Category Archives: CTLE

Finding Inspiration from Isolation

This year marks the three-year anniversary of my teaching solely online as an Adjunct Faculty at GCC. At first glance teaching from the comforts of home might seem like a win-win situation, but I can assure you there are many setbacks, each of which deserving its own article. The most obvious and problematic setback is that of isolation. I don’t get to see my students face-to-face unless it is via a rare Skype conference. I don’t get to have my treasured lunch outings with Gary or Andy. I don’t even get to participate in Assessment Day or Adjunct Appreciation. I am, by most respects, a ghost in a machine that sometimes sends out e-mails and makes videos to remind the world I exist.

So where do I find inspiration in such a situation? Fortunately, even behind a keyboard and monitor, there are those who have managed to help keep me improving my courses and teaching, and grading all those essays.

Although not a part of GCC, my wife’s support is essential to my improvement. She is a workaholic, a zealot for her career and passions, and a stickler for punctuality. Her work ethic and drive have, over the course of our fifteen years together, rubbed off. I do my best to seize what opportunities come my way now, one example being that I volunteer as an emergency substitute teacher at my community’s local school. When my schedule permits, I get to work with and teach children ranging from kindergarten all the way to High School seniors; it is a blessing, and something I would not have pursued if not for my wife’s example.

Despite being a solid twenty-hour drive away from campus, I still treasure my conversations with the faculty at GCC. This includes both full-time faculty and fellow adjuncts like myself. Alisa Cooper has been my bedrock ever since I left the desert valley. Her drive and curiosity about new and exciting technologies has prompted me to reform how I approach online learning, all for the better. During her time as my direct supervisor she pointed me in the direction of opportunities and helped me correct and learn from my mistakes. Thanks to her I am now a video fiend. I’ve started my own youtube series of power lectures, and made myself less of a digital phantom to my students by posting videos and voice overs regularly. This continued with Beth Eyres who took over for Alisa after “Dr. Coop” (#cooperize) moved to the CTLE. Beth has helped me feel like I am still connected to the English faculty and community at GCC. She often informs me about events that I can take part in from a distance, like this blog. Most importantly she has made me feel like a contributor. I have worked as adjunct for four colleges in my ten years as an educator and she was one of the first supervisors to make me feel like my opinion mattered. Helping to create and develop the online English 101 shell has been one of the best experiences of my career, and I have Beth and her faith in me to thank for that.

Inspiration, even in isolation, is not hard to find when you stay in contact with the right people. My family at home and my family at GCC continue to be the right people to help me improve and better myself every day.

 

In Search of My Inspiration. How Do I Expand Beyond?

I have to admit I’m borderline burnout, but what keeps me going these days are the people I work with on a daily basis. My inspiration comes from all of those faculty and staff who take the time to better themselves and be the best they can be and utilize the CLTE to help them with that. I can’t be a slacker around these folks. Oh no, so I’m inspired to step my game up and help provide the services they need, and it reminds me of why I’m doing this job in the first place. It’s easy to forget at times. So the last thing I need to be doing right now is agonizing over a journal post, but I’m inspired to do so because of the 10+ posts already posted on Write6x6.com from last week. They are my inspiration to post, to share. They are my inspiration to complete a tedious FPG application for an upcoming workshop. My inspiration to schedule FMS training in the CTLE. My inspiration to send out yet another announcement about what we have to offer, knowing very few will bother to read it. But it’s that few that inspire me. Recently I attended a district event at SCC called TechTalks. It’s a TEDTalks type of event where 8 speakers talk about their experience with using technology in their life or work environment. These talks are very inspirational, but on this particular Friday I had every legitimate excuse to not miss work and not attend. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to any one of those excuses because that’s all they are is excuses. Attending TechTalks rejuvenated me. It inspired me. It made me want to go and do ALL those things those speakers talked about. I wanted to understand data, play with virtual reality, create portfolios for my students, create OER, and even make a music video despite my lack of music and movie making skills. I was inspired. Again by my colleagues in Maricopa. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up this one of a multitude of opportunities to be inspired because what good am I to you, my colleagues, my students if I’m not inspired to do my job?

