Category Archives: Write6x6


Assessment is tricky business. There are so many different options to use in trying to assess how much the students have learned. And I just have to say, that grading is not one of the favorite parts of being an instructor. I have been teaching for a long time. I have tried several different ways to assess the students in my courses. What I have found to have made the biggest impact on their learning of, and retention of, mathematics, has not been my change in how I assess, but how often I assess. It isn’t unusual, in mathematics, to have your pass rate fall within the (50-60)% range. After having assessed basically at the end of chapters, 16 years ago I switched to assessing every week in many of the courses I teach. These are major assessments not just little quizzes. After this change I noticed a pass rate that was 20 to 35 percentage points higher than before. Here is an example, my college algebra course went from 55% to 80% pass rates on average with just this simple change. I’ve tried collecting Homework, daily quizzes, collaborative activities, large group projects, working at the board, etc. and none of those had the impact that this did. The biggest change wasn’t necessarily that the students were learning more but that more students were learning. The big change I saw was that the withdraw rate went from around 40% to 10%. I don’t know if this will happen in every subject or every different course within a subject area but I have seen it work for all of the courses I teach (intermediate algebra, college algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus 1 2 and 3). Give it a try if you haven’t ever.


On Kindness

Practicing it won’t make you perfect but it’ll make you aware. We’ve all probably been taught at some point in our lives of its virtues, but have we examined its meaning? What does it mean to be kind? To understand, perhaps it’s best to know what it feels like to be treated in an unkind manner.  I’m pretty sure we can all remember the last time we felt like that.  But can we remember the last time we treated someone with kindness?  What were the circumstances under which we chose to act in a kindly manner.  And no, I’m not talking about patronizing manners or obligatory responses.  I’m talking real.  Right here and right now. Starting with today. We’re all too busy thinking and worrying about ourselves and “what’s in it for me.”  And in doing so we’ve missed the opportunity to respond to an overwhelmed student or coworker.  All because, if you please, we were thinking all about “me” instead of “them.”  We know what it feels like when we’re left to feel the sting of a perfunctory thank you or please. My challenge is this:  let’s think ahead and outside of ourselves. So the next time we’re in a situation which may require compassion, we think instead of how we can best be prepared to respond to a need selflessly and with compassion for someone in need of a kind act instead of an eye-rolling dismissal. You see to be kind, we must think of someone other than ourselves. That’s how I wish to be remembered. As an example of kindness.  We’ve been taught the lesson, but so have we learned?  What a difference kindness can make.

Just T.H.I.N.K

I am not a fan of acronyms, but this one speaks volumes.

In the spirit of kindness on campus, we should stop and THINK before we speak. There is always a choice in how we react to a situation.

Optimal health is tied to wellness, and wellness is a dynamic wheel rolling down the road of life. We know it is important to exercise and eat well (physical wellness). We know it is important to socialize and engage with others (social wellness). We know it is important to learn and challenge our minds (intellectual wellness). We know it is important to meditate, pray or dwell on our purpose in life (spiritual wellness).

Emotional wellness  is the fifth aspect of a well-rounded life and it needs more attention. If we are not happy, then all of the other dimensions of wellness are affected. Happiness is the key. The pathway to happiness is to not only look after our own well being, but to look out for the happiness of others.

Small acts of kindness create a ripple effect that we can’t even fathom!  One smile can change a day for someone who is sad or suffering. That smile could end up on the faces of many people through the course of the day because of the smile you chose to initiate. Imagine if everyone did that!

Any act where you give something and you don’t expect anything in return. Buying a coffee or a lunch for a stranger, or a colleague, or a student who could use a boost. Stopping to say more than “hi” even if you are in a hurry (leave 5 minutes early so you can create these moments).

Every day, try at least one act of kindness and watch how your emotional wellness takes an enormous boost!



