I have written in more than a few previous blogs about how the job of a success coach varies over the course of a given semester. What is most important at the beginning of a semester is not necessarily what’s most important a week from finals and vice versa. Currently, my students have just passed the midterm, which is an incredibly important time both to assess a student’s academic (and general) progress as well as to tinker with or, at times, reformulate the plan going forward.
Right now my colleagues and I have received our students’ grades up to this point, and we are also wading through the numerous (thankfully!) progress reports filled out by professors. Interestingly, it’s not my students’ grades that are the most important at this time, as the majority of important assignments are neither graded nor even due until the final seven weeks. Therefore, what I really want to know is are they: 1) going to class, 2) completing assignments on time, and 3) turning in assignments that are adequate or better?
As far as my current students go it is, as always, a mixed bag. Some of them have already started to get the help they need, get with the program, or simply recognize that they’re no longer in high school; others continue to find ways to maintain a counterproductive status quo. Luckily, with the knowledge I now have about where each student finds him or herself this midterm, I can prescribe new ways to turn his or her ship around. Already, I have had three students of mine meet with professors in whose classes they are failing. One has missed three classes. Another has not missed class but continually turns things in late.
I am working with another student whose IEP gives him extensions on assignment deadlines, but he never communicated with the professor as to how late would be late.
And yet there are victories, both large and small, every day. An international student with whom I have been working has been telling me all semester that she had made an appointment to meet with her English professor, but I knew she hadn’t as surely as I knew why: she was terrified to fail. So, when she arrived for our last meeting, I announced that I had already made an appointment for her with her English professor and that we had better start walking now if we were to make it on time. The walk to her professor’s office was like trudging through molasses, but the walk back was pure cotton candy. Nikita had clearly overcome the thought that talking to her professor meant admitting failure, and she had even agreed to twice weekly private tutoring sessions.
It’s still early, which is both the blessing and the curse of midterms. One the one hand, students still have ample opportunity to figure it out before their semester grades are irredeemable; on the other, there is a long way to go and pitfalls aplenty. Hopefully, it is the relationship between success coaches and their students that will enable the world of higher education’s pits to stay fall-free.
Susan Marion is the Coordinator for Success Coaches at Tiffin University, in Tiffin, Ohio. She was instrumental in starting success coaching at the institution in 2007. The program now has fifteen part-time success coaches and supports almost one hundred students who are at risk academically.