Category Archives: GCC

What Really Matters

Academic advisors on our campus work under a great deal of pressure and for the most part go largely unrecognized for the good work they do. There aren’t enough of us to go around, and very few on campus understand the volume of information needed to be an educated and effective advisor, not to mention the breadth of skills we must hone and use on a daily basis. Research indicates that the relationship between students and advisors has a significant correlation to student success, nonetheless, academic advisors at GCC are  not sufficiently appreciated.

With waits frequently exceeding an hour or two to see an advisor, everyone does their best to help students in the shortest time possible. Despite the challenge of time constraints, it is my belief that the most important part of an advisement conversation begins with an understanding of each student’s motivation for being in college. If you want them to be successful, you need to know where they are coming from and where they want to end up.

My advice to those new to academic advisement is to start advisement sessions with a few important questions. It isn’t enough to simply ask what you can help them with today, they often don’t really know what they don’t know. For example the young woman who came in to ask for Nursing courses. I could have given her a schedule of classes and never known that the student really loved Math but was going into Nursing because her mother thought that would be the best and most secure career. It took quite a bit of effort on my part to encourage this young woman to explore another possibility and to discover that most people with a degree in Mathematics make more than nurses and love their work. In part, because I took the time to ask and to listen, that student is now at ASU and a very happy Math major.

Students need someone in their corner. It isn’t easy to understand higher education pathways especially when students tend to be given inaccurate or incomplete information at almost every level of transition. Most are confused and not sure who to trust. As a result, I do my best to teach advisees how to verify information I offer and to show them options so that they can make an informed choice that reflects their own best interests.

One last thing, I’ve found that treating students as if they were a friend or family member allows me to keep focus and do a better job advising. I try my best to give them all a VIP experience. Going the extra mile does not make me the fastest advisor on campus, but I see my fair share and know that I’m helping in a meaningful way. Even if others on campus haven’t a clue how hard I work, I know for sure that my students are aware and appreciative.  And isn’t that what really matters? Go Gauchos!


Filed under: STEAM Tagged: Academic Advisement, GCC, What really matters, Write 6X6

Making an Entrance

In my heart of hearts, I genuinely want those around me to succeed, and I take pleasure in watching them do well as they develop. I’d rather help people work out their problems than tell them what they need to do. I don’t consider any of those things character faults, but very early in my teaching experience I learned that certain actions can be confused with weakness. Weakness in the classroom leads to problems that are not easy to correct.

To say I was nervous on my first day in the classroom would be an understatement. I made the mistake of not wearing an undershirt, and my  light blue dress shirt was a drenched dark mess by the end of the 45-minute period. I imagine I seemed as ridiculous as Sir James Martin from Love & Friendship:

That lack of self-confidence and abundance of nerves  lead to problems throughout the rest of the semester. I found out very quickly that if a classroom doesn’t respect you as a person, they also will not respect your lectures, your grading, or your discipline.

That was a difficult semester, but as time went on I gained confidence and my nerves subsided. This lead to better relationships with my students and more success in the classroom. Year to year things improved incrementally. Eventually though, something happened.

Image of Luke from Star Wars about Overconfidence.
Ah George Lucas, your horrible dialogue rings true.

With my nerves fully at bay, my inner-nice guy came out again. With it, the entire catalog of issues I had in my early years started to manifest themselves again. Why?  Because while my students may have liked me, they did not respect me.

So here we are at the heart of the lesson folks: Respect is key. Respect should always be in the back of your mind when standing behind that desk. Whether it was nerves or being “Mr. Nice Guy”, I lost the respect of my students, and with it, full control of my classroom.

It wasn’t easy, and I still make mistakes, but I have learned to balance my kind demeanor with the responsibilities of being an educator. I found that I can still joke, have fun, and be myself, as long as students know I am serious about my job.

The most effective method I have found to encourage a healthy classroom dynamic is to start off strong. I like to make my first week of class filled to the brim with activity. I like to give students things to do, show them the gamut of what is to come: a journal, a discussion, a short essay, a quiz, and a reading. I do it all, because it lets students know that the primary goal of my course is for them to learn. If we end up having fun in the process, that is a bonus.

The classroom is a world with its own environment, dynamics, and life. It has the power to evolve and overtake you if you let it. Start off strong, confident, and focused, and that classroom will turn into an environment that encourages both learning and respect.

 

 

 

Simple, not easy

Since my hero Austin Kleon writes in bullet points, I think I will too. Here are a few thoughts about dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • The Four Agreements is a tiny book filled with enormous wisdom.
  • Take Away Message: Don’t take anything personally.
  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Great quote from Chapter 3, page 48.
  • Avoid the urge to be right and make everyone else wrong.
  • Bottom Line: In a difficult situation, don’t take it personally because everyone lives in their own reality. Their anger is about them, not you. Even if they say something ugly, that’s their ugliness. Don’t make it yours too.

Unconditional Positive Regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

  • Try to accept and support others without passing judgment.
  • Starting from a point of unconditional positive regard will probably improve any situation.

If all else fails, lighten your mood.

  • Imagine your current difficult situation is happening in a sitcom.
  • Think about a silly sign. Here are a few examples:

 

Getting to know you…

Sing with me (again)!

Getting to know all about…your colleagues

source

So a couple of weeks ago, the new group of GCC Residential faculty (lovingly referred to as the FYRE group) embarked on a tour of GCC that each of them partially lead. The “FYRE Guided Tour” is an opportunity to show off the different areas of campus where each member of FYRE works on a regular basis. Instead of parading the FYRE group around campus with me posing as the all-knowing tour guide, I created an opportunity that helps build community and connection between the group, while also learning about different programs and resources available to students.

