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College and Responsibility

Joan Ramirez (NY/NJ Schools)

By Joan Ramirez
In grade school, my teachers used to make class rules. Whenever we didn’t follow them, she pointed to the chart. For all the prospective college students in the universe, I have a news flash: The rules stop the minute you start your Freshman year.
Even though my first year of college began with preparatory courses in my last year of high school, I still walked into class with butterflies in my stomach. To make matters worse, my World History professor planned on retiring so he lectured with the speed of a marathon runner. We all took down notes and left the class drained of energy. At the end of my first day of undergraduate classes, I wanted to quit, but it was a sleep away college and many miles from home. My wise Mom said to give it a month and then decide. To my surprise, after the first week I actually enjoyed classes because I focused on the prize—a great job in a profession of my choice. Today’s economy may not be as favorable to graduating students, but the following facts should be taken seriously:
1. Be focused on your goal and talk to everyone you meet about marketable majors. Have a minor in something you love and major in a topic that brings financial rewards. I adore photography, but I knew that it takes a long time to get established so I made certain to take business courses as an undergrad.
2. Forget the bargaining—there are no late, next day, or weekly makeups. You are responsible adults who will be expected to submit assignments on time and in a standard college format.
3. Exchange numbers and emails—form a study network. You’ll need the support at exam time and moral backing throughout your college years.
4. Be in error and correct. Be determined to pass with the best grade possible and move on with your studies. In addition, prepare for difficult subjects. The summer before a statistics class, I found a good tutor and beefed up my math skills. I completed the course with an A.
5. You’ve probably heard this piece of advice already but here goes: Find a mentor. During my college years, I sought professionals in my major who could give me advice. It also wouldn’t hurt to do volunteer work. I met some dynamic people while doing literacy work with children. However, the best part of this endeavor was the smiles on the faces of kids in danger of failing or dropping out. Your soul needs nourishment too.
6. Expect success—hard work, lots of studying, and persistence are worth the effort. You get out what you put in.
SOURCE: QUESTIONS FOR COLLEGE –an online website for new college students (May, 2012)

Joan Ramirez is presently using her Masters in Special/Elementary education to teach while forging ahead with publishing goals for three novels. In addition to teaching at the elementary school level, Joan lectures on ESL at various colleges in the New York/New Jersey area.

"Oh No, I have to speak in public."

New York Monitor Vol. 56 No. 4 — April 2008

by Joan Ramirez

When my grandmother came to America from
Russia, a lack of English made her insecure and
afraid. She worked in a dress factory and through
the kindness of a friend, started to study her
adopted language. Before long, she was helping
others to express themselves in writing.

While her lack of formal education kept her in
the factory, she met another immigrant who
courted and married her. Fanny Cooper used her
improved English skills to help educate ten children. Unlike my grandmother, there are many
professionals who have degrees, but their inability to express themselves clearly and concisely in
written and verbal communication prevents upward job mobility.

I feel so strongly about these vital skills that
I’ve gone back to school to obtain my second
Masters to teach ESL to adults. In the interim I
would like to share my knowledge with members
of the Engineering community to enhance their
writing and presentation skills. Now, a few things
to keep in mind:

• Think in English –not your native language—when you write on the job
• Always draft and revise
• Show your work to a colleague before submitting to the boss
Don’t forget to practice, practice, and practice—
to develop your writing style.

by: Joan Ramirez

Source: No Shortage of Work—online publication Fall, 2011

So many people talk about what is wrong with teaching today. I am going to tell you what is right. Last year, I completed my student teaching in a wonderful elementary school in New York City with several exceptional special education students in the third grade. One in particular has a stuttering problem and felt uncomfortable every time he had to talk in front of the class. In addition, he has test phobia in math. He tried several times to take a subtraction/addition test and quit after he was only half way through. On the fourth try, I told him that his dream of becoming a policeman will never come true if he can’t do math operations. He thought about it and finished the day. On the fifth try, he started the test, got frustrated, and was ready to quit–partly because he was so upset about his stuttering during response time earlier in the day. I told him to breathe deeply, think positive, and focus. He kept going. When he handed in his paper, he turned to me and said, “I tried harder this time, Mrs. Ramirez. I didn’t quit.”
That made my day. I helped a child to learn. A precious gift.
On another day, I worked with a boy who wears an FM device and is very self-conscious because of same. In addition, he is small in size for his age and self-conscious in gym. When I worked with him on math problems, he told me that he likes to learn but wants to be like everyone else. I told him that each of us has special gifts to offer, and we are all special in our own way. Little by little, I drew him out of his shell. Before long, we were partners on a math team and competed against two other kids. After a while, he picked someone his own age to be his teammate. However, I told him that I would always be there if he needed me. Again, it was great to see a child flourish in learning through positive support.
My third encounter was a recent assignment in a school in New Jersey with a middle grade young girl who told me of her desire to be a songwriter. With limited English, she composed a song that spoke of her feelings on life in middle grade. She also told me that she has composed many other songs. I told her to keep on writing. Before the end of the day, she sang a little of the song to me. As I was about to take the children to their parents, she handed me a card. When I arrived home, I read the message: “Dear Mrs. Ramirez, Thank you for listening to me. You are a patient and great teacher. Someday I hope to sing you my finished work.” I gave her my email and encouraged her to keep on going.
These are but a few of the wonderful encounters that I have had as a teacher with creative minds yearning to achieve.
In the fall, I hope to have my own class to nurture and encourage and share the successes that I’ve had in my professional life. To teach, as the saying goes, truly does touch and change, for the better, another life.