Category Archives: Administration

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.

 

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

 

Culturally Responsive Teaching Empowers Students Intellectually and More

“Culturally responsive teaching is an approach that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes”.

-Gloria Ladson-Billinas

When I was a sophomore in high school I was enrolled in Honors English (not Honors Math) thank God. I had a teacher from Dallas, Texas. She was a cowgirl. She looked around the room, 27 students and 25 of them Latino. We had the typical Shakespeare booklist and she looked around and said “we’re throwing that out, instead we are going to read “Bless me Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya.” The story is about a Mexican-American boy living in New Mexico. His grandmother is a native folk healer and she teaches him about the importance of moral independence. An emphasis of thinking independently about moral decisions. Antonio, the boy learns many lessons from his grandmother and witnesses the end of her life. The story ends with her death.

Talk about classroom engagement. The entire class was consumed by the story and the cultural validation. It didn’t end there. Somehow our teacher contacted Mr. Anaya and asked him to visit our class. He said yes and within weeks of us finishing the book he came to our class to talk about his life as a Mexican-American author. We were beyond impressed. This was a memorable experience for me and my classmates.

As educators both in the classroom and outside the classroom we have a wonderful, blessed career to partake in the educational journey of our students. We get to be a part of their journey and we get to learn about their personal lives as well as their goals and dreams for the future. Often times we are their first mentor, their first role model, their first support system. To me, cultural responsiveness means more than one strategy or providing students with one experience, it means truly being interested in who they are as a person and understanding my role in their success. Veteran students, single moms, foster youth, minority males, the list goes on and on but the underlying commitment lies in our ability to adjust our college to meet our students needs and help them achieve their dreams.

 

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.

 

 

Change is coming…

District Transformation Plan…Guided Pathways…Industry Partnerships…Enterprise Performance…a bunch of words, what do they all mean? How is it going to change what I do everyday? Why should I care?

These are all things you may be feeling. I am excited about all of the changes but I am especially excited about Guided Pathways and the change it could mean for our students. Guided Pathways is a national movement embraced by community colleges and universities alike. Here’s the thing…it’s not even a new concept but one, when done right, will have tremendous impact on how students reach their goal.

I want you to think about what drove you to commit your professional life at a community college. Was it a love of your discipline? Was it because you love teaching as opposed to research? Was it because you loved your college-experience so much you didn’t want to leave? Was it because you simply want to make a difference for others? Whatever the case, I want you to ask yourself if you’re ready to take a journey and be part of the movement…In the great words of Alexander Hamilton (aka Lin-Manuel Miranda in “My Shot”) “This is not a moment, it’s the movement.”

Joining the movement for Guided Pathways isn’t about something we’re “doing”, it’s about something we’re “becoming” and will require a renewed commitment to what brought us to the community college in the first place.

Guided Pathways will result in an actual map that students will follow. These maps will be in designated “clusters” so students can easily move from one degree to another in the same cluster with little loss of credit…By the way, did you know that on average, community college students graduate with over 90 credit hours? And if students want to change their cluster all together, for example from Engineering to Business, then this can happen too. Remember, it’s a pathway not a prison.

So, what does all this mean to you? If you’re a faculty member, it may mean asking some questions about what can you do to help students through the “gateway” courses. These are courses with high enrollment and low success rates. It may mean you are challenged to think of your discipline is a way that is outside your comfort zone. If you are an Academic Advisor, it may mean continuous training with a lowered and designed caseload of students to guide.  But you are not alone and we have amazing colleagues who can help us grow in our chosen profession.

But…why exactly are we on this committed movement of Guided Pathways? Ultimately, it’s to achieve student success, equity, and economic upward mobility for the students we serve. So, we have to ask ourselves…are we really student-ready? Are we willing to adapt to the changes that are surely coming? Are we willing to take on this movement? Remember, “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.” I say, “Let’s go!”

 

 

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.