Need a Grammar Checker? I Want to Find Out

Writing today is almost a completely online or computer aided experience. Students are composing in word processor programs as well as online in programs like Google Drive or directly in Canvas. While most of these text editors will probably have built in spelling and maybe a grammar check, a more robust dedicated editing tool can find hidden errors that are easily missed on a standard text editor, and there are many of these tools available on the web for free and for pay. I decided that maybe our students and even faculty and staff might benefit from some of these tools, so I wrote a summer project proposal to research it this summer.

My goal for a summer project is to spend some time using some of these editing tools to discover which make the best use for our students and for us. I also want to study how these programs work to discover if in fact they are accurate and how accurate they are. In addition, I’d like to research whether these tools actually benefit students by teaching them to become better writers or if they are simply a crutch. With this knowledge, I’d like to develop a plan for how best to use these programs with students so that the tools can be more of a teaching aide than a tool that makes corrections only for students. So my proposal includes academic research, activities that can enhance my professional knowledge and expertise, as well as field research to learn innovations. 

I think this will be great way to spend my time this summer, so I plan to complete this project over a 4 week period during the month of June. Did any of you submit a proposal? I’m curious how you plan to spend your summer if you did. 

Keep Calm and Be Kind

I was thinking about the phrase “KEEP CALM and BE KIND” permeating the campus and I am totally down with this philosophy. It has been my philosophy for a long time; I am my mother’s daughter. I was also thinking about a recent interchange with an employee pursuing a degree. This woman works full-time at GCC while raising two young daughters and taking evening classes. When I asked if she is completing a bachelor’s degree, she responded with a hangdog “no, it’s just an associate’s degree”. This saddens me beyond belief.  I used to be her, ashamed of getting JUST an associate’s degree. I am fortunate to have broken free of this attitude.

You see, I have an associate’s degree in medical laboratory science from Madison Area Technical College. The most important and fulfilling work I have ever done was working as a MLT in hospitals in the Midwest. I had direct impact on people’s health; I literally helped save lives. I did this with an AAS and earned far less than my colleagues with bachelor’s degrees. I always felt like a second-class citizen, ashamed of JUST having an associate’s degree, when I should have been proud of my accomplishment. It is no easy feat obtaining this degree.

I find a lot of stigma attached to degrees. It’s not that you are getting an associates, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. It is a question of the type of degree and the school you attend. There is a pecking order and boy, you better be going to the best school and getting the right degree or well, you are down there and I am up here, above you. I’m afraid I see this attitude quite often from where I sit. The fact is a lot of the brightest people I know do not have a degree.

I am not immune to this prejudice, no one is, but the fact that someone is striving to obtain more knowledge should be the most important thing we see. I personally don’t find value in racking up letters and acronyms after my name. I do find value in increasing my knowledge and working my brain, hence my going for a master’s degree. There will always be someone with higher degrees from places of greater esteem. I cannot hope to compete with them, nor should I. I can be kinder to everyone I meet, staff and students, and overlook the award (or lack) of a piece of paper attached to them. I can and will continue to admire the work they do to help others achieve their goals and dreams. I can give a huge high five to those who overcome a lot of obstacles to get an associate degree or higher.

Yes, we should keep calm and be kind, and work to be the very best person we can be.


Lord it’s hard to be humble

Many of us “old timers” might remember the Mac Davis song “Lord It’s Hard to be Humble”. As I have thought about this week’s discussion topic this old song came to mind. Our society seems to think this song is true (..when you are perfect in every way..). I think a good leader starts with the opposite of this song. If you are humble, because you know you are human and can make mistakes, you are more likely to have an attitude that respects others and values their input. When you have a humble approach to life you show a caring attitude and tend to put other before self. A humble leader will tend to exhibit the following in the work place: openness to others opinions, attentiveness to their needs, not hesitate to admit mistakes and take ownership of them, accepts change and shows flexibility, is good at self-reflecting, and they put people in positions and LETS them do their job. Most entities seems to taut strength, charisma, enthusiasm, vision, decisiveness as prime characteristics of good leaders but all of those go awry if not controlled first by Humility.