How Do You Rank in Terms of the Top Ranking Capabilities of Successful Graduates?

successLast Friday, February 19, from 8:30 am to 11:30 am, I attended a presentation/workshop with Dr. Geoff Scott from Western Sydney University. I wasn’t given much information about the presentation other than I was invited along with the other Center for Teaching & Learning Directors, Instructional Designers, and Faculty Professional Growth Directors in the district. In fact, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Who wants to spend a Friday listening to someone talk about assessment. Not this girl. Turns out Dr. Geoff Scott, Emeritus Professor of Higher Education and Sustainability at Western Sydney University and a National Senior Teaching Fellow with the Australian Office for Learning and Teaching is on a fellowship trip visiting colleges and universities across the world. Maricopa was lucky enough to be his only community college stop. His focus was on “Powerful Assessment in Higher Education” and it was quite entertaining. Of course it helps if the presenter has a funny accent and throws out words like bloody, whackit, popo, and mucking around. For example, he told us we have to detoxify the POPOs on our campuses: The pissed on and passed over. I really got a kick out of listening to him and time flew by. Mostly because he was an excellent storyteller. His delivery of the content came alive and was very informative.

The one thing that stood out for me was a list he shared with us that came out of the research they did. They discovered what the top ranking capabilities were successful graduates. The list made me think about my own successes and how my own capabilities contribute to that success. It also made me think about my colleagues that I work with on a daily bases. It reads like a dream list to me, as not everyone is as capable in all 12 areas, but it is something to aspire too. Have a look for yourself. Where do you stack up? How successful are you in your job?

Top ranking capabilities successful graduates in 9 professions

  1. Being able to organize work and manage time effectively
  2. Wanting to produce as good a job as possible
  3. Being able to set and justify priorities
  4. Being able to remain calm under pressure or when things go wrong
  5. Being willing to face and learn from errors and listen openly to feedback
  6. Being able to identify the core issue from a mass of detail in any situation
  7. Being able to work with senior staff without being intimidated
  8. Being willing to take responsibility for projects and how they turn out
  9. Being able to develop and contribute politely to team-based projects
  10. A willingness to persevere when things are not working gout as anticipated
  11. The ability of empathize and work productively with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  12. Being able to develop and use networks of colleagues to help solve key workplace problems

Professional Development and Reflection

     I have always been a reflective learner and thinker.  When I began teaching, I had a long drive to and from work, and I used that 45 minutes to think on the day and its lessons--my lessons--and how students had learned or become engaged.  So when reflecting became a mandatory part of our teacher portfolio each year, I thought No problem.  This is amazing.  And did I ever reflect.  I liked knowing that the person who evaluated me was getting to see such a valuable piece of teaching that was beyond the reach of a classroom observation.  And I'll just say right now, this is one reason why [NERD ALERT] I like writing my IDP.  I want my colleagues and evaluators to know more about my teaching.  Reflection is a critical part of teaching that takes place all behind the scenes.
   
     And this takes me to professional development.  I've always liked professional development, including the time we played with marbles or had to put on skits and even the time I had one of my most embarrassing moments with all the English teachers in the district present.  Nope, not getting that one out of me.  But the key to professional development, for me anyway, is having time to process all the learning, to really anchor it in with my current knowledge and understanding.  I'm sorry to say I haven't always had that time.  I'm lucky to have been able to work in two districts that so value professional development and really lucky that the second one allows me more time to do the reflecting.
   
     So when I attended Mary and Jennifer's LearnShop on Friday--Developmental Education: Teaching Learning Strategies and Critical Thinking--I was happy to get time to think and reflect during the time there, on the drive home, and over the course of the weekend.  I already applied what I learned to one of my courses.  As my friend Alisa Cooper said, "Learning is my passion...[and]...I want to learn new things."  I will continue to take advantage of as much professional development as I can and, if able, share it with people who want to hear about it.

My Professional Development is Important to Me. What About You?

busy-coop

Maybe I should take a Photoshop class.

I’m a busy person. We’re all busy, but being the Faculty Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Engagement has really challenged my perception of what is really busy. But no matter how busy I am, one thing is always constant; I always have time for professional development. I’ve participated in pretty much everything Maricopa has offered us. MIL – Done. MET – Done. MSI – Done. Sabbatical – Done. Learning Grant – Done. Multiple times. Summer Projects – Done. Diversity Infusion Program – Done. What ever dollar amount district makes available for us to travel – I spend every dollar. Every year.

