All posts by Lori Walk


Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came . . .

That’s how I feel when I come to GCC every day.  I’ve been building relationships here since 2003, and I value them deeply.

I like feeling known.  I like feeling that I’m on a team with like-minded people.  I like to feel that we’re all solving problems on behalf of our students.

Anyone who knows me knows that I build relationships around food and exercise.  One of my mentors told me about the psychological impact of offering a snack.  She said that it hearkens back to stone-age times.  Offering something to your guest sends the signal that you have your own food; you won’t eat them.  Ha!

The biggest barrier to relationships for me is time.  If we stay busy being busy, we don’t have time to listen to each other.  I’m always looking for ways to add breathing space to my day so that I can connect with someone.  Exercising with colleagues allows me to do that.  Want to brainstorm?  Let’s take a walk!



Can we talk?

Does any phrase strike more fear in our hearts?  Our brains immediately go to the deepest, scariest places to imagine what terrible news or problem must be addressed.

Decades ago, I used to think that if I were only in the right job or the right relationship that there wouldn’t be any problems.  Time changes everything.

Now I know it’s not “if there’s a problem” but “when there’s a problem”, and I’ve tried to develop some tools.

This article from Harvard Business Review focuses on actions we can take to prepare for and engage in hard conversations.   From all of these, my strong suit is #2:  lead with bad news simply and clearly in the first sentence.  My experience has taught me that this helps scare away the monster thoughts that inevitably fill our minds.  My growth area is to find the best time and place for these conversations.  For example, I used to close my door, but I found that seems to scare people.  I used to make appointments, but the anticipation can leave a person too worried to process information clearly.   Now I try to be in person and immediate so that there are no lingering doubts about a situation.  Almost always I find that the person I’m talking with “knew” something was coming and is glad to have the open dialogue.  Notice that I said almost always?

My advice to others is to find a strategy that fits your personal style and allows you to feel that you are being your most authentic self.

Of course, before doing anything, be sure that it’s really your problem to solve.  Remember the monkeys!



To dream the impossible dream

My dream is to have flexibility with my nemesis, time.  I want to continue to learn more about technology and scheduling options so that I can support learning 24/7 for my students and myself.  I don’t want to be locked into class periods and semesters.  I want my courses to be responsive enough to support continuous student growth.  Google docs is one of my  strategies now, but I’m looking for more ideas.  Until then, I’m dreaming the impossible dream.



“Miss, did I do OK?”

“Miss, did I do OK?”

This my least favorite question, not because I don’t want to give feedback to my students, but because the question itself often reveals that the student has not yet connected with the purpose or the outcome of the work we’re doing.  I see this especially from my dev ed English and reading students.

My goal is to help students understand the assessment tools we use so that they can gauge their own success and understanding.  Without such independence, they won’t be able to increase their reading and writing proficiency to the level demanded by our college courses.

Two tools I use are the SPUNKI prompts and a self-assessment checklist.

The SPUNKI prompts are used to help students talk and write about what they read.

  • S I am surprised that . . .
  • P I’m puzzled by . . .
  • U I found it useful that . . .
  • N It was new learning for me to know . . .
  • K I already knew . . .
  • I It is interesting to know . . .

Source: On Course Workshop  accessed June, 2016

The self-assessment checklist below helps reading students see growth in their own use of our literacy tools.

My Reading Report

Comprehension Pre-test _____ Comprehension Post-test _____              Gain  _____

Vocabulary Pre-test _____ Vocabulary Post-test _____
Gain _____

My TP vocabulary book ________________________

Highest Newsela Lexile _____   Average Newsela Lexile _____

My Reminders for Active Reading
(20 minutes a day minimum)


  • Predict
  • Activate prior knowledge


  • Summarize
  • Make connections
  • Check for understanding
  • Take notes


  • Evaluate what I learned
  • Revisit my predictions

Once students complete the checklist, they can participate more fully in a conference with me about their own learning.  This discussion is a precursor to a final reflective essay focused on their mastery of the course competencies.

