Category Archives: 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!

 

 

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.
 

Recovering Assessment Hater

 

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“Boring, lame, inconvenient, and unnecessary.” If you would have asked me several years ago my thoughts on assessment, this would have been my response when I was adjunct faculty. I abhorred assessment because I didn’t get it, but I didn’t get it because I was not educated in it. I had a resistance to it, and my resistance was rooted in my insecurities and my ignorance in the area.

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When it was that time of year for the assessment reports, I thought to myself WHY!!???, and I submitted my assessment reports, gritting my teeth, just wanting to get them over with, and out of my face.

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     It’s really hard for me to admit that I knew nothing about assessment when I started teaching as an adjunct. When I say I knew nothing, I knew NOTHING. I didn’t even know that the exams I had in my course were actually a form of assessment, that was how bad it was. When I started teaching part time, my knowledge of assessment was not a requirement. I met the qualifications on paper, I was handed a book and a syllabus, and off I went.

When I was hired as residential faculty I knew a little more. I had previous experience as a curriculum developer and I knew that I wanted to do better and I wanted to change my negative attitude. I had to be honest with myself by raising my hand and saying “My name is Tenisha Baca and there’s a lot about assessment that I still don’t know, but feel like I should know.” I knew that the only way to remedy my negative attitude towards it was to commit to taking the time to properly learn what it is, how it works, and why it’s important. So, I signed up for the assessment seminar at the Center for Teaching Learning and Engagement (CTLE), and my mind opened up to a whole new world of amazing in the following ways:

  1. Assessment is really not that big, bad, or scary. It’s simple and informative.
  2. I can do this, I can do a better job, and the CTLE can help me.
  3. If I’m all about student success, I need to do it and take it more seriously for the benefit of the student’s learning experience.

I applied it and I’m happy that I did. I have seen an improvement in my student’s exam scores, I revised the curricular areas where my students were struggling, and I have criteria that is clearer and grading that is more consistent. The commitment to assessment had a significant impact in my courses.

If you were like me several years ago, I encourage you to give assessment a chance and really look at the potential and the possibilities behind it. I see the value in assessment because of the improvements I have seen, not only in my students, but myself. Assessment is needed and our decision to take it on and do it right, or do it half way, or not at all, can make a huge difference in student success in the classroom.

My Lightbulb Moment

As a faculty member, when I think of cultural relevance, I tend to try to think about what I can do in my classroom to help achieve this, whether that is by identifying approaches to assignments that allow students to choose a topic that is meaningful to them or working to identify readings from authors who better mirror our culturally diverse campus. Recently however, I realized that an important part of developing culturally relevant pedagogy is coming to terms with the depths of what you don’t know.

Spring started and I learned that I had five students classified as deaf and hard of hearing this semester. No problem, I thought. I had worked with a deaf student in the past. I remembered that she had some challenges with grammar because of the differences between American Sign Language (ASL) and English. As the semester progressed, I noticed some trends with these students across ENG 091 and 101: sentences with missing words, sentences with unnecessary words, and profound problems with choosing the correct tense. The missing words made sense to me. After all, words like “a,” and “the” just aren’t that essential to the meaning of sentences when you think about it. They’re added to ensure clarity, but they’re not as crucial as the subject and verb, for example, so it stands to reason ASL would omit articles for the sake of speed. And since ASL communication often occurs synchronously, as opposed to asynchronously like writing, your audience can always stop you and ask for clarification if needed. Not so with writing. But the issues with tense stumped me.

I have the same interpreter across three classes and have gotten to know her a bit in that fleeting time between classes. I’m so impressed by the work our interpreters do and often feel compelled to ask questions (not when students are present of course. It’s important to always address the student, not the interpreter during office hours or any other interaction with deaf and hard of hearing students. You talk to them just like you would anyone else. You just hear their answers coming from somewhere else.) During one of these conversations, the interpreter informed me that there is no present and past tense of verbs in ASL. Instead, sentences are often preceded by a word (“yesterday” for example) that makes the context of the events clear.

“So there’s no word for ran. It’s just run?” I asked, or something along those lines.

“Exactly.”

Anyone watching could probably have seen the light bulbs going off above my head. No wonder these students had difficulty identifying the correct tense to use in their writing. They had to memorize verb conjugation from scratch, just like anyone how learns a foreign language, only even more challenging than that because they don’t get to hear it spoken. The next time I met with a deaf student to review his paper, we spent some extra time focusing on errors in choosing the right tense. Instead of telling him the correct tense, we discussed the verb itself and each of the conjugations of it: past, present, future, past perfect, etc. The interpreter, of course, spelled out the different conjugations. Some of these he had already memorized; some he hadn’t. I told him that I realized these designations must seem arbitrary, but that I was confident with time and practice he could memorize them. We talked about similar conjugations across some verbs, much like when my Spanish 101 teacher taught us how to conjugate -er verbs 20 years ago.

