Friday, February 15, 2008

Day Fourteen in America - 15 February 2008

The last supper! The pizza place near Sam and Sharon's! YUM!

Today is the long and tortuous journey home. I catch the plane at 5:30pm local time, arrive in Amsterdam and wait for approx. 3 hours (I think, I haven't worked out all the time zones yet; could be worse) and then a short flight back to the UK.

I will need copious amounts of understanding, particularly at MT on Tuesday, since when this starts at 8:30 am, I will be functioning at 3:30am in my head...

I will have to break it to our Director of Finance, John Owen, that I haven't been able to get him a Greyhound Bus anywhere, so I hope this doesn't go against me in the next budget setting round! I do, however, have a suitcase (no kidding) of Hershey chocolate. Maybe that will make up for it.

My last college to visit is Tunxis College. I will update the blog in two days' time.

Tunxis Community College - Farmington

Kathleen E. Schwager - Director of Academic Support Center

As I have found with everyone I met, Kathy was welcoming and open about all the work that she is involved in. We spoke about issues that appear to be hot topics at the community colleges, including graduation rates, retention, funding etc.

Kathy explained that the academic support center that she manages is involved in providing four main services. Firstly, the placement test is carried out here. Then there is the tutoring programme. This is something that they are very proud of, and they have gained international certification for their work with students. It shows that the service is of exceptional quality. The third service is to determine accommodations for learners with disabilities and / or learning difficulties and lastly, they provide a learning strategies service on a one to one basis. This can include time management skills development, study skills and test taking skills amongst other necessary learning strategies.

I was most impressed with the Connecticut online tutoring service provided. Basically, if a student is having a difficulty with any aspect of their study, they can contact an online tutor who will support them via live chat as well as by email attachments. This is offered 7 days per week up to 10pm each night! Tunxis has 2 e tutors that contribute to the service, and they pay these. However, the consortium have many tutors that provide for all the students in Connecticut. What a fabulous idea! This also extends to the schools, who also contribute tutors to this service. The service is growing all the time.

Last semester, there were 150 sessions recorded for over 70 students.

I particularly like the way that the Connecticut colleges have 3 semesters where courses start. There are three entry points within the year, and this makes learning far more flexible. There are also courses offered in the summer. They simply do not wind down for the summer.

Kathy loves her job. Her hours are from 11am until 7pm. This suits her well. The college is open Saturday mornings.

It appears that there are lots of grant initiatives in the college, for example there is an elementary algebra initiative being developed at the moment. These are usually sustained by the college thereafter.

Areas of learning:
  • Open Saturday AM
  • Fantastic e-support service
  • 3 points of entry in the year to join courses
  • no close down in the summer


I started my long and tortuous journey home, by filling up with gas. I then took route i-91 (route 91 and I are now very well acquainted). I admit, I listened to the country and western radio chanel, and Shania Twain sang loudly. My jazz pianist father would have been turning in his grave. It was sad to be leaving.

The airport was SLOW. The flight was delayed. I felt like a sardine on the plane squished next to two very big people who would need to struggle to let me out to visit the loo. This was an overnight flight and my company was an i-pod and the wonderful autobiography written by Mensimah Shabbaz (mentioned earlier).

The man behind got great pleasure in kicking my chair, it seemed. I was, by this stage, reminding myself that I needed to be tolerant of my fellow humans.

When we flew over the UK, it was so frustrating. I really couldn't understand why they couldn't simply 'drop me off!'

Arriving in Schiphol (Amsterdam), I had to wait three hours. I was becoming increasingly intolerant by this stage, and tried to avoid contact with other humans. I had missed my night's sleep and so had they.

Arriving in the UK, I was bearly coherent, and the usual delay in getting my luggage made my incoherence worse. (When I got home, it was clear that the security had rummaged)...

I had one whole suitcase of Hershey bars....

All in all, a fabulous opportunity, lots learned and my enthusiasm for strategy and change have been fired up again!


Richard Booth said...

Glad you got back home safely, although slightly frayed at having to fly over the UK, on route to Holland and back to the UK!

Like the idea of the online tutoring service at the last college visited.

Abigail said...

Hi Abi

Welcome back. Sorry I couldn't access the net whilst you were 'out there'... but the Sinai Peninsula was lovely.

Your account is great and I'm convinced there's lots for us to think about from all of this.