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Learning is my passion, as I demonstrated in my Ignite GCC talk last semester. It’s just something I can’t turn off. I want to learn new things. Every day! So I always have time for professional development. Which is why I’m so surprised that the CTLE doesn’t attract bigger crowds. Isn’t everyone like me? Doesn’t everyone live for professional development? Unfortunately, no. Faculty are busy. They’re either doing their own thing or just can’t find the time. This is unfortunate indeed because we are awesome if I have to say so myself. :)

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The CTLE team works hard each week to combat this lack of interest in “our” professional development. We offer rewards for blogging, and then debate about the healthiness of these rewards. We throw big events like Ignite GCC and GCC’s Rockin’ New Year! We offer all the latest trends in education as workshops, and to combat the ever present comment, “I can’t make that time,” we offer the “Have it Your Way” form where faculty and staff can choose their professional development AND when it is offered. Just for you.

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So this might sound like I’m about to complain, but I’m not. Yes, I would love to see every single person on this campus come through the CTLE for professional development (actually that would be quite overwhelming), but the reality of this is, that’s not going to happen, no matter what we do to get them here. And I’m okay with that because the people who do come, and who do participate and engage with us, are the most awesome people I’ve ever worked with. They make it all worthwhile knowing that we were able to help fuel their own passion for learning. So I hope you all keep coming.

Flipping the Classroom, One Video at a Time

The “flipped classroom” is all the buzz lately. I really like the idea of it, and I have tried to get students to prepare ahead of time so we can do interactive activities during class. In addition to this, I assign projects that require students to apply the knowledge from their study.

Last summer, my ACE students were struggling with an activity and asked for more time in class to do the project. I obliged, with an agreement that they would have to watch the lectures outside of class. I spent the better of two afternoons recording the lectures using Screencast-O-Matic and Power Point slides. They were not perfect, but they worked, and the extra in class time to help students apply the material was awesome!

Last week, as we were working on an in-class activity about the atmosphere, one of my students remarked, “I wonder what it would be like to be a storm chaser!” Many others responded, and a great discussion ensued (I love when that happens!). I do know a storm chaser, in fact, she is a former student – and I even have had her come as a guest speaker before. So I contacted her, but unfortunately, she is now working a “real” job, and cannot get away during my class time. The next best thing is to make a video of her presentation.

…Here I go, trying out something I’ve never done before. Oh, wait, isn’t that professional development?

This time, instead of talking over Power Point slides, I thought it would be more engaging if my speaker could do her talking in front of a green screen and then display her photographs or video behind her. Lucky for me, the CTLE can help with that. I met today with Cheryl Colan to learn more about how it’s done, just to see if it is a doable project. We had so much fun! I even made a video of myself with instructions for my speaker about what she should prepare when we are ready to film. It took about an hour to film and publish the very short video. I even put one of my own storm pictures behind me. Here I am, finishing up the recording (Cheryl suggested I put this picture in my post):

6x6-screenshot

The CTLE has a recording room, complete with green screen, computer loaded with the right software, camera and microphone, special lights, and even a teleprompter. Cheryl also told me that when you reserve the recording room, you are also reserving her services – that way she is available to help you through the process.

I definitely learned something new today! I know this video will probably be the only project of this kind for this semester, but little by little, I might just end up with a collection of them.

 

The Curse of Week Four

     What is it about week four?  I arrived at work bright and early on Monday, eagerly anticipating the day.  But it just felt odd.  Stressful?  Already?  It's only Monday, I thought, determined to figure out why this week had me on edge.

     There were a few pieces of old business hanging over from the previous week: the Write6x6 blog post (ahem), some work coming in from students, some planning I had not finished. And there were thoughts of what I had to do coming up, one item not until April that I was worried about. Then there's that one troublesome student who seems determined not to learn from me all while I try desperately to learn from her in hopes I can actually find a sneaky way to teach her.  Maybe all of this unease is the settling in of the semester for all of us, students included. Yep, the semester really did start. Yep, weekends are now mostly about grading or doing homework.  Maybe now is the time to really work on balance. Yes, today I'll work on balance and get rid of some of this unease.

     This plan might have panned out at some point had Wednesday, the day some refer to as hump day, allowed me to have the time to think about balance. Instead my wife texted me to say we were overdrawn in the checking account (we just got paid last week). "What happened?" I texted. "We're supposed to be rich."

     "I don't know.  I lost track.  Bills.  Students loans.  I bought some clothes."

