Category Archives: Write 6×6

What Inspires?

I’m participating in GCC‘s Write 6×6 event this semester. And no weaseling out of it by being too busy. I’m actually scheduling time during the week to write, and you should expect 6 posts over the next 5 weeks (it’s supposed to be 6 weeks, but I’m already late for my first post … late but NOT given up on!).

The suggested first week’s post is to write about what inspires us to do what we do at GCC. That’s what I’m doing.

I’m the Instructional Media Developer at GCC. I work in the Center for Teaching, Learning and Engagement. Our mission is to be a professional development resource for Faculty and Staff. And my job is to help Faculty and Staff professionally develop by helping them to create instructional multimedia. That can be anything from writing, handouts, spreadsheets, audio recordings, video, pretty graphics or flyers, infographics, interactive animations of one format or another, and the list goes on!

So what inspires me to do what I do is: Faculty or Staff with a message they want to deliver to our students in an engaging way.

Elsewhere, and this is just an example of uninspiring multimedia, I’ve seen people try flipping the classroom by recording hour-long lectures from the back of the classroom and posting them into Canvas. The shot is stationary, the sound is awful because it includes all the rustling generated by the students closest to the camera, and the instructor and whiteboard look tiny and can barely be seen. That’s not the kind of thing that inspires me.

Could you watch a scene like this, with barely intelligible audio, for an hour?


Photo: Broad run algebra class by James H Dunning

But here at GCC, I work with Faculty and Staff who are very motivated to help our students succeed. When someone like that comes in with a specific goal, it’s very inspiring to me, and I’ll dig deep to provide the know-how.

Academic advisor Isaac Torres notices students don’t understand the difference between Advisement and Counseling:

Adjunct ESL Faculty member Elizabeth Macdonald realizes her students need help getting their children off to a good start in Arizona’s public schools:

Psychology faculty Dr. Patricia Lavigne wants to encourage psychology students to join Psi Beta without personally making a pitch to every class during the first week of school:

There are so many inspirational faculty and staff at GCC who go an extra mile to help students and engage them in the learning process. You motivate me to do what I do, especially when you tell me your dreams, schemes, wild ideas and if-onlys, and then let me help you make them a reality. Bring in the thing you want to improve and let’s partner up to make it better.

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

The Dance General – A Story of Change

Here’s a story about “change” on many different levels.

Most of my students take my Art of Storytelling class because it is required, and they believe it will be the easiest of the required electives they have from which to choose. They usually come into class “suspicious” of the teacher. Who are they? What do they know? And unconsciously, “will I be able to relate to this teacher?”

In the first class of the semester, I begin by going around the room and asking each student to tell us “why” they are taking this class, aside from the fact that it is “required”. Most of them end up saying “because it is required”, and then I have to pull more out of them.

Then, I tell them about myself…
Here, I could list all of the things I have done, all of my accomplishments, degrees and accolades. I could also tell them, “I am the kind of person who…” and list all of my qualities.

Since I teach storytelling, I try to “teach” the topic by actually telling stories. (The video is a five-minute video recorded live at the Arizona Republic Live Storytelling – 9/15/2011)

Afterwards, I ask them what they know about me now, and do they think they will remember these things? My story “shows” them who I was, how and why I changed, and who I am today. It’s a more compelling way for me to introduce myself to them… as a teacher AND a person. And self-deprecating, humorous stories most always show people that you are “human” and have the ability to laugh at yourself.

This usually changes the way they think about the teacher who is leading the class…and the class itself.

 

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

Appreciations – Driven Home by a Sixth Grader

To the logical, pragmatic, no-nonsense, Type-A personality that I am, the concept of appreciations in storytelling (or teaching) was initially lost on me. It felt like a “nicey-nicey-fluff-give-them-positive-first-but-doesn’t-help-teach-them-or-move-them-to-change” process. Why not just tell them what they need to change? Enough of the touchy-feely stuff. Give them meat to chew on.

