Category Archives: Adjunct Faculty

Dreams Start With Good Habits

Dreams…I want to be a better writer. Thanks to Write6x6, I get to practice. I want to be a better public speaker. When are we starting Speak6x6? Who needs Toastmasters when we have everything we need right here at GCC?!

I have learned that there is no such thing as work/life balance. I would say madness is a more appropriate term than balance. I have been reading Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits so that I can continue to function effectively at home and at work. Brendon shares in detail the habits of high performers, and gives clues about how anyone can work on these specific habits to become a “rockstar.”

I can only dream, right?

Well, good thing this week’s writing is focused on dreams!

I have dreams for my students too. We know the data about our students. They arrive underprepared and with no idea how to be successful. But they have a dream…a college education.

Here is what Brendon shares that can help you, me and our students:

  1. Clarity – set an intention for who you want to be and how you want to interact with others. For example, if, in my heart, I want to be helpful and kind, I repeat these words to myself when a student or coworker enters my office. If I am about to enter a meeting room, I decide what kind of energy I hope to bring into the room and how it will effect others. This is a great message for many of our students who often do not see how their demeanor can affect others.
  2. Energy – time to improve your mental, emotional and physical vibrancy! This starts with nutrition, sleep and exercise! Open your refrigerator and your pantry and rate yourself the foods you see. You will eat what is readily available. Don’t like it? Either toss it or take non-perishables to the GCC Food Pantry! Start afresh! Take a nutrition class and learn the basics of healthful eating! Go to bed on time and wake up early so you can do 30 minutes of exercise and stretching! If you stay up late, you tend to eat more junk, wake groggy, and are less likely to want to exercise. So sleep!
  3. Necessity – are you bringing your A-game to work and home every day? You are here to serve students’ needs, right? What is your level of motivation? Are you really giving it the same level of motivation that you did when you started? Or are you just going through the motions. When is the last time you asked yourself “why am I here?” and “am I doing what I am supposed to be doing to effectively serve others?”
  4. Productivity – how is your time management and project planning ability? When do you strategize and actually get real work done well? Are you in offense or reaction mode? Do you check your emails first thing in the morning and start working on other people’s priorities? NEVER start your day by checking emails. Put the phone down! Get out of bed, stretch, exercise, read a good book, spend an hour strategizing and working on a favorite project, THEN check your email in a 20-50 minute time block. Then get up and walk around and chat with students or peers! Bring your good intentions to every interaction.
  5. Influence – let’s face it, nothing gets done if we can’t convince people to take action. If they don’t trust you, they will not go to bat for you. We need to show patience, compassion and availability to others before we can ever expect others to do the same for us. Relationships take time to build. Being a great role model and asking lots of questions is a great place to start.
  6. Courage – are you living your passion? Do those around you know what your dream is? Have you ever taken a step into the unknown even if it scares you? Live your truth, take risks, and share your voice a little more every day! If we live in fear of judgement, we can never expect to grow!

I hope these six guidelines will help guide you on your dream journey! They are great reminders to all of us!

 

 

Dogs and CATs

I’m a dog guy. I didn’t really know it until later in life. Our family had cats when I was growing up. I remember Frisky and Misty, but those memories are somewhat cloudy as I was fairly young. After I got married and moved to Arizona, my wife and I adopted our first dog, Virginia, named after the state in which we met. She was a beautiful black lab, but cancer took her from us too soon. She did get to both of our kids; however, she was not around long enough for them to have any vivid memories. But, after having Virginia, we quickly became a dog family. Flash forward to today, and we have three wonderful dogs at home. Hero is a loving, carefree Golden Retriever, who we have owned since he was eight-weeks old. We also have two yellow Labrador Retrievers, Ginger and Obi. Both are rescue dogs, and both are incredibly sweet and loving in their own way. Three dogs in the house is “a lot of dog” as we like to say, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I reflect on my love of dogs and my tolerance of cats, it conjures up some connections to our roles as educators. First, I believe effective teachers mirror some of the characteristics of dogs. When I come home from work, our three dogs are absolutely overjoyed to see me – a barrage of wagging tails, playful jumps, and flops at my feet. With a greeting like this, the worries and stresses of the day can quickly disappear. With teaching, I am always impressed with those teachers who provide that warm, positive greeting as students enter the room. Granted, I’m not sure we want teachers jumping playfully and flopping on the ground; however, students do respond positively when teachers take those brief moments before class to welcome them and to show excitement and gratitude that the student has come to class.