 

On Kindness

Practicing it won’t make you perfect but it’ll make you aware. We’ve all probably been taught at some point in our lives of its virtues, but have we examined its meaning? What does it mean to be kind? To understand, perhaps it’s best to know what it feels like to be treated in an unkind manner.  I’m pretty sure we can all remember the last time we felt like that.  But can we remember the last time we treated someone with kindness?  What were the circumstances under which we chose to act in a kindly manner.  And no, I’m not talking about patronizing manners or obligatory responses.  I’m talking real.  Right here and right now. Starting with today. We’re all too busy thinking and worrying about ourselves and “what’s in it for me.”  And in doing so we’ve missed the opportunity to respond to an overwhelmed student or coworker.  All because, if you please, we were thinking all about “me” instead of “them.”  We know what it feels like when we’re left to feel the sting of a perfunctory thank you or please. My challenge is this:  let’s think ahead and outside of ourselves. So the next time we’re in a situation which may require compassion, we think instead of how we can best be prepared to respond to a need selflessly and with compassion for someone in need of a kind act instead of an eye-rolling dismissal. You see to be kind, we must think of someone other than ourselves. That’s how I wish to be remembered. As an example of kindness.  We’ve been taught the lesson, but so have we learned?  What a difference kindness can make.
 

The Magic in the Classroom

Have you ever experienced that magical moment in the classroom when everything seemed to be just perfect? The class session when you might not have even planned for the activities but the students took you down a path where one thing led to the next and before you knew it…there was magic?

I’ve been very fortunate over my 23-year history teaching mathematics and have experienced several of those moments. It was those moments of magic when I knew the students were engaged, learning from each other, and I was the proud teacher on the side. The moments when the students were working together in groups and found they didn’t agree with the answers from another group. This is what I always referred to as a “controversy”, followed by telling students that “Controversy is good for the soul and this is the time to listen and learn from each other”.

It happened quite by accident. I was teaching College Algebra (MAT151) and I had a wide range of learning levels in this class. Actually, this was a regular occurrence in my College Algebra classes. Some students would enroll in this class after having taken the mathematics placement test, which usually meant they had a very high level of mathematical knowledge and ability, while other students enrolled because they had earned a C or better in the previous class, Intermediate Algebra (MAT121).   This latter group usually had a mixture of mathematical knowledge and ability. This is the group that Michael came from.

Michael was a very large and imposing young man, probably in his early 20s, and an admitted felon. Michael was a nice young man with a quick smile, big laugh, and a limited understanding of algebraic rules. He tried hard, came to class everyday (probably because his probation officer made him), participated in all of the group activities, but wasn’t passing the class.

We came to the part of the class where we were solving radical equations…sorry to all the non-math folks for the technical part of this story, but it is very important. All semester, I had been working with the students and helping them to understand that there was more than one way to solve an algebraic equation…there was the traditional algebraic method, but there was also a numerical method and a graphical method. We regularly used a graphing calculator, TI-84, for just about everything in the class but particularly to see the numerical and graphical answers.

So, we were knee deep into learning about radical equations and they were familiar with the possibility of having an Extraneous Solution…that pesky problem where you might be able to algebraically solve the equation but the solution doesn’t check out when you substitute the answer back into the equation…blah, blah, blah.

My students were working in groups and five of the six groups all came up with the same answer… all except Michael’s group. This is where the magic happened. In Michael’s loud booming voice, he said, “You all are wrong, there’s No Solution!” To which I said, “Michael, can you come to the front and show everyone what you mean?” We regularly used the Pad Camera for the class so Michael makes his way to the front and using the graphing calculator, shows the class that the two sides of the equation, each representing a function, did not intersect. The class erupted in cheers and Michael had his moment of validation in the sun.

I don’t know what happened to Michael after the semester, I can only hope and pray that he stayed on the straight and narrow path and is living a happy life. I know that he made a huge difference in my life and serves as a reminder of the potential that lives within all of our students.

