The Adult Learner

Thoughts on the adult learner, and how to balance life… at work… at home… while continuing your education as a nontraditional student.

The Adult Learner

13 Lies the Enemy May Say, but God Says……..

The life of an adult learner has its ups and its downs. The enemy has a tendency to attack one who is trying to advance themselves more than the average person, but we have tools to help us overcome. God’s word is always present and available to help us fight. This is why we must use his message, which is our double edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to fight the enemy’s voice.

Here are 13 things the enemy may say to us, but God says:

The enemy says: You can figure it out.

God says: I’ll direct your steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The enemy says: You are too tired.

God says:I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28-30

The enemy says: It’s impossible.

God says: All things are possible.

Luke 18:27

The enemy says: Nobody loves you.

God says: I love you.

John 3:16

The enemy says: You can’t forgive yourself.

God says: I forgive you.

Romans 8:1

The enemy says: It’s not worth it.

God says: It will be worth it.

Romans 8:28

The enemy says: You are not smart enough.

God says: I will give you wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:30

The enemy says: You are not able.

God says: You are able.

2 Corinthians 9:8

The enemy says: You can’t go on.

God says: My grace is sufficient.

2 Corinthians 12:9

The enemy says: You can’t do it.

God says: You can do all things.

Philippians 4:13

The enemy says: You can’t manage.

God says: I will supply all your needs.

Philippians 4:19

The enemy says: I’m afraid.

God says: I have not giving you fear.

2 Timothy 1:7

The enemy says: You are alone.

God says: I will never leave you.

Hebrews 13:5

Do not ever give up! Remember to use these scriptures as a weapon when the enemy tries to attack you.

Blessings,

Alison Gentry

What Are Your Gifts?

Adult Studies Blog: September 2014

WHAT ARE YOUR GIFTS?

Virginia Garrison, Director of Retention Services

 

We all have gifts… things we are good at doing… or that we have the potential to do well but haven’t fully developed. What are your gifts? Do they need development?

Do you like to work with people? Are you good at organizing? Maybe you have the gift of administration.

Are you compassionate? Do you like to help and encourage others? Maybe you have the gift of mercy and service.

Are you a “take charge” type of person? Are you good at communicating? Maybe you have the gift of leadership.

Are you good at explaining things to others and enjoy seeing them learn? Maybe you have the gift of teaching.

Do you involve yourself in ministry? Would you like to use that gift to its fullest?

There are too many possibilities to list in this short message. Whatever your gifts may be, wouldn’t you like to develop them further? Wouldn’t you like to use them to the best of your ability? Completing your degree could help you do that! Belhaven University offers many options, including business management, social services, health administration, leadership, Christian ministry, Biblical studies, teacher education, etc.

Why not give yourself the “gift” of education and reach your full potential? In doing so, you will also be helping others who will benefit from receiving what you have to give!

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

1 Peter 4:10

Belhaven University Verse of the Year 2014-2015

Shatter Your Rear-View Mirror!

“The past is in the past!” –from “Let It Go” in the Disney movie Frozen

I have to admit something before we go any further into this post—I have a past. Although I am content with much of my personal history, I am certainly unable to claim that my past is pristine, and I can vociferously argue for keeping the past firmly in the past. I think most of society would agree with me for one reason. Delving into the past means the possibility of unearthing those things we have tried to forget.

They can include an “unfortunate” string of rejected invitations for a high school dance (check), being trapped by peers in a walk-in closet, coughing from the beautifully overpowering cloud of air spray sneaking under the door (again, check—this actually happened to me, and I somehow got in trouble for it!), or being overheard by the wrong person at the wrong time (a thousand checks). As you probably realize, though, I’m still only writing about events from my past that I feel comfortable admitting, but if I move a few mental bookshelves, I can find the dark corner where I store the memories I don’t want to remember.

Over time, we’ve all adopted some euphemisms to describe these things-that-shall-not-be-named: skeletons in the closet, dirty laundry, and baggage (to name a few), and I am no exception. Still, whenever I summon the inner strength to venture past the dust and spider webs to examine these mental artifacts, I think about the past that could have been and long for the present that should have been.

