This Too Shall Pass

 

Difficult Situations

I served as the GCC Professional Staff (PS) President for a couple of years and sat in many meetings with PS employees and HR to discuss difficult situations. I always maintained a professional demeanor, which helped me in these often uncomfortable and emotional situations.  I put myself in the employee’s shoes to do what was best for them. I supported them and ensured their rights were met. I spoke up to managers a couple of times which wasn’t easy, but I did it for my colleagues which made it easier.

I believe putting the best interests of the people who need help really gives me the backbone and courage I need to endure difficult conversations and situations.

For me, 1983 was the best and worst year of my life. The very best things and the absolute worst things in my life happened that year. It was then that I learned the mantra “this too shall pass.”  I realized that I could get through anything that year. I learned that for better or worse, time passes and everything flows down the river, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It all becomes history. I think back on times when I would obsess over something, usually a negative thing and the hours and energy I would waste in  worry. A few weeks later I recalled being very upset and agitated about something, but couldn’t remember what caused all of the angst. This too shall pass.

Sometimes just knowing this is enough to get me through.

 

One Last Write 6×6 Post

My last and final Write 6×6 post of 2017 goes out to Alisa Cooper and everyone at the Glendale Community College Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement (CTLE).

Thank you all for encouraging us to write about our educational experiences not to mention offering all the other amazing activities and events you do throughout the year. You have made a difference for me and always set a good example for others to follow. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for enriching the culture of Glendale Community College.

Signing off for Write 6×6 2017!

Sincerely,
Kristin

 

 


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Write 6X6

What Really Matters

Academic advisors on our campus work under a great deal of pressure and for the most part go largely unrecognized for the good work they do. There aren’t enough of us to go around, and very few on campus understand the volume of information needed to be an educated and effective advisor, not to mention the breadth of skills we must hone and use on a daily basis. Research indicates that the relationship between students and advisors has a significant correlation to student success, nonetheless, academic advisors at GCC are  not sufficiently appreciated.

With waits frequently exceeding an hour or two to see an advisor, everyone does their best to help students in the shortest time possible. Despite the challenge of time constraints, it is my belief that the most important part of an advisement conversation begins with an understanding of each student’s motivation for being in college. If you want them to be successful, you need to know where they are coming from and where they want to end up.

My advice to those new to academic advisement is to start advisement sessions with a few important questions. It isn’t enough to simply ask what you can help them with today, they often don’t really know what they don’t know. For example the young woman who came in to ask for Nursing courses. I could have given her a schedule of classes and never known that the student really loved Math but was going into Nursing because her mother thought that would be the best and most secure career. It took quite a bit of effort on my part to encourage this young woman to explore another possibility and to discover that most people with a degree in Mathematics make more than nurses and love their work. In part, because I took the time to ask and to listen, that student is now at ASU and a very happy Math major.

Students need someone in their corner. It isn’t easy to understand higher education pathways especially when students tend to be given inaccurate or incomplete information at almost every level of transition. Most are confused and not sure who to trust. As a result, I do my best to teach advisees how to verify information I offer and to show them options so that they can make an informed choice that reflects their own best interests.

One last thing, I’ve found that treating students as if they were a friend or family member allows me to keep focus and do a better job advising. I try my best to give them all a VIP experience. Going the extra mile does not make me the fastest advisor on campus, but I see my fair share and know that I’m helping in a meaningful way. Even if others on campus haven’t a clue how hard I work, I know for sure that my students are aware and appreciative.  And isn’t that what really matters? Go Gauchos!


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Academic Advisement, GCC, What really matters, Write 6X6

Gather Around the Coffee Mug

 

The significance of building relationships is often overlooked in education. As a teacher, it is easy to fall into that boss/employee relationship with your students. As a professor, it is easy to get the feeling that you are on your own, with little support outside of the occasional observation from a superior.


Fortunately there is an easy solution to both of these problems:

Coffee.

Cup of Coffee
You can almost smell it. (c) giphy.com

When I first started teaching I had a difficult time managing the classroom. Despite their classroom antics, I found they still would always say hello or try to strike up a conversation when I was on my lunch break having a cup of coffee.

Eventually this evolved into a post-class ritual: I would leave the class, go the to the lunch area, and have coffee. Those students who did not have a class to go to would join me. We would chat about things, sometimes English related, sometimes movies, and sometimes just idle banter.

As the semester moved on, my insecurities within the classroom started to diminish. I was more comfortable with the class, and they realized I was just as human as everyone else.

Fast-forward a few years and I found myself in a similar situation in the Adjunct Faculty Office. There was always a silence there, the room serving as a cross street as we sped to our various destinations. On the rare occasion a question or idea would come up, but it was far from a daily occurrence.