The Three P’s of Inspiration

     Alisa Cooper--If you have not had the opportunity of learning from Alisa, you're missing out.  A true mentor, Alisa has taught me not just directly when I have a question, but also by modeling her own courses which she generously lets me look at and materials she lets me borrow.  She has inspired me to "Alisa-Cooper-my-courses," a phrasing I'm sure she doesn't like.  I feel like my online and hybrid courses get better and better because I have her models to follow.  Her level of achievement pushes me to work harder. Yes, an old dog can learn new tricks, and I'm learning a lot of mine lately from her.

     GCC Students--Every day when I walk into my classrooms, I am reminded that our students are here to improve themselves.  I save many of them in my memory--those who have really impressed me with their grit and courage, those I see a semester or two later who are still truckin' and sometimes telling me about their upcoming graduation.  I see Mary*, a single mother who started out doubtful and questioning her decision to attend school and make a life change, who is now closer than ever to her goal of becoming a nurse.  I see Nick*, a veteran, who is looking to start a second career after gaining the degree he needs.  I see Tammy*, a student who lived in foster care as a child and now wants to advocate for changes to the system. How could I not be inspired?

     Family--Now I know that my family is not at GCC, but they strongly inspire me to be the best employee and teacher I can be when I'm at GCC.  My brother, a strong advocate for public education and an assistant superintendent, struggled in school as a child.  He has since outpaced me in getting two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. He has worked harder than just about anyone I know,
Holly and Andrew
and he inspires me to work hard.  Likewise, my wife continues to challenge herself, taking on new leadership roles and job experiences, stepping into unfamiliar territory. I admire her and learn more from her than any other person. She is apt to take risks and courageous to the point that sometimes I am just in awe.  She left a cushy classroom gig to enter administration and then left her familiar, safe district to lead a high school in a new district.  Her example inspires me to take on challenges that I might otherwise say no to.

     What do they all have in common?  Possibility.  Passion. Permission.  Their work and achievements demonstrate what is possible.  Their passions buoy them to the next achievement.  Unwittingly, they inspire me to say "Yes" to the Universe and its challenges.

*Names have been changed.

In Search of My Inspiration. How Do I Expand Beyond?

I have to admit I’m borderline burnout, but what keeps me going these days are the people I work with on a daily basis. My inspiration comes from all of those faculty and staff who take the time to better themselves and be the best they can be and utilize the CLTE to help them with that. I can’t be a slacker around these folks. Oh no, so I’m inspired to step my game up and help provide the services they need, and it reminds me of why I’m doing this job in the first place. It’s easy to forget at times. So the last thing I need to be doing right now is agonizing over a journal post, but I’m inspired to do so because of the 10+ posts already posted on from last week. They are my inspiration to post, to share. They are my inspiration to complete a tedious FPG application for an upcoming workshop. My inspiration to schedule FMS training in the CTLE. My inspiration to send out yet another announcement about what we have to offer, knowing very few will bother to read it. But it’s that few that inspire me. Recently I attended a district event at SCC called TechTalks. It’s a TEDTalks type of event where 8 speakers talk about their experience with using technology in their life or work environment. These talks are very inspirational, but on this particular Friday I had every legitimate excuse to not miss work and not attend. I’m so glad I didn’t give in to any one of those excuses because that’s all they are is excuses. Attending TechTalks rejuvenated me. It inspired me. It made me want to go and do ALL those things those speakers talked about. I wanted to understand data, play with virtual reality, create portfolios for my students, create OER, and even make a music video despite my lack of music and movie making skills. I was inspired. Again by my colleagues in Maricopa. I’m so glad I didn’t pass up this one of a multitude of opportunities to be inspired because what good am I to you, my colleagues, my students if I’m not inspired to do my job?