Second, dogs express an unconditional love and support of you, no matter the situation. I have met many teachers who have this unconditional love and support for students, the belief that all students can succeed. There may be times when students will let us down, possibly with the choices they make or with the effort they give. But, effective teachers have an unconditional and unwavering belief that all students can learn and achieve.

As an educator, I’ve grown to love cats too – but in this case, I am referring to Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). I was first introduced to CATs over a decade ago while working at the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI). My supervisor at the time handed me a copy of the Angelo and Cross foundational text, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. To this day, I still refer to this book as I interact with faculty during classroom observations. CATs are quick and easy informal strategies to measure student learning in the classroom. Some instructors at GCC have completely embraced CATs, using minute-papers or the muddiest point strategy to gauge how well students learned the content and objectives for the class session. My personal favorite CAT is the ticket-out. With this strategy, instructors provide students with a brief question or two at the end of class. Students must write their answers on a note-card or slip of paper and that is their ticket out from class. These informal techniques allow instructors to get a sense of what students learned from the class and what students may have missed, with the ultimate goal of providing additional instruction the next time the class meets or to even provide additional content in Canvas to fill in any gaps. These low-stakes, quick assessment strategies are an effective way to measure student learning and an excellent teaching strategy to help students to achieve.

I am a dog guy – there is no question about that. However, there is definitely a special place for CATs in my teaching heart as well.

 

Let’s Get Critical

Last year I went in depth on one of the most overlooked assessment tools, rubrics. My feelings and thoughts on that important tool have not changed, but rather than repeat myself this year I want to talk about a different type of assessment. Specifically, I want to talk about assessing the critical thinking skills of students.

The specificLightbulb critical thinking ability I have been working on is the ability to analyze and attack a strongly held personal belief. The idea being that a good critical thinker should be able to understand opposing viewpoints.

I have done this through a series of writing assignments in various forms over many semesters. The most recent iteration is a “Devil’s Advocate” series of assignments where students are required to write a defense of a personal belief one week and write a defense of the opposing viewpoint the next.

The reason I always do this type of assignment is because of my core belief that critical thinking is a skill that will be useful to students no matter their future profession. It is also a skill that is sometimes overlooked in the test-driven performance-centric world of secondary level education.

Think Outside the Box

A word of warning, these types of assignments do have issues that will arise and need to be planned for ahead of time. There inevitably is always a group of students who absolutely detest this type of work. I had a student go as far as claim I was trying to “force my liberal beliefs” on them through my position of power. That complaint didn’t go anywhere, but it is an example as to how difficult this can be for some individuals. It also is very insightful as to the ability of students to critically think.

I have only recently started to tabulate the data in any real form, and the number of students that are able to successfully “think from the opposing viewpoint” has varied over semesters. The one constant I have noticed in the last decade is that there is always a significant portion of the class (30-50%) that must change their topic or take a sarcastic tone to complete the task, which shows a lack of developed critical thinking ability.

No matter what the final numbers and assessment show, the need to reinforce critical thinking skills at the college level is, well, critical. There are elements of critical thinking that can be taught in any discipline or class, and if every course made an effort to include tasks that require critical thinking skills, the end result would be students who will be better prepared to handle the unknown, problem solve, and appreciate (or at least respect) the “other”.

Education prepares the workforce of the future, politicians, nurses, teachers, managers, everyone that has a job that requires more than a High School diploma. In a world of percentages, having the majority with a solid foundation of critical thinking skills will result in a better world for everyone.

Graduation Photo

If you have assignments that assess critical thinking, or have thoughts about critical thinking in the classroom, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to comment below or send me an e-mail!

 

The “One Thing” and it’s Not Bragging

Welcome back to Week 3 of “The One Thing You can do to Raise Enrollment,” a six week “how-to” series.

Study after study has produced empirical evidence to support the fact that reputation is the most important factor influencing people’s college and class choices.

Without a strong reputation, colleges are unable to attract the resources necessary to build an effective educational environment. Institutional reputation attracts everything from the best professors and research talent to philanthropic donations and star students. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team, and in education, that means investing in the best academic brand,” writes Joseph Torrillo, vice president of Reputation Management.

As employees, we cannot sit back and passively place our hope in the power of the marketing department alone to define and manage our institutions’ reputations. Why? Because no amount of marketing can trump a personal experience with a brand.

I love this definition: Brand equity “is the intangible asset of added value or goodwill that results from the favorable image, impressions of differentiation, and/or the strength of consumer attachment to a company name,” writes Michael Belch and George Belch in their book,  Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective. (if this were a paper, the attribution would read, (Belch and Belch p. 56) …go ahead, makes me giggle a little, too.)