 

What if I had kept my medical school plans? What if I had taken that job? What if I had been a bit more honest and a bit more careful? What if I had extracted every ounce of potential from every critical moment? What if I had been spent more time with the kids? What if I had stopped asking questions earlier?

 

For adult learners, these kinds of questions are familiar. The empty spot on the wall haunts us, and the missing line on the resume taunts us. Furthermore, those of us prone to envy have a delightful time with social media #grassisgreener #sarcasm.

(Note: If you don’t understand the #statements, search “hashtagging” online. If you don’t know how to search online, ask some toddlers. You will be shocked by their prowess—seriously.)

Although each of us has a personal motivation for returning to college, every motivation is rooted in the past—the past of NOT being in school.  We want our future to be different, so we change our present to keep us from reliving our past.

So how do we get past our past? I offer some blatantly out of context advice that I’ve heard at least five million times, courtesy of my daughter. As Queen Elsa sang in Disney’s Frozen, just “let it go.”

More seriously, we should follow Paul’s example from Phil. 3:12-14 (NIV):

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

I’m not suggesting that we should all find a way to induce amnesia, but maybe we should neglect that dark corner in our minds. Ultimately, the so-called “baggage” of our past only has as much control of our future as our present thoughts allow.

So even on those long, tiring nights of papers and pencils, we don’t have much use for the rear-view mirror. Our past mistakes won’t write our papers or pass our exams, nor should they define who we are.

If you failed algebra, you are not a failure.  You failed a class.

If you lost a job, you are not a loser.  You lost a job.

What are you then? You are someone trying to change the future for yourself and those around you.  You are creating new opportunities from the lessons you have learned from your errors, and if your faith is in Jesus, you are a child of the King.

Put more succinctly, YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

So while you’re thinking about it, break that rear-view mirror.  You won’t be needing it.

Life is a Team Sport

“…many hands and hearts and minds generally contribute to anyone’s notable achievements. We share, to a large extent, one another’s fate.  We help create those circumstances which favor or challenge us in meeting our objectives and realizing our dreams.” ~Walt Disney

I want to introduce you to an incredible friend of mine.  Her name is Denise.  She would be the first to admit, that she was NOT a runner.  She laughed that she could barely run half a block without getting winded.  Denise, her husband Hansen and another couple decided to run a marathon.  Once they registered and paid the money, there was no turning back.  The goal was set.  Now they needed a plan.  They purchased the Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer which helped them lay out their training regimen.  With a plan in place, all they needed was determination and commitment to the plan.  They started in June.  The marathon was in October.  There were many days when one of the fearsome four didn’t feel like running or training.  They lifted each other up with encouragement and support.  I am happy to report they all ran in the Chicago marathon, and finished with respectable times.  The entire experience and the feeling of achievement were unbelievable!

Pursuing your education is a lot like running a marathon.  Although the activities are more mental than physical, the process is the same.  You set a goal for yourself – to complete your degree or pursue advanced education.  You laid out a plan that seemed to make sense.  Now comes the hard part – life happens – especially in adult education.  You have obligations to yourself, your family, your work, your church, your community and your friends.  Your best laid plans now seem obscure.  Don’t give up on your goal.  This is where the commitment and determination are paramount.  This is when you reach out to others who are in a similar situation for help, support and encouragement – your fellow students.  Just as Denise discovered, the training was tough – something she had never experienced before.  Through faith, determination and perseverance she stayed committed to the goal.  As she discovered, the end result was well worth the effort.  Your education will change your life.

Listen to Their Stories: Reaching the Hearts of Adult Learners

One of the core issues in adult education is the extent to which traditional students differ from adult students. It is a marketing issue in that we have to identify and understand the differences in order to package our message in a meaningful and relevant way. It is more complex than buying ads on the right radio stations or getting them in strategically targeted publications. We have to understand the subtle nuances that characterize both traditional and adult learners in order to reach their emotions or, perhaps more descriptive, their hearts. The extent to which traditional students differ from adult students is also a student services issue in that both groups represent different sets of life circumstances that we must understand in order to meet the needs of our students while they are with us and, ultimately, retain them through to graduation.

