On February 13th, I was sitting in my office and a young man walked by my window and then stopped at my door. I looked up from my computer and saw him standing there with a bunch of roses. “Oh, how pretty,” I commented. He walked in and gave me a rose. I thanked him and he left to continue his mission of giving out roses to the ladies in Testing Services.
I was touched and at that same time frustrated and mad at myself because I couldn’t remember his name. He is one of the DRS students we serve. I used to remember students’ names when I worked at a small private college but now I meet with several hundred students a year and the fact that being older also hinders my memory capacity. 🙂 I can’t keep all their names in my head.
For the next 45 minutes I was possessed with finding out the student’s name. Why? Because this student took the time to drop by my office and offer me a rose. The least I could do is find out who he was and to thank him.
After identifying the student, I re-read my notes related to my meetings with him. I realized that learning challenges he had during high school and college coupled with surviving a brain tumor has not hampered his spirit.
Although the limitations he experiences academically leaves him feeling useless at times. His friends from high school have abandoned him and he technically can’t work because of the medical benefits he receives. During our last conversation in November 2014 he shared that he is bored. He stays home so much and wants to do something. We brainstormed resources and volunteer opportunities to get him involved with other people and feel useful.
I directed him to Career Services for additional support. I am unsure whether he found a volunteer opportunity or not but one thing I am sure; he took the time to bring roses to the Disability and Testing Services building for Valentine’s Day and blessed my day!
In “Enhancing Rigor in Developmental Education,” the Scaling Innovation team discusses productive struggle: “the ultimate goal of instructional activities that require productive struggle is for students to develop a healthy disposition toward uncertainty in their pursuit of skills and knowledge they will later revisit and apply in other contexts.”
My favorite story of the week exemplifies productive struggle.
Students were to read about critical thinking and define the 15 critical thinking terms used in the article. My goal is to have them start using the language of critical thinking. Not surprisingly, they returned with 15 dictionary definitions that did not mean much! My next goal was to get them to use the dictionary to learn all they could about the words (as opposed to just copying down definitions they didn’t understand.) They read through dictionary entries and found new synonyms, learned how to use the pronunciation symbols to figure out “how to say it right,” discussed etymologies and how knowing the word history helped them remember and understand how the word came to mean what it does, realized how knowing the part of speech helped them use it correctly in a sentence, and argued about the “appropriate definition for the context” in the article. Sounds boring but they were engaged and admitted that maybe dictionary.com is not always the best option for really learning new words.
When we were finished, a student said, “Teacher, when I came in here I thought I knew everything but now I know I knew nothing!” I asked her how that felt and she replied, “It feels great! There is SO much to know!”
Getting students to work hard is hard work! From the grumbling gentlemen in RDG081 who refuse to justify their answers to critical reading students who can’t write in complete sentences, it takes me several weeks to get them to struggle productively but it is beginning to surface that they are learning and that it feels good!
This week was extremely difficult for me. I woke up Monday morning with a sore throat. Tuesday and Wednesday I stayed home with what I presumed was the flu. When I returned to work on Thursday, it was to find our office in crisis mode due to a water leak and seven rooms worth of classes needing to be relocated.
I have to admit that I was feeling disgruntled to have such a disruption and abundance of work dropped on me when I myself was just trying to survive the day and not keel over from being sick. Nobody likes walking into an emergency, especially when they feel like they’re dying inside. However, as the hours passed and the day was ending I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was reminded that every day I’m here I’m making a difference in a student’s life. Whether it’s on the forefront or behind the scenes, we make a difference to students.
When I applied to MCCCD it was because I wanted to be in education, not because I wanted “a job”. I wanted to help students achieve a sense of fulfillment in obtaining their educational goals. I may not be in front of them during classes, heck I’m not even in front of them during the registration process, but I know that I’m making a difference in their success.
So I guess my story is for those of you who are feeling “not as motivated” as usual, for those of us who are feeling a little down or disgruntled even. Just remember that we’re here to make a difference and that everything we do should be done with pride, joy, and self-satisfaction because what we do matters. It matters to the students who are out there making an effort to better themselves.
As this New Year came I found myself needing to make changes and one of those changes was to get out of my chair during the day and walk the campus. I have found that not only are the walks a good form of physical exercise, but it also has been personally and intellectually stimulating. If you have ever have the opportunity to explore our campus you will find many lovely little spots. One of my current favorite spots is a mixed bed of flowers that grow in a riot of stunning shades and sizes.
Like the flowers there’s another wonderful spot I enjoy, which is on the main mall. The other day I took a moment to sit out under the umbrellas and listen for a while. I soon noticed that as people passed by I could hear several exquisite languages. I then began to look up and down the mall and I saw all types of beautiful people, from all over the world. I was filled with an understanding that although our world is in turmoil we of all ages, origins, religions, socioeconomic stratum, etc., can come together and enjoy the “flowers” of this educational institution.
I will never forget my first graduate school class…
Finally, I am in graduate school and going to earn a Master’s Degree. I feel great, I am excited, and I just completed my first post on the discussion board. We are reading a challenging book, “The Archeology of Knowledge”, by Michel Foucault; it is difficult for me to grasp the meaning of the assigned chapter but I work hard and come up with something I feel is insightful and thought provoking. My assignment completed for the day, I head off to bed feeling good about my achievement. The next day, I am anxious as I log on to Blackboard to read my fellow student’s responses and retrieve my instructor’s feedback. In my mind, the rest of my graduate school career hinges on this first assignment – if I can do this, I can accomplish anything! I click on the link to my grades and my world comes crashing down – 4 out of 10 points.
Walking from the room where I do my schoolwork, I pass through the living room and without even a glance at my boyfriend I say, “I am too dumb for graduate school” and continue on to the bedroom to wallow in self-pity and doubt.
I let myself have one night of “giving up” but then I got determined! I am not dumb. I am going to show that professor and that stupid Michel Foucault that I can figure this out (even though I am convinced some of the sentences are just random words strung together with a period at the end). I keep the Spark Notes and my dictionary handy while I read the chapter at least two times and read the professor’s notes before and after reading the chapter. I think the highest I ever scored on discussion points was an 8 but I got an A in the class and proved to everyone (mostly myself) that I am not too dumb for graduate school.
So what’s the take away (other than, I may have overreacted and I’m a little hard on myself)? I can think of several clichés that would be appropriate but cliché or not, from great challenges rise great triumphs.
I still have that book proudly displayed in my home office because I read it and I did an “A” job pretending I understood it!