     Dollar signs appeared before my eyes. I imagined trucks pulling up in front of the house, delivering racks of clothes. How much could someone spend on new outfits?

     This bump in the hump was just a bit of a slow down midweek, but it was not awful, just perplexing.


     Shortly after arriving home, later than usual, I greeted the animals with sweet talk and lots of pets. It was just a few moments later that I realized our cute and sweet Lila was having another bout of diarrhea. It wouldn't be so bad if she weren't long haired and if she didn't curl her tail under herself in the catbox. I grabbed for some paper towels and then grabbed her tail--it's never a good idea to grab a cat's tail. She
tried to run, and she hissed. Her hind claws caught my toes which were only protected by socks, one of which has a hole in the toe I noticed.

     This was a job that needed more than just a dampened half paper towel. I grabbed and wetted a wash cloth and went in again. After much hiding under tables, running, hissing, and clawing--both of us--I got her to a spot where I could really hold down her tail and wash it, and surprisingly she let me do it. I think she was just tired. She's having a week four, too.

     I'm not sure I'm the only one having a week four, but it is certainly my challenge to work out the rough spots this week. I need to find a way to sand down the edges. There are two things that sometimes work for me:

1.  Read a book that has a little depth.  Right now I'm reading When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd. It feels a little heavy for what may just be a strange week, but books like this challenge me to wonder about the big picture and, in doing so, I can generally put into perspective the little things.

2.  Do a brain dump and prioritize.  There's a formula I use for this. (I've had students do this at high stress times of the semester, too. Takes about ten minutes in class, maybe a few more if you talk about it.)   Here are the steps.  Math ahead.
   a.  List everything you can think of that you have to do that you can't stop thinking about.  (Here's where I'd make my list and actually put down that thing I have to do in April.)
   b.  Give everything a number from 1-4 based on when it has to be done (1=in the next day, 2= in a few days, 3=within two weeks, 4=long way off).  Rule?  You may not give everything a 1.  Rule?  Don't put down eating or sleeping.
   c.  Give everything another number from 1-4 based on how serious the consequences are if you don't do it (1=jobs lost, people die, you get the idea; 2=serious, but not life altering; 3=even less serious; 4=who cares?).
   d.  Multiply those two numbers together to give all items a new and final number.
   e.  Rewrite the items from 1-? and then cut the list in half.
   f.  Work on the top half.  Forget about the bottom half for now.

     This might seem obvious to everyone else, but I find it really helps me to focus, and maybe that is the key to conquering the curse of week four--to focus on what really matters and let the little things go.
   

Making a difference. Difference. Different.

Making a difference.
Difference.
Different.
When I think of all the people I encounter, I realize they all have made some difference in my life:
  • My colleagues challenge me to rethink my practice. They do so in a lot of ways but one way is simply by sharing their own practices. They share difference.
  • My spouse shares an insight from her readings, and I learn something new and make a slight adjustment to my thoughts about life and how we live it.
  • My friends share themselves and time with me, further encouraging me to be present and not bury myself in work.
     If I turn this around and think about the difference I make as a teacher, simply due to the volume of students I have had pass through my classroom, I realize the potential for making a difference is dramatic.  If my math is right, I've taught about 4,000 students.  Now that's no Taylor-Swift-Twitter-numbers, but I've also spent 45-180 hours with each of these people. And if I taught them more than
one semester or year or coached them, add even more hours to that.  That is a lot of time being present with someone.  It's hard not to make some kind of difference in all that time. In the smallest way possible, I hope to make a difference in teaching my students how to write. But what they take from these efforts of mine will vary.  A couple weeks ago, I ran into a student from last semester who thanked me profusely for helping her during that class.  She assured me that she felt really good in her current class because of all that I asked her to work on.  I was surprised when her eyes welled up with tears, and I thought, Wow, she took way more from my class than I could ever plan for.   In a more personal way, I try to recommend my students for items they may find personally interesting.  I've sent two returning students over to Debbie to discuss the honors program, and both of them are now taking honors courses.  I like to recommend scholarships to students and even assist them with their applications if needed.  I've written countless letters of recommendation, most recently for a student who wants to participate in a Study Abroad.  Even when students are not successful, I believe what I have written about them has the potential to make a difference in how they perceive themselves. I think I make the most difference in people's lives in my role as a teacher, but all of this "difference" spins out of relationships.  Relationships matter, and they give us a chance to become more reflective and to grow in knowledge and experience.