My first formal storytelling teacher kept giving people appreciations in class, no suggestions or critiques, just appreciations. And he really meant it too. It wasn’t just lip service. I thought this was OK for the first few weeks of class, but when was he going to get to “telling people how they need to change and improve”? As the weeks went on, I began to try to follow his lead. I was quite surprised to find that it was easy to find something to appreciate about every telling.

Then I attended a workshop with long-time teller and storytelling coach. He spoke of how his father gave him constant praise, even for the smallest things, from birth, and throughout his life. It made me think of my own father who could pick out the one mistake I made and focus on that negative aspect of my effort. It made me think about my eighth-grade teacher who embarrassed me in front of the whole class with his condemning critique of a book report I had written. It made me think of how I critique both others, and myself.

A small part of me, the therapist and a mediator, began to understand appreciations, at least on a psychological level. Reinforcing positive behavior helps people repeat that positive behavior. I began to make a change. I tried to “give praise” wherever I could. I was conscious of really looking for the positive aspects of what I saw, and letting people know what I appreciated about what they had done.

Then I met Anthony. Anthony was a cherub-faced sixth grader at a school I visited to tell stories and talk about storytelling. The students had already done some storytelling and the teacher wanted the class to demonstrate to me what they had learned. Anthony eagerly raised his hand and volunteered to be the first to tell his story.

He stood before the class and began. He was a little nervous, but told a good story. Oh, he paced back and forth and didn’t always face forward and look at his audience. And as he was telling, it hit me like a ton of bricks: Anthony was me!

Yes, I did see myself in that eleven year-old boy; eager, creative, excited, longing for acknowledgment and praise. I thought, how can I say anything negative about his telling? What good would that accomplish? I felt that even one tiny “constructive suggestion” might bruise his young ego and only send him into a labyrinth of self-doubt. And then the second wave came over me. Are our adult egos any less fragile than Anthony’s? I think not.

It was then that I began to understand appreciations on an emotional level. There have been adult students and colleagues who have said, “Just tell me the bad things.” I, myself have even said that in the past. And yet, behind the bravado that purports to be strong and only wants a critique, stands a delicate ego, deeply longing for praise and acceptance. And it is the praise and acceptance that supports their growth and learning.

So the next time that you hear someone tell a story, have a student give an answer, have a student try, I hope you see Anthony…
and then, perhaps, yourself… and then give an appreciation.

 

Believe You Can Float!

As a Storyteller, I go to as many workshops and conferences as I am able. Learning more about my craft is an ongoing quest. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an all-day workshop with international Storyteller and Mime, Antonio Rocha (pronounced “hosha”), originally from Brazil. Antonio is an incredible performer. I swear that I have seen him “float”!

At the beginning of the workshop, Antonio asked each participant to voice what they hoped to get out of the day. In addition to some specifics, I said, “Oh yeah, and I want to learn how to float!” Antonio’s response set the tone for the whole day: “The first step is to believe you can float!”

There were many things that I learned and gleaned from the workshop, but one of the most important, and most revealing was the actual “coaching” that several people got from Antonio. As each person told their story, I had my own ideas about how they were doing, and what might be helpful. It was quite amazing when Antonio’s suggestions affirmed my own thoughts. To be “in sync” with a master that I admire confirmed for me that I was “on the right track” with my own assessments.

Then came my turn to be coached by Antonio. Try as I did to affect what I had already learned from the workshop, I was not completely successful. Antonio was gentle and affirming in his suggestions for me, “You can do this. Believe you can!” It was in the “doing” and putting myself out there that I learned the most.

My advice to all who wish to improve themselves, in whatever endeavor: study, learn from the masters, get coaching from a trusted and admired mentor/colleague.

The first step is to believe you can!

