Students train to be orientation instructors

Elise Franco

Orientation-instructor trainees and student orientation instructors play “To Tell the Truth” in Bowman Hall Saturday. Trainees listened to student orientation instructors speak about personal experiences with commuting, academic probation and abuse. ARIAN

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

As high school students are finishing college applications and waiting for acceptance letters, some Kent State students are preparing for their arrival.

University orientation student instructors do their best to reach out to new freshmen and make their first semester on campus as seamless as possible, said Lauren Pernetti, academic program coordinator for undergraduate studies.

Students in the 12-week training class, which started at the beginning of the semester, attended the second of three day-long sessions Saturday. They train to teach the university orientation classes for freshmen in the fall.

The instructor class pulls in anywhere from 140 to 200 students each spring semester, Pernetti said.

Over the duration of the class, trainees are taught valuable skills to use inside the classroom, as well as in their everyday lives and professional careers, she said.

Heidi Athey, senior French major, has several semesters of experience as an instructor and now trains new student instructors. She says the class is important not only to the freshmen students they are welcoming to the university, but themselves as well.

“We start off by building you up as a person, doing leadership activities and teaching you how to be effective,” she said.

Student instructors are taught activities they can do in the classroom as far as seating, group work and community building.

“Then we go into making lesson plans that each trainee creates on his or her own,” Athey said. “Eventually we do some actual teaching so that the trainees feel comfortable in front of the class.”

In addition, student instructors are taught everything they need to know about the university, Pernetti said. This enables them to answer any questions their own students may have; if they don’t have the answer, they are able to point them toward someone who does.

Pernetti has been involved with university orientation since 1987. The existing training course was designed by Pernetti to train student instructors about what to teach to their classes and how to teach it – despite what the freshmen think of it.

“We try to make the course valuable to everyone,” Pernetti said, “but with 3,600 freshmen students you’re going to find those that love it and those that say ‘Why did I have to do this?’

“You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but everyone does the best job possible.”

Leslie Barbour, senior English major, is currently training to become a student instructor for next fall. She said she decided to take the course because it is a good way to gain teaching experience.

Barbour, who is going to Germany to teach English as a foreign language, wants to gain skills she will use forever as a teacher, such as learning about lesson plans and structuring a classroom.

Although she is nervous about students who may enter the class with a lax attitude, she is excited to turn her own ideas into something meaningful that she knows many will appreciate and keep with them.

At the end of each semester freshmen have the opportunity to evaluate their student instructor as well as the class itself, Pernetti said.

While no instructor gets a rave review from every single student, the general consensus is usually that the course and the instructor alike helped ease early anxieties about college, she said.

“I am going to make myself look really cool here,” Athey said, laughing, “but I have had 95 percent positive feedback, and that is what makes me constantly want to stay involved. I still say ‘Hi’ to students I taught three years ago.”

Contact undergraduate studies and Honors College reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].