When a student has a good experience with a GCC employee, a curious thing happens: The student does not say, “I love that GCC employee named Lupe.” No, the student says, “I love GCC.” A single good experience with a single employee packs a powerful boost to GCC’s overall reputation. Suddenly someone is singing praises of GCC to their friends, family, and strangers on social media.

However, experience is a double edged sword. When a student has a bad experience with a GCC employee, it’s not the employee they heap coals upon, it’s the overall institution.

Last week you spent some time writing a few statements that speak to your personal humanity.

This week your task is to… take a deep breath… list your achievements.The purpose of this task is to make public any information that enables students to make an informed decision to choose you.

“If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted.” – Francis Bacon

The simple act of listing your areas of expertise and accomplishments in your Employee Biography page serves to significantly elevate GCC’s reputation on a local, national, and international scale.

It’s not bragging.  You ARE the secret sauce in GCC’s reputation! You have a history of proud moments, achievements and accomplishments that needs to come up in a google search.

A bio page with secret sauce includes naming your areas of expertise, credentials, a personal quote, and some information that reveals your humanity and proudest moments.

Here is an example:

Name: John Doe
Credentials: AAS Computer Science; M.A.Ed, Ph.D.
Areas of Expertise: Curriculum design; Community Partnerships

Personal Quote:  “I got my Doctorate at Yale University, but I identify more with the students who come to GCC.”

Bio: Four generations of my family have come to GCC to get their degree and come back to teach or to serve here. Ask me why we love GCC and I’ll tell you – everywhere you look are caring, compassionate, and smart people who want to help you succeed.
I am proud to be a part of GCC’s legacy of helping the next generation move forward in acquiring the education and skills that will bring them closer to their dream job.
My part in helping students involves…
My proudest moments are…
My contributions have… [been recognized, rcvd awards, resulted from specialized training, earned degrees, been published, been in the news, led to grant funded…]
I don’t believe my degrees define me – I only earned my Doctoral degree to be a better teacher, so I tell my students to call me Mr. Doe. I look forward to the start of each semester. Meeting the next generation of students is like unwrapping a present: What wondrous potential lies inside!”

Teach others how and what to think about you, and it forms a reputation in their minds for GCC as well. Take this time detail what you offer – leave no doubt in the reader’s mind that not only are you are a devoted educator, but you are a nice person to boot.

Reputation wields compelling, persuasive, influential power.

Your homework this week: Begin listing the ingredients that make up your particular secret sauce. These may include your personal areas of expertise and scope of services, awards, thesis topic/description, published works, patents, specialized training, published news about you, your motivation, what inspires you, the thing(s) you love most about what you do, and…

…(at least) one thing you want to be remembered for should you drop dead tomorrow. 

It’s Presidents’ Day weekend, established in 1885 to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln whose reputations for honesty and integrity still inspire us today.

This weekend, carve out some time to work on defining YOUR enduring reputation. Then come back next week for Step 4: A Picture is Worth a 1000 Likes

 

Quiet

I have been using emotional intelligence lately to tune in to my students. I teach in an industry that demands extroverts. Last night, we had a guest speaker  who came to share about trends in the fitness industry.  He took one look at the group, and before he even started, he announced that they were too quiet and needed to change that quickly. I bristled.

Step back six weeks in time when I started reading a book on introversion.  Susan Cain, the author, is an introvert “in a world that can’t stop talking.” She wrote an awesome book on the topic and I have to share what I learned.

There are lots of introverts among us. They are hard to spot sometimes because they have managed to adapt to their environment. As instructors, introverts can perform well in the classroom, but they need much more recovery time than an extroverted professor.
Many, many of our students are introverts. They are very uncomfortable with speaking up in class or engaging in dynamic group activity. They do it, but it is draining, and they have a harder time learning information because adrenaline is coursing through their veins. The limbic part of their brain is dealing with stress, and the pre-frontal cortex is not able to focus on learning.
I can relate. I know what it is like to be put on the spot and be expected to speak in full eloquence and all that comes out of your mouth is a caveman-like grunt.
We are supposed to be preparing our students for the workforce. Employers are telling us they want outgoing, friendly people with excellent customer service and communication skills. No introverts need apply.
So we create modular classrooms where students are forced to face each other and work in groups. We ask students to do oral presentations in front of the class regardless of ability. We call their name in front of the class without warning and expect a correct answer.
I wish we could have a visual readout of our students’ brainwave patterns and hormone production as we teach them so we can adapt our methods accordingly. If a student is half terrified, even though they can hide it well, they are not in a safe and effective learning environment. We can teach all we want, but they retain very little.
So what is the solution to this dilemma? Our introverted students are not less intelligent than our extroverted students, yet our biases favor the extrovert. The introverted professor brings a wealth of knowledge to campus meetings, but never gets heard. The introverted students are engaged and fully focused on learning  until we push them too far out of their comfort zone. The loudest voice in the room is usually the one that we acknowledge.
How can we get a nice complement of both worlds? How can we pair our introverts and our extroverts so the best knowledge is heard?
We have much work to do in this area.
Start by reading Quiet, by Susan Cain.
 

