Category Archives: Connections

I Get by With a Little Help…

Thank you John and Paul. Now if I may riff off you for a brief moment please (sing with me!)

I get by with a little help from my… colleagues.

It’s true. I really do, and I am grateful for it. The help and support that comes from the people I work with not only gets me through the day/week/month/semester/year, but it keeps me coming back for more. I’m lucky to work in a supportive atmosphere that encourages sharing, engagement, connection, building relationships, and, well, being helpful.

In turn, the help and support from friends and colleagues that keeps me motivated to do my best inspires me to be helpful and supportive too. You know, the pay-it-forward idea. And when I really think about that concept, I realize most of what I do as faculty at GCC is centered around helping others. Whether it be helping new faculty learn to navigate our monstrous community college system, or helping students find their writing voice (sure, they may not realize they want to find it–they simply want to pass ENG101–but I still help them find it!), my job is to help. Seriously, that is the second coolest realization I have had all year. (In case you care, the coolest realization I have had this year is that this applies to all of us who work for GCC–our job is to help. We are in the business of helping people find their purpose, change their lives and reach their goals.)

(I will sleep better tonight knowing we are all so helpful!)

Take us out, Ringo!

 

Professional Development Potpourri

     There are so many ways to get professional development, and I make use of as many of them as possible.  For the very literal, there is the popular conference.  Conferences can be found all over the globe and on myriad topics from The University of Hertfordshire's Open Graves, Open Minds: "The Company of Wolves': Sociality, Animality, and Subjectivity in Literary and Cultural Narratives--Werewolves, Shapeshifters, and Feral Humans to "WIRED & INSPIRED: The Intelligent Use of Technology in Higher Education" to the University of Roehampton's single day "Daughter of Fangdom: A Conference of Women and the Television Vampire."  I just finished attending the second one in my list, and my brain is overflowing with ideas. I sat in structured sessions, took notes, and brainstormed ideas.  I will take back my learning and slowly begin to implement some of the ideas.
     I also enjoy the professional development that takes place between colleagues who work on studying/learning something together.  For example, I once participated in a year long book group where we read books about the Millennials because we wanted to understand our students better. Books we read and discussed included Nurture Shock and Generation Me.  Our discussions included ways our lessons may/may not be working for this generation's students.  This professional development was small group, and we created the focus based on what our interests were and where our struggles existed.  The conversations were thoughtful and paced to our needs.  My attitudes toward my students changed, and I adapted my lessons to my audience.
     Then, for me, there is another valuable method of gaining professional development: independent reading and studying.  This can range from really good short articles to books on both pedagogy and content.  I find a lot of these readings from Twitter where I follow people/organizations who tweet about education, composition, or literature.  The best education ones I follow include Higher Ed Chat, Mark Barnes, Diane Ravitch, and Edudemic.  For research and citation, I follow Easybib.  For my literature interests, particularly gothic literature, I follow Bernice Murphy, Linnie Blake, Gothic MMU, Xavier Aldana Reyes, and Irish Gothic Journal.  These readings happen at times when I have a spare few minutes--enough time to read a linked article.  I try to immediately make a connection to something I'm doing in class.  Many times Twitter provides a breathtaking synchronicity with what I'm working on or a quick idea for new ways to start class.
     I have a lot I could say about planned or spontaneous conversations with colleagues.  I find myself listening to their words long after we've parted and reflecting on my practice in light of a single tidbit or two they have generously shared with me.
     I believe professional development is learning, and learning can take place in many ways.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Gong Xi Fa Cai, pronounced “Gong Hey Fat Choy” in Cantonese, means Happy New Year.  It’s a phrase that I learned early on as a small child.  One of the very few and most important phrases my mother taught me in her maiden language.  She’s from Hong Kong and even though she’s been in the states for over 40 years, Chinese New Year is still the most important celebration for my family, it even trumps Christmas and Easter!

This is not surprising though as China considers this their most important holiday.  In fact, it’s also the longest holiday spanning 15 days total!  Every year is celebrated on a different day since the holiday is based on the ancient lunar calendar, which translates to sometime between January and February.  The tradition started as early as the 14th century B.C. and is still celebrated traditionally today even though China adopted the western calendar.  This year is the year of the sheep although you may hear it being called goat or ram as well.  Since the Chinese language has so many different translations all are used depending on the region you are in.

My family observes several traditions and superstitions which are both hilarious and heartwarming.  These tend to include a very large dinner with only very close friends and family, not washing your hair, cleaning before the New Year, and sleeping with money under your pillow.  My mother will cook traditional dishes including a whole steamed fish, shrimps & scallops, bok choy, sea moss, black mushrooms and other favorites.  The significance in these dishes range from long life to prosperity for the new year. Lucky money is given to all the children for luck and good fortune.  The money is placed in highly decorated red envelopes and then given on both the eve and day of the New Year.  We place the envelopes under our pillow and open them the next day.  I still look forward to my envelope every year!

If you get the opportunity, wish someone a Happy New Year.  It is such an important event to Asians and has so much meaning and tradition associated with it that I’m sure you’ll get a smile in return!!

 

Tapping in to Social Media

     I remember when I first started using Twitter.  I was hesitant.  I was still unsure what the hashtags were for.  I had a hard time reading tweets that seemed filled with random bits of information and came across as disjointed.  Okay, I still have problems with those.  But I started using it primarily as a classroom tool and as a way to get my students interested in all things Englishy and to see that there are many ways to use Twitter and ethical ways to behave on Twitter.  So when I mentioned using the OED in the classroom, I also shared that the OED tweets a Word of the Day. When I taught colons, I challenged my students to tweet a sentence with a colon in it and tag me.

What I love about that one besides her reading list is that she goes back to correct an error unrelated to the colon, prompting discussions about editing and not hitting "post" quite so rapidly and maybe also learning how to forgive ourselves for making silly errors.

     Now that I'm at GCC, I'm testing the waters with how I can continue to use Twitter for both research possibilities and engagement.  I started simply by having them tweet on paper one thing they had learned in class that day and include any hashtags they wanted. Here is one I got from a student who doesn't even have a Twitter account:

"'OMG' Dude, proper summarizing has never been simpler. Equation for summaries: Context + Introduce sources/give credentials + main points = BA summary. #Propersummary"

I love this one because he applied the learning to another subject, and now I have a math equation I can use to show how to properly integrate a summary into student writing.  Here's what I think happens when using Twitter (or maybe any other social media) with students: We speak a common language, and that creates connections and engagement.