I personally have learned quite a bit about GCC from the three FYRE Guided tours I have been on, and I know many of our new faculty have enjoyed learning about their colleagues and the campus at the same time. I mean, think about yourself and how well you really know what is happening on our campus. Even if you know of many of our programs, there is a good chance you have not seen some of the interesting, hands on learning opportunities many of our faculty create on a regular basis.

I am sure most of you know we have a fantastic nursing program, but have you actually seen the simulation lab that our students learn in? Have you seen the capabilities the mannequins have? Do you have any idea how the faculty that teach and operate these simulations plan for and pull off these lessons? Wow! Check out some our very own GCC students running through simulations.

Or did you know we have a Children Lab (or know what one is for that matter)? In our Child and Family Studies department, there is an active daycare that is part of the learning environment for our students. Through a two-way mirror and an intercom system, GCC students are able to observe the behavior of children in the daycare and analyze the way the childcare professionals interact, teach and play with the kids, all while the professor connects theory to practice. Awesome!

There are many other programs and resources on campus besides these two, and as I mentioned already, many of us know of them, but  unfortunately, we don’t really know them.

We haven’t really seen the materials, the labs, and the behind-the-scenes rooms (full of costumes and rocks and chemicals and plastinated body parts and props and fire engines and grand pianos and toys and boom mics and pinned insects and Corvettes) all over campus.

We know the people who work in these fields, who have dedicated countless hours planning and prepping, and we love catching up with them in the common areas of campus, but we often haven’t seen them in their domain, which means we don’t really know what our colleagues do here at GCC.

Is this a missed opportunity? Might this be the clue we’ve been searching for in our quest to tear down (or at least connect) the silos? It could be, or it might just be me wishing we could all see more of the inner workings of different departments and different disciplines. Anyone game to host an “Open Department” someday?!


The Power of Kindness

When you speak kindly

The words never disappear

Their light surrounds you

~author unknown

Argh! I have written and discarded many drafts now on the topic of kindness in the workplace. It appears this is my week to deal with ideas of compassion and leadership through a lens of turbulence if I want to write anything meaningful. I’m having a hard time of it, but perhaps writing will help me sort through my conflicted points of view.

In my world, Trump is raging like a temperamental two year old on Twitter, my HOA thinks state laws don’t require compliance, and recent changes on campus have left me wondering about college priorities and a changing vision for the Maricopa Colleges that doesn’t seem well thought out or defined. I know my concerns are valid and other than moving to Canada, I need to find a response to deal with all of instability around me, … but through kindness? Really? Maybe. Perhaps I still need convincing.

People mirror emotions of their leaders and more and more people in power right now are sending the wrong message. Violence and hate crimes are on the rise and normalizing “alternative facts” is part of the daily news. It is heart wrenching. But every so often amidst all the ugliness, a glimmer of humanity is sighted and you realize that compassion in troubled times is a thing of tremendous beauty and power … and suddenly you have hope again.

Right now, a little more kindness on campus will do great things for lifting me up and reminding me what a good community we share. Bring it on! I’m ready to share the good vibes right back with you.

Kindly,
Kristin


Filed under: Arizona, GCC Tagged: kindness, Write 6X6

Because being good matters

Students come here to shine

In them, our fires of knowledge burn bright

Dreams aglow and rising!

Years ago I made a transition into the work of academic advising. It was to be a short layover job of sorts before heading into teaching, but the teaching bug faded and never materialized for a variety of reasons. Advising as it turned out, suited me quite well. I found I loved the combination of helping students pursuing important educational and life goals as well as the constant research and learning advisors need to stay current in a realm of ever-changing academic and transfer information.

Advising when done right takes a breadth of skills and abilities many take lightly. You have to know or be able to quickly access volumes of information. Mistakes on your part cost students time and money. Regretfully, most advisement training is on-the-job learning from mistakes. I quickly learned that to be effective, you have to know a lot, ask frequently to verify when you don’t know something, and find help when needed to aid students in a more holistic manner when they need additional resources.

Most importantly, through advising, I was inspired every day by the stories students brought to my humble cubicle. The single mother with a terminal illness trying to make sure her daughter would be able to get an education and career prior to her death; DACA students looking for a good education in a STEM field with perfect GPA unable to get an Honor’s scholarship or any other for that matter; homeless students who made it through the semester without dropping out despite the barriers. I learned to listen to students and continue to do my best to help them while they are here at GCC. My reward is watching how often a little bit of extra effort on my part often makes the world of difference to a struggling student. And that, ladies and gents, is why I love advising and why I’m good at what I do. Because it matters.


Filed under: Arizona, Culture, GCC, Poetry Tagged: Write 6X6

Word of the Day Haiku

I’m late. I didn’t post the last two weeks because I got that upper-respiratory thing going around and it lingered with me.  Also, because the topic of professional growth is rather large in my life right now and not the easiest thing to write about.  So I’m going to write about something else that I’m doing to work on my vocabulary and poetry writing skills.

With the help of some good and very smart friends, I’ve been part of a Word of the Day group who write smart, usually science-based mini essays using new vocabulary words.  They are masters at weaving these into science and personal stories.  Me however, I’m not that good, nor do I have the time.  So I reply with Haiku.  Nothing fancy just trying to keep the meter and intent without breaking all the rules.  I will share a few of the better ones with you now.  Hope you enjoy them.

Fallacious summer
Too hot for February
But good for my cough

Calumniating
“Would be” leaders eat their own
Ad hominem meals

Sweet palladium
My true guardian angel
Science is my rock


Filed under: Arizona, GCC, Poetry Tagged: Arizona, Glendale Community College, Haiku, Poetry, Professional Growth, STEAM, vocabulary, Write 6X6