 

My New Degree In Biology

I started out in college majoring in Biology.  It wasn’t until I was finishing my Associate’s degree that I gave up science.  I had just gone through a divorce and was raising two children on my own, with little to no financial assistance from the ex.  My dream of moving to California to finish a degree in Marine Biology was crushed by the reality of single parent poverty.  Looking back, I wonder if there had been someone in my life at that time to provide a little encouragement, would I have continued a degree in a different area of Biology?  Instead, I walked away completely from science, beginning new majors in History and Spanish.

Many years have passed.  In what I believe is a bit of good karma, I find myself working temporarily in the college’s Biology department where I once worked years ago as a student.  With the Department’s support, I was able to achieve something amazing this past year.  Together, we collaborated with Western New Mexico University to create a new transfer pathway for our Biotechnology students.  Starting this fall, 24 students will begin Bachelors degrees in Cell and Molecular Biology right here on our community college campus.  The degree is a highly innovative, collaborative, affordable and rigorous program that I am proud to have helped shape.  Best of all, I believe this program brings opportunity for students who might be struggling like I did all those years ago.  Having a good quality pathway on campus that is accessible and affordable will make it easier for students who need a little encouragement to follow their dreams in science.  It completes a circle for me too.  I finally did get my degree in Biology, after all.

Applications are now being accepted for 24 students to begin this fall!  For more information on the new degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, visit this link: http://natsci.wnmu.edu/glendale/ 


Filed under: Arizona, Biology, Science Tagged: Arizona, Glendale Community College, Innovation, Science, Write 6X6

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!

 

Beyond My Threshold

As I reflect on the diverse population of exceptional students in my developmental English classroom, I realize that I am often overextended and struggle to differentiate instruction for the 100+ students enrolled in my courses. All of my students have varying degrees of aptitudes and unique experiences, yet each carry an individual learning blueprint.  It is difficult to remediate every skill deficiency because students come to school unprepared with varying backgrounds-sometimes ones that emotionally handicap them, others that limit them from reaching their full potential.

When I feel overwhelmed, I  try to step out of my comfort zone and reach out for support from our college community. In my own experience, when the student problems are beyond my own training, collaboration is an important component in helping students succeed. Students that are enrolled with the benefits of cohorts, armed with academic success strategies, and have the advantage of taking core courses with teachers who team together to move the student’s academic and affective skills forward.  A focus on the whole learner has better enabled me to make refined decisions about what is fundamental to a grasp of the subject and what is better left to the professional outside of my field. Through collaboration, I feel armed to be able to move students into an irreversible state of growth and ultimately to success.            

 

It Takes a Village

Names have been changed.

I do not know that I, as an individual, make a difference; however, I do believe that WE, as a college, make a difference because we care, and we work hard to make one. “It takes a village […]” the African proverb teaches. The difference that we make is quantifiable in the success stories of our students. Through their success, the measurable difference becomes a bit more tangible. Here are a few of mine.

In my first semester as a faculty member at GCC, I had an 8:00 a.m. ENG102 class scheduled in LA107. In that class, I had Hercules, Heidi, Hunter, Jessica, Edgar, and 19 other students whom I would remember if I saw their faces. T used to sit in the back left corner of the room. Small in stature, she wore glasses and braces, but they did not mask her insecurity when it came to her writing skills, nor did they mask the fire that T possessed for achieving her goals. She was intelligent, persevering, and inquisitive.  What I admired about her was that she never let up with her questions until she received the answer she was looking for. She was always diligent in her work, reading, revising, proofreading, rewriting, until her final product was A worthy. As I grew to know T over the course of the semester, I also learned that T is a fighter and that she had been on her own in the United States as a young teenager, leaving family behind in Guatemala, without knowing any English. She came to the United States to have surgery to help correct a congenital bone malformation in her leg. After my class ended, I would see her on campus, mostly studying for Chemistry, but she continued to check in with me in her next semesters, and about her search for scholarships to continue her educational dreams. She was unsuccessful in obtaining the Dorrance scholarship, but I wrote her another recommendation for Barrett, the Honors College at ASU. This fall, I received this email from T:

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