I left that day feeling more than a little humbled. How could I expect to effectively serve our deaf and hard of hearing students if I knew so little about the unique challenges they face in learning English grammar? How could I ever learn enough to really be as effective as I would like to be? I realized that creating a culturally relevant approach to teaching requires hundreds, perhaps thousands of little “Aha!” moments like the one I had that day. There is no one guidebook that tells you everything you need to know about deaf culture. (I do, however, plan to read more about the differences between English and ASL.) Becoming more culturally responsive is about time and practice. Time means taking the time to get to know each and every student and to understand where they are coming from and what works for them. Practice means not just teaching but reflecting on outcomes. Which approaches are more effective for students? If a student is struggling, what can we do to better facilitate their success? And, perhaps before any of this, we should ask: who are they?

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

On Writing and Teaching Writing

As I set out on the 6 x 6 challenge, I’m confronted by the same rhetorical considerations as any First Year Composition student and any writer, really. I must ponder who is this piece of writing for? What do I want the writing to do? And, like our students, my composition of this piece was nearly derailed by the obstacles of everyday living. And so, that’s the purpose I’ve happened upon, for this entry anyway: I want to share this odd idea I have that a) our students aren’t that different than we are and b) our students might be trying harder than we think they are. B is going to take more up more than one entry as it relates to a more broader philosophical approach that I call strengths based learning.

When I saw the email from the CTLE about Write 6X6, I was interested in participating but fearful I wouldn’t be able to carve out enough time to submit something every week and a bit intimidated at the idea of a group of quite accomplished professionals being my audience for each entry. Of course, this is exactly how most of our English writing students feel. They want to become scholars, learn, and contribute to our college, but they’re not sure they can keep up the time commitment and, for all too many of them, they’re not sure they belong. I can think of all too many examples to support the latter point. Here’s one: Just two days ago, I did a peer review in my Developmental Writing class. The class seemed quite invested in their discussion of each other’s work, and two were still talking after class ended as I erased the boards and packed up those whiteboard markers that are such a vital part of my English professor ethos. I cleared my throat a little more loudly than I meant to and the students both quickly apologized. Surprised, I realized they thought I was trying to give them some kind of hint to wind up and leave. I told them that far from trying to hurry them, I appreciated their concern for each other’s work and their desire to finish the conversation they were having.

When I left, I thought that perhaps part of the problem is they saw the classroom as mine, when in reality it’s theirs. They are the ones who pay the tuition, and, in turn, we instructors are paid to provide a service to them. Feeling comfortable and safe is a vital foundation for the learning process. While I do consciously cultivate this in the classroom – via learning and using students’ first names quickly, talking with them before and after class, acknowledging the effort they put into every classroom interaction and assignment, etc. – this made me realize we have to do more to make students realize the college belongs to them. They need to feel the same sense of ownership across the entire campus that I feel in my office. They should feel like scholars, integral parts of the educational apparatus, not visitors or worse, intruders. Perhaps this is one of the reasons participation in campus activities is related to completion. If you’re connected to other students, an organization, a building you visit to watch an event, you belong. Continue reading On Writing and Teaching Writing

 

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.

 

Mindfulness in Everything

I thought the word mindfulness was a little overused and overrated. And then I started abusing the word myself. In the classroom, in meetings, with my friends, with my kids.

I have actually boiled it down to the one thing that could save us all from ourselves. If something is going wrong in your life, you are likely on autopilot. Handy for planes. Bad for most people…unless you are a really good habit builder.

Too much body fat…eating mindlessly.

Too little sleep…surfing (internet, TV channels) mindlessly.

Depressed…wishing mindlessly.

Anxious…fearing mindlessly.

I think we just do things because it’s the way we have always done them, never questioning why. Always on autopilot.

Mindfulness is about being present and focused on people and the world around us. On our thoughts, on our food, on our lessons, on quiet, on noise, on smells, on textures, on colors, on tastes and on how we feel about it all.

The mind is powerful and controls our body and ultimately our health. If you are having a hard time getting focused, start with your breath. You’ll will find stillness there and will eventually be able to expand your areas of focus.

I encourage my students to touch, feel, hear, see and question as they are learning. I encourage mindfulness in the classroom because it teaches the student to learn in new ways and reach surprising new levels of comprehension.