Ridiculed for Learning

Students that enter the academy as first generation college students typically grow up in communities where degrees from institutions of higher education are not prevalent. This means that while they may be raised with deeply loving relationships, they are also likely raised in environments that do not understand or embrace the culture of higher education. This can pose great conflict for the student that is from this environment and trying to excel with his or her college studies. 

I personally made a transition of this sort and distinctly remember absorbing the ideas and language of higher education and carrying them back to my support structures with an eager enthusiasm. I was often surprised to find them held in suspicion and sometimes ridiculed. I eventually started censoring my conversations to avoid the awkwardness and occasional conflict.

This poses a challenge for first generation students that is often overlooked. They are not only dealing with a lack of support, but often an unconscious discouragement from the very people who love them most. 

Q: How can we as institutions/individuals mitigate this conflict for our first generation students?

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4 Responses to Ridiculed for Learning

  1. David Young, PhD says:

    Bryan asks an excellent question: How can we mitigate this conflict (love vs. unconcious discoragement) in our first generation students?

    I believe we do it by making the conflict concious. Jung said that the conflict is always within. Contemporary cognitive science tells us that ideas or schemas are constantly struggling for behavioral dominance/expression in a person’s life. The battle between being a “college student” and being “something else” is constant in many of our students lives.

    We can help to mitigate, albeit not eliminate, this conflict by assisting our students to make the conflict concious and voiced rather than remaining either concious or unconcious and silent.

    I believe that both we and their families “love” them. We have to help them find ways to love their collegiate related dreams and their families whenever they can.

    The question then becomes: How can I live my life where I honor both my dreams and the people I love?

    We can help them to ask the question. We can help them to discover that the answer will come only from themselves.

    • bryanreece says:

      Well put Dave. You mention two things that I like. First, raising the general awareness of our students and how they might be confronted with this should go a long way toward helping them address the issue. Second, working with parents and loved ones by teaching them how to support their students is a very good suggestion.

  2. cool says:

    This is the biggest challenge for me in my classes. Parents have kept their students from classes to attend a relative’s birthday celebration out of town, to give someone a ride home from work (wait an hour!), and have threatened to take away cars if a student attends class instead of helping with whatever family crisis looms.
    One idea that I only try with a student’s permission is to praise a student for doing well on an assignment, and ask if I can call or email their parent/sponsor/whomever to let that person know of the student’s success.
    Usually a student’s parent has never before received a call home for something positive. This will not automatically change attitudes, but it can plant a seed in certain circumstances.

    I would LOVE to hear more strategies for combating this problem.

    • bryanreece says:

      I agree that this is a significant challenge and a complicated one. Not sure how to approach it other than help students become aware of the issue so they can at least recognize it for what it is.

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