By the time they’re finished, I want them to be able to say “Miss, I did well, and here’s how I know that.”


Kindness = Benevolent = Our focus at GCC

I like the different definitions behind the definitions.  Here’s what I found when I looked up kind and it took me to benevolent:

1.  characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings: a benevolent attitude; her benevolent smile.
2.  desiring to help others; charitable: gifts from several benevolent alumni.

3.  intended for benefits rather than profit: a benevolent institution.

I especially like the expressions goodwill; desiring to help others; and intended for benefits rather than profit.
That certainly sounds like GCC to me!  We are always looking out for our students.  When I updated my Canvas announcements for the week, here’s what I included today:

Campus Resources

Glendale Community College is focused on student success, and today’s announcement contains resources that might be helpful to you or someone you know.

GCC Food Pantry
9 a.m. – Noon
Student Union – Room 123A
February 15, 2017 and
Every Wednesday Campus is Open
Students can visit and select up to five non-perishable food items.
No ID or paperwork required.
This project is made possible through a partnership with the Salvation Army Glendale Corps.
Do you need money for college? Apply online.  (Links to an external site.) There are also workshops to help you write your applications.
Scholarship Assistance.png
What a great place to teach!

Why I’m excited to teach here!

I recently was asked why I wanted to focus more of my teaching time on literacy.  This is an excerpt of my response:

Although our course catalog separates English from reading, I have always seen myself as a literacy instructor.  My master’s degree and professional studies focus on reading and writing across the curriculum.  I teach children’s literature and ESL strategies using integrated literacy activities.  My CRE101 students write college-level essays in APA format using elements from the rubrics from ENG101.  My ENG081 students write clear paragraphs after reading quality text written at an appropriately challenging Lexile level.  My greatest joy is seeing an ENG071 or RDG071 student master college-level material in CRE101.  My ESL students tell me that the active learning strategies we use in our classes help them acquire vocabulary and feel successful.

I have become a better teacher at Glendale because of the rich resources we have within our department and across our campus.  I love the support of the CTLE as I revise and improve my face-to-face, hybrid, and online course offerings using Google tools and open educational resources.  I enjoy learning from others to provide meaningful activities such as the ESL peer tutoring experiences with Betsey Wheeler and Larissa Hill.

I currently have a terrific teaching assignment as a reading, education, and English instructor; however, I find that I want to do more in literacy.  My goal in becoming a full-time member of our department is to be able to say yes to opportunities to create new learning communities that integrate reading and writing.  I’m excited about the possibility of accelerated models and creative scheduling to help all of our students attain their academic goals more quickly.


My heroes have always been cowboys . . . I mean, teachers.

I like this prompt.  It reminds me of my role models and my inspiration.  Here are just a few:

  • Carmela, a former ENG071 – ENG102 early childhood cohort student who had three kids by the age of 23,  taught me that teaching is easy.  Life is hard.  Keep going!
  • My education and ENG/RDG team members who challenge me, surprise me, appreciate me, and inspire me to serve our students in new and better ways.TEP teamCindyBetsey
  • Mrs. Gleason,  an energetic 86 year old who is still subbing in high school reminded  me “Wear cute shoes so that students have something to look at when you’re teaching.”Mrs. Gleason
  • Mr. Pallack, my high school algebra and geometry teacher always told us “You can do this!”  This is Mr. Pallack last year with our high school freshman group.  We were celebrating his 90th birthday.

Mr. Pallack's party - class of '76



Developmental Education . . . My Own

Four years ago Mary Jane asked me to take a late start ENG101.  It was a last minute request . . . those happen a lot in our ever-growing, ever-changing department.  I said of course, and I was scrambling to pull my things together.  I asked for a copy of her syllabus to help me and was startled by a new term:  Google docs.

