Tag Archives: Change

To bend WITHOUT BREAKING

Several years ago, I had a student at GCC who taught me that a major difference between success and failure as an educator is malleability.

Stock photo of a reed bending in the wind.
“The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

― Confucius

When I received the notification that I would have an American Sign Language interpreter in my class for the first time, I was excited. My mother is also an educator, currently in administration, but taught ASL early on in her career. When I was a child, she could not afford a babysitter and frequently brought me along as she taught late night ASL college courses. I never learned sign language outside of the alphabet or how to ask and answer basic questions, but was excited to make use of what little I knew from my mother’s teachings from twenty years earlier.

Childhood photo of Mr. Moore
A very young Mr. Moore…

Overconfidence leads to cruel reality checks. I was not prepared or capable of communicating with my student without the help of the interpreter. The interpreter was very kind about my attempts, but I had to give up on using any sign language as to not create confusion. I quickly reverted to my default teaching method, which is high energy and high speed.

After the first few writing assignments, I knew something was wrong. It was obvious that the lessons and lectures were not getting through. The reality is that I was the one struggling and not my student. I had become rigid in my methods after three years of teaching the same curriculum and using the same PowerPoints, videos, and handouts. Those methods were directly leading to an obviously gifted student failing my course. I’m ashamed to admit that I did not want to adapt, I defended my stubbornness by telling myself that I should keep doing the same thing I had always done because change would hurt the rest of my class.

My student’s first essay broke through that stubbornness. I still remember her conclusion on how the deaf still hear the music of life. There were grammatical, mechanical, and formatting errors aplenty, but the poetry of her language revealed passion and talent. I could tell she was upset when she saw the grade. After class that day I sat down with her, pointed out her gift for language, and did my best to encourage her. Once she left, still downtrodden, I had a conversation with her interpreter. They confirmed everything I already knew I was doing that was making learning more difficult.

I needed to slow down the speed at which I went through lectures, re-work my materials, and dig for relevant videos with subtitles. I won’t say it was a perfect transition, but over time my methods improved and the entire class, not just one student, benefited. She ended up passing that course, and the next level course after it.

Image of the entrance to High Tech 2 on the Glendale Community College Campus
Home to the CTLE and one of my favorite locations on the GCC Campus: HT2

One day, a semester later, I saw her in the curved glass hallway in the HT2 building on campus. She waved me down and walked up with a contagious smile. Without her interpreter the conversation was a bit awkward, but I had learned if I spoke slowly enough she could lipread incredibly well. After a short update on her coursework, she thanked me for helping her pass English. It is hard to put into words, but her genuine excitement created a memory I still treasure now. I was able to reply with one of the few signs I did know: “Thank you”, and that was the last time I saw her.

I like to think that she is now nearing a decade into her career in art design. If I could, I would elaborate on my final words to her: “Thank you for making me realize that malleability isn’t a bad word, that sometimes we have to bend if we are to evolve into a better version of ourselves.”

Animated image of "Thank you" in American Sign Language.
Thank you!

 

The Professor and the Politician

This is my third time doing a six-week blog for Write 6×6. In previous years, I focused on the prompt and sort of went spur of the moment with what I talked about with very little connection or theme between posts. I wanted to shake things up a bit this year. Over the next six weeks, I am going to take an in depth (or at least as in depth as six blog posts allow) look at the skills that teaching develops and how those skills can be useful in other arenas. Before I get into specifics, I need to provide a little context…

author and wife dancing at wedding
The happiest day of my life

Those who know me know that my life has undergone some significant events in the last half decade, starting with my marriage to my partner of (now) 17 years. In 2017, the first year I participated in Write 6×6, I was still in the process of adjusting to life in a new area and trying to get both my physical and emotional well-being on track. Life’s track is more like a roller-coaster and finding any sort of balance was near impossible, but through the ups and downs I began to find bits and pieces of a better version of myself.

Moving forward to 2018, I had become active in my local community by serving as a member, and eventual chair, of the Economic Advisory Board. That volunteer service forced me to expand my knowledge of web design, photography, videography, content creation, and marketing. The reason I say expand is because being an online instructor had already provided me with a base knowledge in most of those areas. My skills as an English instructor specifically became invaluable when I was placed on the Planning Commission. This may come as a shock (/sarcasm), but how laws and municipal code are worded can have a major impact on their effectiveness (and legality).

Snip of Municipal Code
Boring essay? Try legalese…

In Summer of 2018, the unexpected happened. One of our local council members had to retire for health concerns, and I was appointed to fill the vacancy. It was both exciting and horrifying at the same time. As a teacher, I have always striven to see the good and promote the best in those around me, and that effort was almost always reciprocated in kind. I discovered in my time as a volunteer the political arena had the potential to be a much uglier experience, even with the best of intentions.

Image of author and Mayor shaking hands after appointment.
The smile hides the fear of my appointment.

Without going into specifics, I will say that both my excitement and my fear have been justified on multiple occasions. Outside of the support of my amazing wife, the thing that has kept me from drowning in the stormy seas of politics has been the experience and skills I acquired over the last dozen years of teaching. Over the next few weeks I want to elaborate on those skills and why they are so important and underrepresented, and exactly the sort of skills communities need. I hope that maybe (just maybe) in the process I will encourage fellow instructors to get active in their communities as well.

