Category Archives: Making a difference

Is Anybody Out There?

Teaching a hybrid public speaking class has certainly challenged my “classroom skills!” Classroom? I only meet with the class five times during the semester, while the remaining weeks are completed through Canvas. The major difficulty has been in making that personal connection with each student. I pride myself in providing a welcoming and enthusiastic atmosphere in traditional structures, but establishing a positive feeling-tone is a bit daunting from afar. Should I care? Should the students need my illustrious “connection?”

Of course, we should all care! Communication is more naturally achieved in face-to-face interactions, and even though the students and I are accustomed to text and e-mail “social skills,” it doesn’t ensure that our messages are understood or that our attitude or emotional message is conveyed. Emojis only do so much😳. I need to know more than names prior to the first speech, and I must develop trust and collegiality among the students to give them the needed courage and confidence to walk up front and begin.

What to do? What to do?

1. In my perfect world, each student would have a clear photograph that appeared by their names in Canvas. (My brain’s memory bank is overloaded with data from 32 years in public high schools, preventing me from easily matching faces and names when we first meet. “That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!).
2. Two on-line assignments that help have been an outline for a speech introducing them to me. Once submitted, I can comment on an individual basis. I look for common ground and any unique tidbits thrown to me. The other is a discussion post, requiring each to react to a minimum of two other students. Most address each other by first name and respond to a specific idea posed.
3. The first speech had been a speech of introduction, but for the past two semesters, I have required a personal experience speech. Students really seem to respond to each other on a more intimate level when they listen to the wide variety of stories and what made the experience memorable or important. Before the first speech, students participate in an ice breaker so they have to get up and move around the room. That helps loosen them up a bit.

What I have found is that now the students feel comfortable asking me questions through Canvas e-mail.  When provided with an optional workshop to prepare the longest speech,  many attend.  They also know that I WANT them to do well, so there is less “out of sight; out of mind” and more exchange and participation. The highest compliment I can receive is to have a student tell me that they dreaded speaking in front of the class but they actually “kinda” enjoyed it.

 

Success Is Not a Grade

My class is The Art of Storytelling. My objective for the course is:

Students will recognize the power of storytelling, and will become aware of their own potential for using storytelling as a tool for communication.

I try to teach them both the mechanics and the art of how and why to tell stories.

Don’t just tell someone a “list” of all your feelings, but but share them…  by telling a story. Share your joy of wonder and discovery, and allow those around you to experience it too… by telling a story. Inspire someone, or even yourself… by telling a story.

Some students come to me every other class and want to know why they lost two points. They want those two points so badly. They believe those two points can make or break them.

And then, there are others who do the work and accept the fact that they may have missed a question here or there. Points are not on their radar, learning and understanding are. At the end of the semester, one such student wrote:

I would like to share a story with you! I needed to find a humanities class and as I was scrolling down my computer screen I found one, but it involved literature and poetry. Well, I am not into poetry at all. The word literature translates “you will be writing long, intense essays”. So I did what any student would do, I kept scrolling down…until I found “The Art of Storytelling”. I honestly laughed a bit and thought, what could I possibly learn from a storytelling class and why is it considered and art? Now, I was curious. And that curiosity caused me to enroll.

After the first day of class, I changed my outlook on storytelling. Each class became more interesting and I could not wait to hear more stories. As the semester went on, I learned the answers to my questions. I realized the importance of stories and how it can be used in many aspects of life. Storytelling is truly an art because the storyteller is an artist who crafts their story to make it more interesting, exciting, and appealing to their audience.

Storytelling has given me a little more confidence and passion, not only in class but to my personal life as well. I know that when I finally become a nurse I will be sharing stories with my patients, not only to comfort them, but to connect with them. I am a bit sad that this class has come to an end because it was such an interesting, exciting, and uplifting semester.

I have no doubt, that the one who wrote that will not only be telling great stories, but will succeed in all her endeavors!

Success is not a grade, either for the student, OR the teacher. Success for me is, “Did I do the best at my job? Did I possibly make a difference in one or two lives?” The paragraph below from one gal was the greatest gift I could have at the end of the course.

Storytelling and this class have affected my life in a positive way. This past week I used what I had learned in this course in one job interview that I had. They asked me to tell them about myself and instead of listing all of the things I have done, I decided to tell them a little story about myself. The best part is not only that I exercised storytelling outside of class (without being a class assignment) and that I was hired. I start next week!

 

My Recipe for M.A.D. Skills

My Recipe for M.A.D. Skills

I signed up for a campus writing challenge, the Write 6X6 project, to post over the next six weeks about my thoughts and experiences on teaching, learning and students success.

This week’s theme for Write 6X6 is how we make a difference. At first I thought this would be an easy post, after all, I have worked hard over the years, am good at what I do, and have made significant contributions in my profession, but then doubt crept in. Shouldn’t I have done more? We introverts often have a hard time singing our own praises. In spite of having been a long-time student advocate, and accomplishing some of my best work this past year, I began to dwell on my shortcomings. Mulling over these rather murky thoughts, I stumbled upon this quote from Bucky Fuller, one of the great innovators of the modern world, who I have long admired.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person. ”

― R. Buckminster Fuller

Thank you Bucky, your words helped me remember, that even though I don’t always succeed in my efforts, I have always tried to be that “one person”. I’ve worked for the Maricopa Community Colleges for many years now. In my youth, I was driven by big plans to change the world. Along the way I learned, with the guidance of some wonderful people in my life who taught and led by example, how to strive to make a difference in the world on a smaller scale. My perspective gradually shifted from changing the world to shaping my microcosm to be a better place. I sought to help within my sphere of influence, for the people with whom I interact on a daily basis, most especially, for students. Continue reading My Recipe for M.A.D. Skills