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Reflection from 2/2

From Thursday, 2/2/2017:

This morning, the woman who collects tuition for my son’s school made the discovery of a four inch gaping hole lined with the fringe of shredded fabric on the side of my skirt, “You have a HUGE string hanging off there! Do you want me to cut it?” Of course, this was after leaving the house, dropping kids off, and stretching my brain into work mode. On the drive in and after the discovery, instead of listening to news and attempting to decipher whether it is fake or not, I went into existential mode in thinking about how the more life piles on, the less we have to care about the significance of not noticing a ripped skirt in the scheme of things. I mean, really, how could I have dressed myself and not noticed such a glaring wardrobe malfunction? Did it matter? How is it that the older I get, the more I am forced to “not sweat the small stuff” due to pure circumstance?

It is something I was ruminating about, and then as it tends to happen, serendipitously, of course, after me crudely attempting to mend the gash with a makeshift sewing kit, two brief moments emerged to reaffirm my thoughts.

A returning student of mine stayed after class to let me know that in his previous life, he was a government official who use to care for the special needs population in his community. In class, we have been discussing identities, stereotypes about our identities that society makes, and embedded arguments that perpetuate the assumptions. His family had to leave their homeland in 2008, and they came to the United States with nothing. Nothing. After his narrative of displacement, he continued. Radiating with pride, he says, “We had nothing. But today, today, you know, I have three daughters. All three of my daughters are college graduates from GCC and GCU with nursing degrees.”  He makes sure I know that the lessons his family learned from their hardship are the reasons his daughters are so successful today.

Moments later, I was signing out of the computer, crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s in leaving the classroom ready for the next instructor. “Hi Mrs. Dewey,” chimed someone. It was a familiar someone and one of my highly motivated students from ENG091 and ENG101. Last semester, she enthusiastically signed up for the CRE101 and ENG102 Learning Community, but on the first day, she was not there. It was not like her to disappear, so here and there, I would wonder if all was alright in her world. As it happens, this semester, she is working three jobs while taking her prerequisites to get into the nursing program. Visibly, ENG102 would not work with her packed schedule. She wanted me to know that she would be back for ENG102 in the forthcoming semesters and wanted to check in so I would know what happened.

Tiny yet grandiose moments like this happen every day in my work here.Tiny because they are small in duration. Grandiose because every time they happen, I gain new insight, clarity, and perspective on all that small stuff.


I Made My Mentee Cry

It all took place while I sat at the  car dealership waiting for my 2006 Mazda 3 to get repaired.

I didn’t mean to make her cry.

But she inspires me and she needed to hear it.

This set a thought process in motion that inspired me to write. GCC Faculty work very hard and are incredibly dedicated to student success. We really don’t hear enough about them and their stories that are so inspiring, so I will share one.

As a PAR Mentor, I was reviewing her hybrid 101 course, specifically looking at a series of videos she had created about exercise motivation and adherence. She designed the videos so the students could “chunk and chew” the information for the module. Each of the seven videos were about seven minutes long. Just enough time to engage a student and maintain their attention.

She didn’t have to do this at all. She could have easily said “read the chapter, take notes, and take the quiz.” But she didn’t. She saw a need and an opportunity and she went for it, despite all of her other responsibilities as full-time faculty.

She knew the students could play these videos over and over as a listening tool while driving or exercising, or to watch while sitting at the computer after school. She knew the students would appreciate the extra effort she made.

Do you know how long it takes to record, edit and upload a seven-minute video? It takes a lot of time and love. She did this seven times, and then created quizzes to go with the videos so the students would know if they really understood the material.

Our faculty do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that they don’t boast about. They do it because of their passion for teaching and ensuring the students are getting what they need for success.

So, go ahead and make a faculty member cry.  You might get a quote like this:

“Oh my goodness! You just made me cry! I cannot thank you enough for your kind words and encouragement. You have lit a fire under me to work harder and give more.”