Category Archives: Write 6×6

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

 

An Unexpected Turn Of Events

An Unexpected Turn Of Events
Prompts An Unexpected Change In The Way I Will Teach.

Over the six semesters I have been teaching the Art of Storytelling, I have had three classes with deaf students. I sign a little, but thankfully the college provided two interpreters for each class. They were all wonderful as they interpreted for the deaf students, and also voiced for them when they performed a story.

So it was only natural that when I got a case of laryngitis that I thought, “No problem, I will just get an interpreter to come in and ‘voice’ for me.” I E-mailed the disabilities department and asked how much lead time they needed. Unfortunately, the supervisor wrote back that they only provided interpreters for the students, and I would have to contact HR. So I did.

The HR Department wrote back that laryngitis does not comply with the definition of an ADA disability and that if I were sick, I needed to contact my department head and arrange for a sub. I replied that I was disappointed and that, “I’m not ill. I don’t need a sub, just a voice.”

Step two: time to get creative!

I wondered what I could do. I have a small P.A. system and tested it out. I whispered into the mike, and it seemed that the amplification would work.

Now the lesson plan… Continue reading An Unexpected Turn Of Events

 

Money Matters?

I can’t help thinking that lately, money has become the focus in academia. As the state cuts all state funding from community colleges in Maricopa County Arizona, how do we continue to deliver the best two year school education in the United States? What do we do? The answer seems simple to me, we continue to carry out the mission of the college.
Here is the Glendale Community College mission (taken from our website):

Glendale Community College prepares students for further higher education, employment and advancement, and successful participation in a global society.

Let’s focus on that mission. Everyone at a college plays an educational role for our students, from the college president to the clerk typist, to the faculty member in the classroom, to the maintenance and operations people, to the student affairs staff. Everyone at the institution should be aware of the college mission, and keep that as the focus of everything that we do.
If we all do that, we can continue to deliver the best to out students despite the financial woes. We can continue to do what we do best!

 

Disconnected???

This week is the first time in my academic career that I have officially felt I am having difficulty connecting with my students. I am in my 19th year as a college professor, having started at 27 years old.  I remember starting out, fresh out of graduate school. I was frequently mistaken for a student by faculty members who did not know me. I was able to easily connect with the students as I could relate to much of what they were going through. I longed to be respected by my peers, most of whom were older than I was. I sometimes wished I were older because I believed that if I were older, people would respect me and question me less.

Fast forward to this past week. In my 19 year career I have never been more challenged by students. The students in my classes today question me more than ever, and I don’t understand why. I saw them as disrespectful, as entitled, and as rude. I wondered why they felt the need to verbally share everything they know about a topic as though I am not going to cover the topic well enough if they don’t. I wondered why they act as though the are the authority on everything, as though I am not the person to cover the topics. I even wondered if I was in the right profession anymore. I started talking to my colleagues and found that many of them were feeling something similar, though maybe not as pronounced as I was. It was then that I realized that part of the problem was that I had spent a long time becoming a professor, and preparing myself for class every day, and maybe my feelings were hurt. I felt I was at a crossroads in my career, feeling disconnected from my students.

For the last few days I have been thinking about this, and I have come to the conclusion that I need to re-think my beliefs about my students and my role as their professor. The truth is, they do have the ability to find all the information I share with them on their own. With access to Google they can pretty much cover it all. What I need to do is make sure I am focused as a professor on giving them skills that Google can’t give them.  I can teach them to think like a scientist. I can teach them to be critical consumers of information (so I guess I should be happy they question me?), and I can teach them about integrity and professional responsibility.  Maybe teaching the content is becoming a smaller and smaller part of what I do.

The problem is not that the students are different, the problem is figuring out how to change what I do so that I can be fulfilled by my job and give them what they need. I am not one to engage in edutainment, I am pretty old school when it comes to teaching and I doubt that is going to change significantly. I need to connect what I can offer to what my students need.  If I can do that I can continue to do what I do at a high level and enjoy it. Something for us all to think about.

 

Change.

I love change.

I went to four colleges (PC, Texas A&M, Galveston College, ASU) over five years for one degree. And that included three different degree programs (Marine Biology, Maritime Engineering, Justice Studies).   My Master’s is in a completely different field, my EdS in another, and heck, I may even go back to Law School!

While @ ASU for my undergrad, I lived in four different places (Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Scottsdale, Mesa) in two years.   I love the chance to find new grocery stores, new restaurants, new running routes. I love white walls that I can make my own. I change cars every two years. I change bags with seasons. I love change.

