Janice’s Journey

Brett Robertson
CIT Adjunct Instructor

I met Janice when I took over a computer class midway through the Fall 2020 semester. Janice was one of a group of high school students who’d signed up for a computer support program sponsored by their district. This program consists of three LCC computer courses designed to provide a foundation of knowledge about computer hardware and software, and earn credits that would apply to their college transcripts. Once in the program, however, students are committed to attend all three courses and are not permitted early withdrawal due to enrollment restrictions.

Janice was not a ‘computer person’. While she knew how to use her computer to attend classes and play Minecraft, she wasn’t interested in learning about such things as motherboards, routers, or technical troubleshooting. Janice felt like she was ‘stuck’ in the program so this, coupled with the stress of navigating other high school challenges during a pandemic, sapped her motivation and engagement. She didn’t bother to turn in assignments or even respond to direct questions in class.

When I started teaching Janice and her classmates, I thought I could ensure their success by simply presenting the chapter material in a set of slides, throwing in some personal anecdotes, and running a Kahoot or two. I changed my mind when I found that some students like Janice were not at all interested in computers. I realized then that I had to dig deeper and connect to Janice in a different way. I had multiple one-on-one conversations with her, discussing her strengths, her academic goals, and career interests.

Since Janice wanted to create social media content, I arranged for the director of a social media campaign to speak to the class. This campaign focused on an anti-drug message, and the director was recruiting students from local high schools to help create social media content for the campaign. Janice was the first to volunteer for this group. Since then, her grades and participation have improved dramatically. While she won’t be pursuing a degree or career in computers, Janice shared that she’s more motivated now that she has a better idea of what she needs to know to fulfill her goal of creating social media content.

This has been an invaluable learning experience for me since it highlighted the importance of cultivating personal connections and helping students reframe their narrative to align with their educational goals.