Here’s a proposed axiom that, for me anyway, describes the core difference between traditional students and adults and that may provide a framework that could drive our marketing and student services activities: Traditional students function in a “present” that is interpreted by the future; adult students function in a “present” that is interpreted by the past. As an adult education professional, here’s how this reality might inform what we do in reaching and retaining adult students:

·         Realizing that the past informs adults’ decisions to return to (and stay in) college, those who work in the admission and student services functions must listen to our students’ stories. For adult learners, these stories usually center on a crisis such as divorce, loss of a job, being passed over for a promotion, or some other type of loss in their lives. By taking the time to encourage discussion of the things that drive our students to us, we will reach their hearts and position ourselves to affect their lives.

·         Classroom experiences should be designed as safe places to discuss our student’s stories. At Christian institutions such as Belhaven, this can be done during a period of biblical reflection and prayer. As is true in our admission and student services processes, this type of discussion should be proactively encouraged by the instructor – realizing that this type of openness can set the stage for more productive curricular discussion later in the class. In addition, typical adult life circumstances could be intentionally woven into a lesson plan – discussing the effect of a personal crisis (divorce, for example) on one’s ability to lead in the workplace.

Ultimately, by making prospective or current students’ “stories” a priority in our discussions with them, they will perceive an environment that is emotionally safe and attractive, and we will have reached the seat of every adult’s decision making processes – the heart.

The Overcomer

Adults who return to school overcome any number of obstacles. Work, family, church, health, military and community service–all put demands on our limited time. I have come to believe that the single greatest thing that an adult learner MUST possess is determination. Many struggle with one academic skill or another, and many have to tackle new technology, but I have seen determined individuals overcome these things. The one ingredient that I have never seen someone lack and still succeed is DETERMINATION. The adult learner must set his or her face like flint and push ahead, regardless of what life brings.

Meet Carol Danley, Belhaven Memphis Class of 2014. Carol received the Belhaven Social Services Award. This award goes “to the student who best models Jesus’ ministry to those whom society often neglects.” Carol’s story is much more than one of academic excellence and community service. Like many of our students, Carol had to overcome health issues, death in the family, and any number of other challenges. Her academic testimony is amazing.

Carol has enjoyed a 35 year career in Social Services. Yet she was still compelled to come to Belhaven to complete her degree. Most of us, after accomplishing so much, would be tempted to brag just a little. Not Carol! In her words: “Belhaven presented me with a unique opportunity to fulfill a forty-five year dream.  I sat in faith before God daily. The profound support I received from my family and friends, the wise counseling and consideration of my professors and staff, will forever be embedded in my heart. To this day personal dreams have been fulfilled.  Success is not mine.  It belongs to God.  He kept me through it all.”

Amen, Carol. We know that Christ calls His people to be Overcomers, just as He overcame the world. And we know that we overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony, that Christ is indeed the Victor. One that day, we will cast our crowns at His feet, for He is the One who did it all.

Carol’s story is amazing, and is a testimony that, with God’s help, we can accomplish all He calls us to do. Look Carol up and get her story–it is inspiring. She completed her degree while also serving her church and community, and all while overcoming any number of health and family issues. She is living proof of what faith, determination, and a lot of hard work will do.
BelhavenU2014_20140516_0289_lowrez

Carol Danley receiving the Belhaven Social Services Award from Dr. Paul Criss, Dean  of Belhaven Memphis & Desoto

 

Excellence is a Prevailing Attitude

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” ~ Colin Powell

During my career, I had the pleasure and privilege of working for Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  If you have experienced the Disney product by visiting the many theme parks, taking a cruise, buying merchandise or going to the movies, you have experienced the “excellence.” At Disney, excellence is truly a prevailing attitude from the front line Cast Members to the executive suite.  Everybody gets it.  The excellence doesn’t happen by chance, it happens by setting high expectations and following through with every detail.

So you may be thinking, nice story, but what has that got to do with me?  As an adult learner you made the choice to pursue your education.  You are making an investment in yourself.  At times, it may be tough balancing your family, work, community involvement and school obligations. I encourage you to “choose excellence” by setting high expectations for yourself.  Follow through by developing habits in the “little matters.”  Examples of this include developing good study habits; assessing and revising how you manage your time; asking for help/guidance; and developing a support network. Excellence is not achieved by chance.  It is a choice.  I challenge you to “choose excellence” for your educational journey and develop the habits to achieve excellence.  I guarantee it will be worth it.

