s angels kept their hands on him and he did not resist their guidance and redirection, and

2) His family’s love and support, and

3) His love of education and learning kept his mind and heart focused on bigger and greater, and

4) Harold mastered the art and science of code-switching (which he explains in this TEDx Talk).

This recipe doesn’t always work for all people, but it clearly worked for Harold.

What Harold defines as “code-switching” is what I grew up mastering (and helped raise my sister to understand) as “mask switching“. I’ve been doing it for almost 40 years now. It’s become my way of life. Harold shared an example of another master code-switcher, former US President Barack Obama.

To hear brief examples of how Harold has had to code-switch and especially now as an adult, I teared up again. It takes a great deal of effort and energy, but he does it every single day in his attempt to bring and maintain “harmony” in every environment he enters. Please watch the video to learn more.

Something else that Harold shared that I never knew and never thought to ask him, was why he pursued a career at a university. Harold is the Assistant Director of Student Diversity Programs at PSU. To hear his reason and passion for what he does and why, I smiled brightly—because it’s similar to why I pursued and am now a college professor. You have to hear Harold tell his story in this TEDx.

I love Harold’s solution to our diversity needs and issues in the US, especially, as it relates to our current cultural climate. It’s brilliant. It’s simple, well…to a willing participant. Any person who wants to be valued and respected should try out Harold’s approach and see how it helps to change how you see and treat yourself and others.

Please watch this awesome video of Harold. I’m not just saying it’s awesome because it’s my cousin speaking. I’m saying it’s awesome because the message shared is powerful, moving, compelling, engaging, and encouraging. There is a takeaway from his message, there’s a call to action without the firm ask; there’s an indirect challenge to see if we all have it in us and are willing to L.I.E.

What’s L.I.E.? You have to watch the video to find out! After you watch it, please share this with others and feel free to comment below this post. Thank you.

~Natasha