When I asked MJ for clarification, I had no idea that I would be opening a door to one of my greatest areas of personal growth.  She took about fifteen minutes to show me how she supported the writing process, not with blue folders and feedback sheets (a la Joy Wingersky), but with Google docs.

God bless the sixteen victims, I mean students who helped me learn the process that semester.  I made mistakes in giving directions and in organizing their files and in how I wanted to give feedback.  At the same time, however, I got hooked on the formative assessment that allowed me to coach any aspect of their writing from any place at any time.  Two of the students even thought it was cool that I was using something they’d used in high school for the past two years.  Glad I was catching up!

Since that spring, I’ve become a Google maniac!  I’ve used Google docs with dev ed students in learning communities; with all levels of reading and children’s lit; with ENG071 students (mostly ESL); and with future teachers.  My former students get help from me with psych or history papers by sharing a Google doc.  Teaching buddies like Roxanna Dewey and Alisa Cooper share their Google doc successes and challenges, and I learn something every semester.

The world always comes around full circle, and it did so Friday with Google docs.  In a CTLE training I got to sit next to Lauren Brandenburg, an adjunct who teaches English at North.  She reminded me that we had met briefly last year as I gave her some tips for becoming residential faculty.  While she was in my office, a student had stopped by to get help with his Google doc.  In five minutes the student had gotten support and had also modeled Google docs for Lauren.  She was hooked!  She told me that since that day she has been successfully using them with her own students.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines developmental as “of or relating to the growth or development of someone or something.”  I’m totally developmental in the area of Google docs, and I love it!  Thanks, Mary Jane Onnen!


Professional Development: What have you learned lately?

One of my best sources for professional development is peeking over the shoulders of my colleagues.  No, I’m not a stalker.  Specifically, I

  1. Sub for absent colleagues. I can really see how their courses connect with mine.  For example, today I was with a RDG091 class.  I can see what I should be doing in RDG081 to prep my students as well as see how their work leads up to CRE101.  I can also see different ways of delivering the content, whether it be in class or through Canvas.
  2. Tutor in the Writing Center. I am able to experience a wide range of writing expectations across our campus, and I always get good ideas about assignments and rubrics used by my colleagues.  I also stay in practice with having to explain things in a new and different way.
  3. Review online courses using the Gold Standards. Some of my best “ah-has” have come when I look at the modules or feedback strategies or resources contained in my colleagues’ awesome courses.  What good ideas we have here!  It really stretches me when I go outside of reading or education to see the way others view the world of Canvas.

I get so many good ideas every week that I’ve had to create Google docs and Google mail labels to capture everything.

My greatest personal growth lesson recently has been to implement just one or two things at a time.  Once I’m comfortable, I go to my files and find something else to add.


Mistakes are expected, inspected, respected

The title of this post came from an Arizona K-12 Teacher of the Year.  She has this slogan posted in her classroom.  It is something that I’ve been working on with my classes.

The most influential reading I’ve shared with my students over the past two years deals with growth mindset.  THANKS to my counseling colleagues and teaching partners, especially Aracely Barajas.   I share Carol Dweck’s work with all of my classes, and most do Cornell notes on it within the first ten days of class.  They also take a self-assessment to find out if they are mostly growth or fixed mindset.  We regular start class community meetings with “who has learned something this week?”  That’s code for who has made a mistake?

The hard part of learning is sometimes accepting our “failures” .  Jose Antonio Bowen shared an acronym that I thought was so good:  FAIL = first attempt in learning.

To make this all genuine, I have to model making mistakes, often doing a think-aloud to model problem solving and learning from it, and show how to accept and move on from it.

I also have had to change my grading practices to support their attempts.  As I teach the process of taking Cornell notes, for example, I don’t give less than full points.  If students haven’t done a good summary or reflection, or if they didn’t capture the key ideas, their paper has an R for rewrite.  (Thanks, Joy Wingersky!)

I’m continually looking for ways to support the learning (and making mistakes) process.  Do you have an idea to share?


Dr. Carol Dweck

Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen
President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked