Foreign Education

David McCreight
Science Faculty, The Early College

I have a student who was asked “what are you?” when she was little. She was born in Saudi Arabia to parents of Somalian descent. She went from Saudi Arabia to Syria and then from Syria to America. She felt like a foreigner because of moving around so much.

Moreover, she still felt a foreigner in America because she speaks Somalian, Arabic, English, and “a little” Spanish. Because English was not spoken at home, she was placed into English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and some general education classes in Lansing. She didn’t like ESL classes because they had very little content and students were spoon fed. The ESL classes were not challenging enough for her. Because of this and other reasons, her older sister influenced her to apply to The Early College at Lansing Community College at the end of her 10th grade. She was accepted for this fall semester.

Her science education at LCC started out very foreign. She was used to just watching videos with little or no discussions from her science last year, because she had a long-term substitute teacher. In my LCC course, she has hands-on labs and small group and whole classroom discussions based upon readings, problems, and video clips. Because this way of learning was so foreign to her, she was timid and emotional when she earned bad grades in my science course. She mentioned to me she had never failed in any class in America or in Syria. She said, “Failing was shocking.”

She realized she had to change. She studied more on her own, to no avail, and then she went to Supplemental Instruction or tutoring and got help from her sister, which resulted in little benefit. She said what made the biggest difference was coming to office hours and getting feedback on her work as well as my saying, “You have to know what the instructors want and then do it.” She mentioned this advice helped improve her grade in my course as well as in other courses at LCC.

Because of my course and others at The Early College, she has been able to transform her education to be no longer foreign. Ironically, she hopes to get a bachelor’s degree in International Journalism and become a foreign correspondent.  I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to help her make science less foreign.