Staff Blog

Everything at POPP is moving along.

Posted on

The students are up to their eyeballs in work. For some students, the college classes are the first time they have been challenged academically.

Last week, we set a timeline for the cadets’ criminal justice research papers. The assignment hangs over me like it’s mine. Oy!

I’ve been planning the new January boot camp curriculum; I’ll need mostly all new materials for that one, as this is the first time we’ve done two boot camps with the same group. A colleague is loaning us a class set of books, so that we don’t have to buy any. Plus, whenever I’m at my former school site, I’ve been hawking the teachers who teach college level classes for material. We plan to retest the cadets in February (after the boot camp) to see how many qualify for English 101. If we get enough students, West Los Angeles Community College will send an English teacher to us.

Yesterday, Carlos taught the cadets about citing references and MLA format (APA format comes next). He put together an excellent presentation. Because he is in the middle of his own research work, he’s able to make the material personal. “This is how I do it.” Students really appreciated what he had to say. I’m going to be sorry to lose him after the boot camp. His university second semester schedule is just too full; he needs all his time for his classes.

In December, Alea finishes her Master’s in Education at USC and is going to work on her doctorate, hopefully also at USC. I’m glad she’s not leaving us. Our students really like her, and she can very quietly and gently get the students to work on difficult tasks. Sometimes our students have trouble beginning a piece of writing. Alea knows how to ask just the right questions to help them find a focus for their ideas.

Jocelyn is sitting in on the sociology class and re-teaching the material to the cadets. Hopefully, her tutoring will help them improve their sociology test scores. They’ve struggled with the material, especially the vocabulary, but Jocelyn is a sociology major and very familiar with their text and material. The students tell me that she has a way of breaking down difficult concepts, so that they can comprehend them.

One of the Catharine’s is sick. Ugh! It’s that time of year again: colds and flu season. She worked on the congressional letter assignment that was just turned in; her strength is organizational skills – particularly in writing. She was a big help with outlining the term paper. Plus, because she has film experience, she’s going to help the students with the commercial assignment for one of their classes. Their computers have preloaded editing equipment, so she’s been busy familiarizing herself with that particular software.

The other Catharine gave students advice on test taking. “Read the questions twice, just in case you misread the first time. Also, if possible underline any important words in the question — words like infer, suggest, imply, analyze, compare.” At the University of London she wrote a 77-page master’s thesis, so she’s good at breaking down the larger writing assignments and encouraging the cadets when they feel overwhelmed. “If I can write a 77-page paper, you can write a 10-page one. Let me show you how it’s done.”

A couple of cadets did poorly on their political science test. I met with each one individually and went over their missed test questions. Often their problem is misreading the question. They hurry through, worried about time. Sometimes they think that they’ve studied enough, but realize when they take the test that they have not fully prepared.

Oh, one last thing. One of the cadets from our first class comes back from time to time to visit us and to get some help with her college English class. Carlos helped her with a speech she had to give. She spoke at length to the students yesterday. Because she works as a security guard at Loyola and goes to school, students were very interested in what she had to say. She encouraged them to take full advantage of tutoring and of the program. “It goes by faster than you think it will. I miss it.”

That’s it.

Margaret Walsh

Reading/Writing Specialist

P.S. Good news: students got very good scores on their sociology test!