Mikhael Simmonds graduated from City College in 2011 with a BA in international studies and minor in journalism. Little did he know, he would be asked to return a few years later, not as a student, but an adjunct professor.
After City, Simmonds, 26, went to CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and graduated last fall with an MA in international multimedia journalism. This semester he’s teaching Reporting and Writing, an MCA course, back at CCNY. Along with this course, Simmonds also runs Harlem Focus, a blog for the Amsterdam News with content by our students.
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Simmonds says that he’s glad to pass on what he learned in journalism school–reporting, writing, social media, video shooting and editing and data visualization—to CCNY students. He describes the J School as “a nice and shiny place.”
“It’s a cross between the Apple store and the Star Ship Enterprise, it’s that shiny!” he says. “Everything looks new. I’m sure they have a heck of a Windex bill because it’s all glass all over.”
Simmonds admits he had trepidation about teaching at his alma mater when the semester started. “I was nervous going in because three years ago I was on the other end, same classroom and everything. So I decided to have some fun and mess with my students,” he said.
So he came up with a plan: On the first day of his course, he sat down in the classroom pretending to be a student. “As I was sitting there, the students were starting to get more curious about the new professor. I myself started instigating and mentioned how I heard this professor is always late. Then Linda [Villarosa, journalism program director] walks into the classroom and the students looked at her and asked if she was the one teaching. At that point I stood up and walked to front of the classroom and introduced myself as their professor. The students were like ‘this guy!?’”
“It was cool, everyone had a good laugh” adds Simmonds. “Journalism is a stressful profession but it doesn’t need to be. I give a lot of work in my class but you can laugh and joke around. Basically once you prioritize and do your work on time, that’s it.”
As a new lecturer Simmonds was offered advice: “Make your classes relatable and fun. Remember everything you liked and didn’t like from professors you had and improve on that.”
When it comes to being a demanding teacher, Simmonds, thanks his professors for not going easy on him. “With tough professors they show you the real world, which made my life easier when I left school so I have no complaints,” he says. “I have no problem creating a lot of work for my students; they know when the deadlines are. I understand things fall through; that’s life. So, if there is an issue I’m available to help the student.”
Communicating is key he believes. “One last word to my students,” Simmonds says. “As cheesy as this sounds: help me help you, that’s it.”