 

SciTech Night of Student Success

Friday night was a night filled with stars, meteorites, comets…chocolate, ramps, burning gumming bears, fossilized arthropods, and so much more. Friday night was the third annual SciTech Festival Event held at GCC North. I had the distinct pleasure of officially starting the event by welcoming everyone…of course, I was so excited I forgot to introduce myself, but I was not the star of the show…our students and faculty are the real stars.

We are so fortunate to have such amazingly dedicated faculty, committed to their discipline and committed to our students. The level of expertise displayed by our students is a direct result of the care and commitment, and their hard work, that our faculty have shown to these students.

My two daughters, ages 10 and 12, gave up their gymnastics class so they could be part of this event, they loved it so much from last year! We all learned so much and I finally have a point of reference regarding light years. As we were looking at a double cluster of stars through one of our high-powered telescopes, Caushlin, the young student who wants to be an Astrophysicists, explained that it was 7500 light years away….”Ok, what exactly does that mean?”, I asked her. “We are looking in the past…7500 years in the past.”, she patiently explains….What? Then she explains that it takes 7500 years for light from those stars to reach our eyes so we are actually looking at the double cluster of stars as they were 7500 years ago…are they even still there? Next things I know, there are two other brainiacs with us, explaining to the uninformed Vice President, the obvious facts about Astronomy. A special thanks to Curtis and Angel for your patience and for not laughing in my face.

Watching our faculty in action takes my breath away. Learning the chemistry of how chocolate is made, as explained by Dr. Christina Clark, was interesting and so well explained that even a non-chemist like myself could understand it…and the chocolate was delicious. Watching the theatrics of Dr. Joe Springer as he blew up balloons and showed florescent chemicals made it clear why our students enjoy his classes. Listening to the excitement in Dr. Sally Watt’s voice as she explained the stars to community members was inspiring.

I have always thought that being an excellent teacher was part art and part science; the art of performing and engaging your audience to learn the science of our disciplines. Watching our faculty and students in action on Friday night, proved to me, that this belief still rings true.

 

Find Your Passion

The above image shows the results from last week’s poll and has nothing to do with the content of this week’s blog.

Week 3 Blog – Find Your Passion

I have a problem with following directions. I am always looking for the road less traveled. Our theme this week is about professional development, and I want to get to the heart of the matter, but with a twist.

Let’s face it, we don’t love our jobs every day. We tell our students to find a career they are passionate about so that they will “love” their jobs. Well, we all know that is an unrealistic expectation.

In order to have ultimate job satisfaction, you have to be passionate about SOMETHING. You have to make time for the things that you love. If you are an artist, you should be drawing, painting or designing. But you don’t have to do it at work. You do have to make sure you take the time to do it at some point in the day!

Take a look around at your work colleagues. You can see who is bringing passion to work. It’s like the good life is flowing over into their otherwise ho-hum life.

Take me, for example. Louise likes her job, she has a passion for health and fitness and loves teaching. Her job can be overwhelming and repetitive at times. Her true passion is swimming. When she swims, she is able to be creative and excited about her job, constantly coming up with something new and fun to keep it from feeling overwhelming and repetitive.

When Louise does not take the time to swim, she is grumpy and overwhelmed. Her professional development is directly affected by whether or not she gets to swim (her true passion). There are other obvious health-related benefits from swimming that get her blood flowing and her brain working, but jogging on the treadmill does not have the same effect, because she is terrible at running (not her true passion).

So what does this have to do with professional development, you ask? Everything. The point of professional development is to get better at what you do, to stay current in your field of study, and to network with others on the same career path. You can’t do any of that without passion. Let your passion for your “thing” overflow into your work life and you will find that your professional development will take care of itself. You will find yourself seeking opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

Here is your call to action for the week: “What are you passionate about and are you spending enough time doing what you love?”

p.s. My “actual” professional development consists of an annual conference with the American College of Sports Medicine, nutrition seminars, various  MCCCD FPG workshops, and my favorite: CTLE offerings throughout the year. I have immense appreciation for the work of the GCC CTLE crew of Meghan, Alisa, Mark and Cheryl. They are oozing with talent and I love to learn from them.  ls