Week 2: The “One Thing” and its Powerful Sway

Did you complete your Week 1 homework assignment? If not, take a moment to search for your name on gccaz.edu, click on your employee bio page, and make a note of any information that uniquely reflects your own personal humanity.

When it comes to class enrollment, do you leave it up to chance? You have a lot to offer, and are a passionate educator. But students don’t know this about you ahead of time. What if you could influence students before you even meet them?

Studies show that when it comes to choice, a good reputation is king. To influence a student’s choice in which class (or college) they enroll, we must increase perceived reputation. Reputation is a fragile thing, and a student’s initial experience plays a critical role in the decision-making process.

This brings us to the old adage, “you only get one chance to make a good first impression.” A first impression is critical to reputation, and Step Two is all about taking control of the timing of that first good impression.

Timing, they say, is everything.

So, the “one thing” you can do to influence the student decision-making process, raise enrollment, and raise GCC’s reputation in an increasingly crowded marketplace is to teach others what to think about you before you even meet.

I am going to show you how to not just make a good first impression, but a viscerally good first impression, using your employee bio page. During the decision making process, students check out who is teaching a class – why? They are looking for clues  for who to choose. The purpose of this blog series is for you learn how to make it easy for student to choose you, and thereby GCC. When you are done with your bio page, students who view it will “get” you. I have done random checks of comparable faculty at NAU, ASU, UofA and GCC. The sad fact is that very few instructors have posted any information on their bio page beyond name, email, and office hours.

As a result, students turn to sites such as RateMyProfessors.com to help them make a decision. The problem with these ratings sites is that other people are defining your reputation for you – and influencing reader choice. Remember, reputation is a fragile thing.

Consider the following:

“I grew up in a poor family, and I identify with the struggles some of my students have.” – Dr. Carlos Nunez

When I first read that quote, a picture of who this man is immediately formed in my mind: Genuine. Sincere. Empathetic. Successful. When I met Dr. Nunez, I quickly became aware that he was all this and more. He was courageous in and out of the classroom, and we all miss him, bless his soul.

Quotes – we love them. We share them, post them, tattoo them, frame them and hang them on our walls. We love quotes because quotes resonate with something deep inside of us. Quotes inspire us. Quotes give us hope. Quotes make us laugh at ourselves and life. Quotes make us cry with empathy. Quotes rally us together.

But the greatest power of a quote is that it connects us to each other’s humanity.

Your homework is to write a compelling introductory statement that reflects on a particular aspect of your personal journey through college. Here are a few examples to get your juices going:

  • “Juggling work, family, and college was hard, but I wanted a better life.” (inspires resilience).
  • “The first time I looked through a microscope I saw my future.” – (conveys vision)
  • “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. College helped me find my passion.” – (inspires hope)

Experiment writing statements that uniquely reflect your own personal humanity.

“It’s not up to chance, it’s up to you.” ― Rob Liano, Author and Business Speaker

Come back for Week 3, Step 3: The “One Thing” and It’s Not Bragging.

 

 

Habit and the Art of Behavior Change

I just realized that the theme for this week is “culturally relevant.” So I had to stop and take a look at the draft I had saved to see if it could be salvaged!

As it turns out, EVERYONE is talking about behavior change, so that makes it cultural, right?

I have set over a million goals that I failed to accomplish. How ’bout you?

Don’t you find it frustrating, for example, when you realize you are consuming too much chocolate-covered anything, set a goal to quit, and find yourself back in the cookie jar within 24 hours.

Not being perfect myself, I feel I am in a good position to share my method for success. It all lies in the thought process. I treat every day like a training session for the future and I am not obsessed by my goal. I do become slightly obsessed by the process, however,  until it becomes autonomic.

Most of us see someone we wish to emulate, figure out what they do, and try to do exactly what they do. This is like going from zero to 180 in 3 seconds and wondering why the car’s engine is all over the highway.

Repetitive, deliberate baby steps with only the baby step in mind, not the outcome, is the path to mastery.  Each deliberate baby step is a training session for your future mind. In the future, when the baby step becomes a habit, you will look back and be thankful that you remained true to each and every session. They weren’t hard sessions, but the were consistent. The foundation was being laid for the day when you were ready to take it to a new and more challenging level.