Overcoming the Fear of the Unknown

Going back to school can be scary, especially if one has been out for a long time.  Thinking of how one is going to manage juggling family, work and school is enough responsibility to overwhelm anyone.  Not to mention the fear of subject matters such as Math and English. These subjects may not have been our favorite in high school.  So how do we overcome the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, or the fear of math?

I am going to suggest a few things that may help you.  Consider these when you’re  contemplating the decision to take the plunge to complete your degree, make that career change or whatever dream you may be avoiding due to fear:

  • Having strong self-esteem is essential to being able to accomplish what you want to achieve.  If one lacks self-assurance, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish one’s goals.  Your belief in yourself, in addition to your faith in Christ of course, is going to be what gets you through  adversity.  This is also known as determination and will.  When the going gets tough, will you fight or will you fold?  “A man is as he thinks” Proverbs 23:7– so make sure you are constantly positively affirming yourself.  Tell yourself that you are smart enough, you are strong enough, and that you will accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish.
  •  Having a strong support system is also vital to your success.  Rid yourself of the negative naysayers and the people that may hold you back from accomplishing your dreams and goals.  Surround yourself with cheerleaders and like-minded people. If you do not know any people like that, there are plenty of groups you can join to meet some.  Usually church is a good place to start.  
  • Lastly, make it a goal every day to do something that you will thank yourself for in the future.  Notating and completing short term and long term goals help us to gain momentum by giving us a sense of accomplishment.  Have a plan because when we do not, we can usually plan to fail.

Stewardship

Those of us in adult higher education know, for the most part, why adults decide to return to college. We hear the reasons several times a day, and we repeat them as we engage prospective students in dialogue about returning to college. Adults are typically looking to get a better job, set themselves up for a promotion, make more money, be an example to their kids, and finish what they started. There’s nothing wrong with this list. These are all noble reasons for continuing one’s education. However, as someone who attempts to incorporate a biblical worldview into his thinking, I would like to make an addition to the list. Adults should pursue a college education because God requires that we be stewards of what he has given us. Let me explain.

In Genesis 1:28, God tells his human creation that they are to have dominion over all that he has created. This was to include the physical environment and, as it developed over time, the social-cultural environment. God expects us to be stewards or caretakers over all of his creation and, as a result of the fall, to partner with him in its restoration. We cannot be effective stewards of God’s creation unless we are constantly learning about it. This requires us to become lifelong learners. Our adult students at Belhaven learn about God’s physical creation in their biology classes. They not only learn to marvel at God’s awesome majesty as it’s revealed in creation; they learn ways to become more responsible stewards of what he has made. Our students learn about the socio-cultural environment in sociology and psychology classes, and that responsibilities in these areas involve, among other things, being our brother’s keeper. Adult students learn to be stewards of the business environment in their business and leadership classes as they learn the importance of engaging in “business by The Book.”

In a way, our typical list of reasons for adults returning to school are at best pragmatic, and if we’re not careful in how we present them, perhaps a bit self-centered. We need to balance them with biblical-centered reasons for life-long learning that are focused on stewardship. 

So, I have a proposal for those of us whose work is to make adult education attractive to prospective students. We should acknowledge that pragmatic reasons for returning to college are important. Better jobs, promotions, and increases in income are all important potential outcomes to prospective students who have current and future needs that can be met by earning their degrees. However, a biblical worldview requires us to go deeper and acknowledge that education is a tool that allows us to learn more about the creation that God requires us to steward. An undergraduate or graduate degree earned as a developing caretaker of God’s creation provides a pathway to effective participation in his kingdom work.

Emotional Intelligence and the Adult Student

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

As a student as well as instructor, I am amazed that too often I find myself “covering material” rather than engaging! I will do what it takes to make sure that I can boast that I read the assignments, viewed the videos, wrote the papers, and prepared for class. However, how often am I really ENGAGING the classroom, the instructor, the student, the material?

My temperament is such that I engage emotionally. I am an extrovert and natural “people person.” As such, I am most comfortable when I can “feel” connected. I find that MANY other adult students are able to learn and grow when they connect in the classroom (either in person or virtual), and that those who fail are often the most disconnected.

So why do so many of us instructors focus on “covering material” rather than connecting with students and connecting students to the subject matter? Thoughts?