My hairdresser loves me because every two months I like something different; color, bangs, layers, you name it – I’m open. It’s hair. It will grow back/out/in/over.

My diet; that I don’t change. I have found what works for me and I love it. I may change the vegetables on my salad, but otherwise, that’s not an environment that’s conducive to change. But food is my fuel that allows me to go after everything else with such a healthy passion and to have the energy to change. So I don’t mess with my fuel.

When you find what works for you; stick with it. But if something doesn’t work or doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid of something better.  When you’ve learned what you needed to learn with a given situation, accept the learning and move on to learn something else! Whether it’s a relationship, a hobby, a life lesson or even a degree! Change = learning = growth = evolving!

 

Educating the Whole Person

Educating the Whole Person

Depending on what brings you to work every day, this may mean something different to each of us. Counseling, Advising, Teaching, Coaching…..  What does this mean to you, and how do you help to make this happen? This post is less of a one-sided submittal, and intended to be more of a two-way exchange (or larger conversation).

Do you feel our job as community college educators, coaches,  and leaders is to ‘educate the whole person’?  Or, should we stick to the traditional ‘Three R’s’ mindset? And, why do you feel the way you do?

According to our last CCSSE & SENSE surveys (2011), over 76% of our students report never working with instructors or faculty outside of class assignments, 33% report never discussing career plans with their advisor or instructors, and only 50% of students reported discussing ideas from readings or class with others outside of class often.

Faculty & staff interactions provide an opportunity to educate the whole person, but my question is: if we buy-in to that premise, what can each of us do better every day to make that be a true statement?

I’m hoping we hold this discussion as a daily reminder of the importance of EVERY.SINGLE.INTERACTION. with our students and the impact we can make in educating the whole person.

Your turn………

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Coming out of the closet

I am a lesbian. That is certainly not a secret. When I arrived at GCC in 2002 I was president of the Gay and Lesbian employee organization for the district (now Equality Maricopa), and I immediately became co-advisor of the LGBT student group on campus. I was out to my fellow employees, but in class, I tended not to talk about my personal life.  Every once in a while, during the before class milling around, a student would ask me  something like “How does your husband feel about being married to a psychology professor?” I would respond with “I don’t have a husband, I have a wife, and she was a psychology major in college so I think she is OK with it.” Usually the student would apologize for asking, for reasons I don’t quite understand, and then we would move awkwardly forward with the class.

Then, a few years into my time at GCC, the psychology department lost a long time adjunct instructor who had been teaching our LGBT studies class. We searched for a replacement, but we were only able to find someone for one semester. Ultimately, I decided to teach the class. It was as a result of teaching that class that I learned how important being out of the closet could be to my students.

Many of the students who enroll in the LGBT studies class are looking for something. About half of them are straight allies looking to learn more about LGBT people. The other half are students who are themselves members of the LGBT community, and they want to know more about the environment at GCC for them, the laws that pertain to them, the social environment in Phoenix, and many other things.  I learned a lot about the importance of someone like me being out from these students. All of the students told me they had not had an LGBT instructor, and I knew that was probably not true, they just did not know that they had.

A couple of semesters ago, I was teaching an Introduction to Psychology class where a student asked me a question about my husband and I answered in the typical way, that I don’t have a husband, I have a wife, and then I shared the answer with them regarding my wife. During my office hour, one of the students in the class, who was presenting as male, came to my office and told me that he was transgender, but he was afraid to be out on campus or with his family. I listened, I told him what I knew about transitioning, but I mostly listened. I gave him contact information for a transgender activist I knew personally. I continued to check in with this student during the semester. As the semester ended, I was worried about him because I knew he was living his life in a way that was not consistent with who he was inside. I knew he was living in fear of his family finding out. I knew his being closeted was eating him up inside.

This past week, I ran into that transgender activist friend of mine. She told me that she had recently been in contact with one of my former students, and she told me the name. I was so happy to hear that now that student was presenting as female, the woman she really is, and was doing well. I would not have had the opportunity to get to know my student if I had not been out in my class.

We all have closets that we can come out of with our students when appropriate. Maybe we ourselves attended community college, or maybe we were first generation college students who had to learn to navigate academia and we made it through. Maybe we went to an elite university and we can dispel myths about what they are like. Maybe we worked two jobs putting ourselves through college and we can relate to their experience. Maybe we can just listen to them sometimes, and try to connect them with resources. Sometimes for students, just seeing that someone like them can be a college professor, or administrator, or professional, can help them see themselves achieving their goals.

I want to encourage my colleagues to consider coming out of their closets.

 

The Beauty of GCC

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.