How do you know you are ready for the next level? It is when you get out of bed in the morning and you no longer have to convince yourself of the benefits of your goal despite the hardships. It just is.

It’s like the act of brushing our teeth. We don’t slowly walk up to our toothbrush, weighing the pros and cons of tooth brushing, struggling through every brush stroke. We don’t think to ourselves about how we can avoid it or what else we could be doing that is more fun. We just do it because it is part of the morning and evening ROUTINE that WE have created for ourselves.

Tooth brushing actually became easy because it is a short bout of activity with tremendous benefits. Can you think of anything in your life that you can do in short bouts that can bring you tremendous benefits, allow you to build a habit over time, and create a foundation where you can step it up when you are ready?

I can.

You can.

Your students can.

 

The One Thing You can do to Raise Enrollment

A six week “how-to” series
Week 1, Step 1: But first, a story.

My biggest failure happened when I was a wet-behind-the-ears youth leader. I was actively looking to raise money for youth activities and I had responded to an ad pitching a T-shirt fundraiser. The company featured exciting, fun, faith-based designs on sleeveless T-shirts, and, for a limited time, was selling the shirts at a steep discount. The deal involved paying in advance with no returns and no refunds, but these things did not matter because these sleeveless shirts would sell themselves. I used my tax refund money to purchase the shirts. The shirts arrived and we began selling. But, instead of buying the shirts, our friends and families asked: Don’t you have any T-shirts with short sleeves? It turns out that people are so adverse to wearing sleeveless T’s that the fundraiser tanked horribly. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it changed my life.

I learned to never make decisions “based on a hunch.” I came to love data informed decision-making, and I am not alone. In this data driven age, even the youngest consumers are making informed decisions by comparing products, pricing, and reputation, including incoming college students and their families.

You’ve probably guessed by now, the “one thing” you can do is based on what works, study proven methods, and not gut instinct. So, what is the “one thing” you can do to influence the student decision-making process, raise enrollment, and raise GCC’s reputation in an increasingly crowded marketplace?

Before I spill the beans, you should know that conversely, by not doing this “one thing,” you risk falling off your potential students’ radar completely, and losing them to a competitor. There is a lot at stake and much to be gained.

The first step: go to www.gccaz.edu, and search for
your name. Visit your personal employee webpage and make a mental note of any content that reveals some aspect of your own personal humanity.

Come back for Week 2, Step 2: The “one thing” and its powerful sway.

 

Theoretical War of Theory

When pursuing my Master’s I enrolled in a summer course entitled “Theory of Education”.  For many in the class it was the kind of backward psychobabble  that bore little relevancy on actual classroom technique and management, focusing primarily on Behaviorism and Constructivism.

Theory Meme

It has now been well over a decade since those early days of learning, and I have only grown in appreciation of the experience gained during those few months.

Fear not, this will not be a summation of educational theory and delivery methods. I could not give any theory justice this far removed.  No, like any good learning experience it wasn’t what was said that impacted me so much, but rather what was done.

Although most of those taking part in the class checked out day one, there were a few of us interested enough to make the classroom dialogue interesting. All the other students were already elementary or secondary teachers attempting to shore up their credentials and bank accounts by adding a Master’s to their wall. I was still in my educational infancy, a TA at the college without much in the way of practical experience.

The professor was a devote Contructivist and every lesson seemed to have a tinge of personal bias. Excellent for me who had latched on to Contructivism, but bad for the other interested parties who had seen Behaviorism work in their early education classrooms. Many of our sessions ended up turning into debates, often heated and passionate. At one point, midway through the summer semester, a frustrated elementary teacher stood up and declared that she would never understand Contructivism, and that the instructor would have to fail her on the spot because she was a Behaviorist for life.

I was at full attention, expecting some witty retort and conversion right then and there. What I got was a life lesson that stuck with me more than all the academic and education theories crammed into my textbooks. He smiled, warm, friendly, his debate tone drifted away replaced by a Bob Ross jovial melancholy, and he said that was okay, that he respected her beliefs even if they weren’t his own, and he wouldn’t want her beliefs to change simply because of his.

More important than theory I had witnessed practical implementation of the the greatest skills higher education can instill; patience, kindness, and critical thinking.  The ability to accept that there are different views beyond your own, and even if you are in a place of power you should not attempt to convert opinions, but encourage personal discovery.

Beliefs may define an individual, but they are not the reason society succeeds. Kindness, understanding, and curiosity are what propel both education and mankind, allowing us to achieve great things together, no matter what theories we happen to follow.