Busy intersection
Off to class I go. (c) giphy.com


The solution was to make things more personal, have a chat, offer that cup of coffee. It wasn’t long before I started having lunch and coffee with a few of my fellow adjuncts. At those short meetings I was able to discuss assignments, classroom management, teaching techniques, and various other topics that made me a better instructor and a better person. One person in particular, Gary, even encouraged me to pursue publishing my short stories after the topic came up during one of our lunch breaks. That one conversation had a major impact on my life.

So the final message I leave is this: Students are people. Teachers are people. We all have similar fears, desires, struggles, and pursuits. Discovering that bond in a structured environment can be difficult, but put a lunch or nice hot cup of coffee in the mix, and friendship is just around the corner.

Shhh! … Listen!

 

My 4 year old son is taking karate. He is a proud white belt with three stripes. Last week he earned a big orange “Awesome” sticker. The instructor singled him out of about 20 kids for being the best listener. He was so proud of his award and has been telling everyone about it!

Fast-forward to Write 6×6, week six. The grand finale. How do I foster relationships at work, home and at play? Honestly, I don’t know. Well, I think I might know…

My father was an engineer. Engineers are known for their lack of communication skills. They are straight talkers and only if you ask them. Mostly they are introverted and prefer to keep to themselves. He is still pretty set in his ways, but has softened a lot over the years.

I got 50% of that gene. That, along with the fact that I swam four hours a day in secondary school. I had no social life except for the three minute breaks between sets and when the coach gave us a “social kick” set. I did not have much training in the way of building relationships.

Fortunately my mom was good at it and through my observations, I learned to relate to people from all genders, ages, races, cultures, sexual orientation and socio-economic status. She passed away in January, and the piece of my heart that is still functional wants to honor her talents.

I like to observe people. The people who I relate to the best are listeners, not talkers. I can’t do idle chatter very well. I need my conversations to be meaningful, where I walk away with a little piece of that person’s positive energy and life vision and they with mine.  I like being present with people and really understanding their motivations and how they, in turn, relate to others.

Back in the karate studio, the teacher asks the group how many ears they have. “Two,” they shout! “And how many mouths do you have?” “One!” they shout. “So you should listen twice as much as you speak!” he reminds them.

I like to listen. Especially to people who appear to be unhappy or grumpy. Grumpy people are grumpy because people have stopped listening to them. Ignore the grumpiness and really listen! You can learn a lot!

Listen to learn. Listen to understand. Listen to be kind.

Stop talking and really listen.

Shhh!

Building Relationships

 

Fostering and sustaining healthy relationships is one of the greatest skills and challenges in the workplace. Ask a person who leaves or retires what they miss about the place, and the answer is always the people.

We spend the biggest part of our lives at work. Work consumes most of our time, so the people we work with are some of the most critical relationships we will ever have. There are many kinds of relationships and some are unhealthy. I need to honestly evaluate and analyze my work relationships to see how they sit with me. Am I OK with them or do some require work and remediation? Are some relationships unhealthy and require my taking steps to protect myself or to fix them, or do I learn to let go and form a polite truce?

I like to think I have formed some good, healthy, and productive relationships with my colleagues at GCC. I try to be that person who says she will do a thing, and then does the thing, preferably in a very timely manner. I try to be kind to people, because really, what does it cost me? I used to do telephone registration during peak enrollment periods and it was a stressful time for the students and for me. My goal was to somehow, someway, lighten every conversation I had. I was polite, cheerful, and efficient. I wanted to hear a smile in their voice by the end of our conversation. Most students responded positively to my attempts, but every once in a while I would get someone who wasn’t having it. I never had a really grumpy person, but I could tell my plan wasn’t working. In those instances, I would quickly process their transaction, wish them a good day and send them on their way. I guess I learned in the few minutes I had with people that I was there to fulfill their needs and did that to the best of my ability.

I try to do this with everyone I meet. I don’t have a lot of interaction with students, but when I walk across campus I try to make eye contact and smile or say hello. I don’t always do this, I try to be alert to non-verbal clues, but again, what does it cost me to be nice?

I find the old adage “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is so, so true in relationships with my work colleagues. I also find the practice of going out of my way to help another comes back to me ten-fold when I get on the phone to ask for help.

I don’t go to other colleges very often, so I find that is my next frontier. My plan is to build bridges and relationships with employees outside of GCC. Who knows what future friends are just waiting to be found?

Reason, Season, Lifetime…

 

Maybe you’ve read the Reason, Season, Lifetime piece. It’s a rather cutesy idea about why certain people come into your life. When I thought about work relationships, the Reason, Season, Lifetime thought came to mind.

Let me start by saying that I don’t buy into the over-simplified idea that everything happens for a reason. But after re-reading the Reason, Season piece and thinking about work/friend relationships over the years, it is sort of a cool concept.

Read Reason, Season (click below) and then think about people in your life that fit each category.

Even more interesting – think about yourself and what categories you fit in according to your experiences with family, friends, coworkers, and students. In addition to all the great people who have impacted your life, think about those who presented a struggle. Sometimes difficult experiences move us to grow or change. At the very least, we can re-frame our intentions in tough relationships as an opportunity to practice patience, tolerance, or model acceptable behavior for others.

So now you’ve had your daily dose of sugar-coated philosophy. Best wishes to everyone for a fantastic spring break.

Seizing Confrontational Teaching Moments

I was teaching Developmental English during the last controversial national presidential election cycle. In addition, the Arizona voters faced a highly contested Proposition 206 proposal to raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10.00/hour. The highly publicized political arena prompted many lively discussions in my class, which often times erupted during my open ended lessons. I capitalized on the vibrant enthusiasm, which my students displayed by having brainstorming sessions during class time concerning the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage in addition to other student-driven inquiries. After a classroom mini-debate concerning raising the minimum wage in Arizona, my students wrote exceptional argumentative papers with rich details and enhanced vocabulary due to front loading the rough draft preparations. Another indirect, but equally important lesson absorbed by my first-year college students addressed the manner in which to”argue” appropriately and to listen to (not just hear) one another’s ideas without being totally dismissive. No matter what content area we teach, our students are continually learning life lessons through unscripted and unanticipated teachable moments, which are diamonds in the rough if we choose to dig deeper into the makings of our students collectively. Therefore, I urge all of you professors/instructors out there in the 21st century, to seize the moment, and face the classroom debates head on!


Is It Time for Happy Hour Yet?

That’s a pretty relevant question. It is Thursday, and the To-Do list is fairly long. So why not shirk all responsibility for 30 minutes or so and blog about happy hour? Sounds good to me. Happy hour is the obvious choice for this week’s writing prompt for Write6x6Building Relationships. How do you build relationships with faculty, staff, and students on campus? How important are these relationships to you?

First, I’m going to point out the obvious. There will be no happy hour with students, but everyone else is fair game. It’s the perfect way to build relationships. When I left South Mountain Community College 8 years ago, one of the pluses on my Pro/Con list for leaving the college was building relationships and community. I have some wonderful friends at SMCC and built some long lasting relationships, but not many of those relationships went beyond the boundaries of the college. I just felt like if I was going to spend 6 hours a day with people, I should be friends with those people outside those boundaries – at least some of them. So I left. I felt like a bigger campus, more people would open up those doors. And I was right. I went from having 6 faculty in my department to 40. There might have been more at SMCC if I counted the Reading faculty, but I didn’t really know of any of them. But you get the idea.

Everyone is busy, and teaching schedules can be chaotic. It’s difficult to build relationships when you never see the people you work with. So I made it a habit of walking the halls and spending time in my office beyond the required 1 hour office hour, just so I could connect with my peeps. After a while, I quickly learned that I was never going to get much work done when I was in the halls of 05. I spent my time there popping into offices, talking with colleagues, answering questions and generally just chilling.  It was a great trade off. Not everyone agrees with that sentiment, as there were plenty of closed doors in the hallways.

But there are also many happy hours. Meeting up off campus allows for people to feel free, be more relaxed, and open up a bit more about how things on the job are really going. It gives us all a chance to problem solve together and brainstorm ideas. But it also builds stronger relationships. I work with a bunch of awesome people who travel to conferences for professional development together, submit proposals for grants together, work on projects together, and of course, attend many happy hours, dinners and gatherings in our own homes together. We’re just one big kumbaya song.

You Have to Dream Big, Amiright?

 

(Sorry I’m so late with my entries, life is getting cray cray!)

If we are talking dreams, I have to go big, right? I am working on my Master’s degree, acquiring better writing skills that I hope to use to GCC and MCCCD’s benefit. I would love to be in the position where I could promote and facilitate staff workshops and events. I believe if done right, they will help build staff engagement in the GCC community. There is a lot of good work happening across campus and district at the student and faculty levels, and I would like to play a bigger role in promoting staff engagement.

To that end, I am exploring grant writing. I believe adding that knowledge and skill will go hand-in-hand with my dream of project managing workshops. My dream is to find many small grants to help with the fabulous work done at GCC and to create events and workshops for any and all, students, staff and faculty. I don’t believe professional development is a high priority for staff members at Maricopa. A lot of attention falls on faculty and “MAT” employees to attend conferences and increase knowledge, but I feel we staff members do ourselves a disservice when we are content to punch in, do our jobs, and punch out. Day after day of doing the same work gets boring and monotonous and leads to apathy. Most professional growth occurs with employees completing higher degrees, which is admirable, I take advantage of this myself, but I see a larger group of employees who don’t participate in professional growth or development activities.

I’ve had the luxury to work on many wonderful events like the Human Library, Human Trafficking Week of Awareness and Call to Action, and the Junior Gaucho outreach events. I have learned a lot and become more engaged with the campus and its future. I would like to promote this among our staff and to the rank in file employees. I know we have a district training and development office, but I would like to explore some different, creative ideas and opportunities.

Let’s see what dreams may become realities.

 

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