INTRODUCTION: Our community college requires all first-time, full-time freshmen to take a course called “Student Success Seminar” during their first semester of attendance. This course is a 1-credit-hour, five-week course that replaced our one-day freshman orientation program. The purpose of the course is to acclimate students to higher education, inform them of college resources, and help them develop strategies to handle the academic and personal demands of college. The students in my section of the course are part of our developmental education program, which means they are enrolled in developmental reading, math and English courses, along with a personal development course and the student success seminar. Many of these students have experienced academic difficulty in high school, are first generation college students and/or come to college under prepared, both academically and personally, for the demands of higher education.
In the second week of the semester, as an introduction to the topic of time management and personal responsibility, I had my students read an article from the Houston Chronicle about Anthony Hembrick, the US boxer who was disqualified from the 1988 Seoul Olympics because he missed his scheduled bout. To quote from the article, “In a span of less than 12 hours, Anthony Hembrick missed a bus, misunderstood a bout schedule, missed a fight, lost an appeal and finally lost his chance–and dream–of at least fighting for an Olympic boxing gold medal.” After students read the article, they were to write in their journal about who or what they thought was most responsible for Anthony missing his boxing match. The idea for this activity is listed in the On Course Workshop Binder.
- Create interest in the topic of time management by having students read a high profile article
- Have students realize how critical good time management skills are to achieving goals
- Have students critically think and write about who was responsible for Anthony’s predicament
- Discuss personal responsibility and how that impacts our ability to be successful
- For journal assignment: Anthony Hembrick article – from The Houston Chronicle, September 20, 1988.
- For a follow up on what happened to Anthony Hembrick – “Hembrick Back at Ringside with Plenty of Time to Spare” from USA Today, July 16, 1996.
PROCESS: For homework, students were given the assignment to read the article from the Houston Chronicle and then write in their journal about who or what they thought was most responsible for Anthony’s predicament. I gave them the following choices: Anthony, Anthony’s coaches, Olympic officials, cultural differences, or the U.S. Boxing Federation. I collected, read, and responded to their journals. For the next class, my original intent was to divide them into groups according to whom they selected as most responsible and then have the group present their case to the entire class. However, because most people selected the coaches and no one selected Anthony, I decided to have a group discussion instead. After our in-class discussion of the article (described below), I read them another article written about Anthony eight years later. It was the story of how Anthony turned his negative experience in Seoul into something positive by volunteering to escort boxers to the ring in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.OUTCOMES/EXPERIENCES: When I read students’ journals I was dismayed, but not surprised, to find that not one student thought Anthony had any responsibility for having missed his Olympic boxing match. Of my 18 students, 15 thought Anthony’s coaches were responsible, 2 felt it was the Olympic officials, and 1 person thought both the coaches and the Olympic officials were equally at fault. My written comments back to them asked them to put themselves in Anthony’s shoes. Would they feel any responsibility for their situation? I wanted to get them thinking about personal responsibility. In class, I asked for volunteers to make a case for the person they selected. I had 7 current student-athletes in the class and several more who had been involved in athletics in high school. They were quick to offer their opinion, which was to blame the coaches for Anthony’s missing the scheduled match. Comments were very negative toward the coaches and included “He trained his whole life for this opportunity to be in the Olympics and the coach screwed everything up for him. It’s unbelievable” and “It’s the coach’s job to make sure he gets to his match. I hope he fired him.” I let them vent for about 5 minutes, and many students expressed similar negative feelings about the coaches. It was a lively, finger pointing exchange with the argument focusing on whether the coaches or the Olympic officials were more to blame. I then asked if Anthony could have done anything different to prevent the situation from happening. “Make sure he gets better coaches” was the response from a few students. One quiet, reserved student in the back row who had not said anything in the discussion thus far said, “If this was such an important goal for him [boxing in the Olympics], he shouldn’t have trusted his coaches or anyone else and taken the responsibility for making sure he knew exactly when his match was scheduled.” I asked others to react to her statement. Another person commented, “Blaming someone else for your problems accomplishes nothing. He should have depended on himself, not the coaches.”At the end of the class I asked, “What did you learn from this assignment?” Comments included: “Don’t trust your coaches”; “Not paying attention to small details can get in the way of being able to achieve your goals”; “You need to be responsible for yourself if you want to be successful in life.”Feedback from the students indicated they liked the assignment. My first indication of that was that all but two students completed the homework assignment. Secondly, it resulted in the best in-class discussion we had during the semester. Finally, at the end of the course I have the students write in their journal about what they liked and disliked about the class, including specific examples. Several students mentioned this journal assignment was their favorite.LIFE LESSONS: Using a high interest article that students could easily relate to was a good way to create greater interest in the topic of time management and get them thinking about what aspects of their lives they do control. It was particularly relevant to this class with so many student athletes in it. I will definitely use it again. Next semester I am going to pair this assignment with the student development course, which these students are taking at the same time. The instructor in that course teaches victim/creator language and we will pair the two topics. Hopefully, that will result in an even greater impact on the students.
Kaye Young, Coordinator, Student Learning Center, Jamestown Community College, NY