Best case scenario: I succeed.

Worst case scenario: I educate.

It is a win-win.

 

Change is coming…

District Transformation Plan…Guided Pathways…Industry Partnerships…Enterprise Performance…a bunch of words, what do they all mean? How is it going to change what I do everyday? Why should I care?

These are all things you may be feeling. I am excited about all of the changes but I am especially excited about Guided Pathways and the change it could mean for our students. Guided Pathways is a national movement embraced by community colleges and universities alike. Here’s the thing…it’s not even a new concept but one, when done right, will have tremendous impact on how students reach their goal.

I want you to think about what drove you to commit your professional life at a community college. Was it a love of your discipline? Was it because you love teaching as opposed to research? Was it because you loved your college-experience so much you didn’t want to leave? Was it because you simply want to make a difference for others? Whatever the case, I want you to ask yourself if you’re ready to take a journey and be part of the movement…In the great words of Alexander Hamilton (aka Lin-Manuel Miranda in “My Shot”) “This is not a moment, it’s the movement.”

Joining the movement for Guided Pathways isn’t about something we’re “doing”, it’s about something we’re “becoming” and will require a renewed commitment to what brought us to the community college in the first place.

Guided Pathways will result in an actual map that students will follow. These maps will be in designated “clusters” so students can easily move from one degree to another in the same cluster with little loss of credit…By the way, did you know that on average, community college students graduate with over 90 credit hours? And if students want to change their cluster all together, for example from Engineering to Business, then this can happen too. Remember, it’s a pathway not a prison.

So, what does all this mean to you? If you’re a faculty member, it may mean asking some questions about what can you do to help students through the “gateway” courses. These are courses with high enrollment and low success rates. It may mean you are challenged to think of your discipline is a way that is outside your comfort zone. If you are an Academic Advisor, it may mean continuous training with a lowered and designed caseload of students to guide.  But you are not alone and we have amazing colleagues who can help us grow in our chosen profession.

But…why exactly are we on this committed movement of Guided Pathways? Ultimately, it’s to achieve student success, equity, and economic upward mobility for the students we serve. So, we have to ask ourselves…are we really student-ready? Are we willing to adapt to the changes that are surely coming? Are we willing to take on this movement? Remember, “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.” I say, “Let’s go!”

 

 

Making an Entrance

In my heart of hearts, I genuinely want those around me to succeed, and I take pleasure in watching them do well as they develop. I’d rather help people work out their problems than tell them what they need to do. I don’t consider any of those things character faults, but very early in my teaching experience I learned that certain actions can be confused with weakness. Weakness in the classroom leads to problems that are not easy to correct.

To say I was nervous on my first day in the classroom would be an understatement. I made the mistake of not wearing an undershirt, and my  light blue dress shirt was a drenched dark mess by the end of the 45-minute period. I imagine I seemed as ridiculous as Sir James Martin from Love & Friendship:

That lack of self-confidence and abundance of nerves  lead to problems throughout the rest of the semester. I found out very quickly that if a classroom doesn’t respect you as a person, they also will not respect your lectures, your grading, or your discipline.

That was a difficult semester, but as time went on I gained confidence and my nerves subsided. This lead to better relationships with my students and more success in the classroom. Year to year things improved incrementally. Eventually though, something happened.

Image of Luke from Star Wars about Overconfidence.
Ah George Lucas, your horrible dialogue rings true.

With my nerves fully at bay, my inner-nice guy came out again. With it, the entire catalog of issues I had in my early years started to manifest themselves again. Why?  Because while my students may have liked me, they did not respect me.

So here we are at the heart of the lesson folks: Respect is key. Respect should always be in the back of your mind when standing behind that desk. Whether it was nerves or being “Mr. Nice Guy”, I lost the respect of my students, and with it, full control of my classroom.

It wasn’t easy, and I still make mistakes, but I have learned to balance my kind demeanor with the responsibilities of being an educator. I found that I can still joke, have fun, and be myself, as long as students know I am serious about my job.

The most effective method I have found to encourage a healthy classroom dynamic is to start off strong. I like to make my first week of class filled to the brim with activity. I like to give students things to do, show them the gamut of what is to come: a journal, a discussion, a short essay, a quiz, and a reading. I do it all, because it lets students know that the primary goal of my course is for them to learn. If we end up having fun in the process, that is a bonus.

The classroom is a world with its own environment, dynamics, and life. It has the power to evolve and overtake you if you let it. Start off strong, confident, and focused, and that classroom will turn into an environment that encourages both learning and respect.

 

 

 

Education, breathing and humor.

Change can seem frustrating when you are on a roll.

Changes in technology, software, management, government, health, family, friends, environment, fashion, and even our own thought process. The list goes on.

Change is stressful, and how we handle change is key to the outcome of our mental and physical health. I want to share three solutions for handling the stress of change.

Education, breathing and humor.

Sometimes it seems easier to just crawl back inside our tortoise shell and live out our existence in peace.  The paper-based days were great until we learned that paper came from trees and trees give us oxygen. So off we trudged to CTLE to figure out how to use technology and not paper. The time investment in education always pays off in the end. If you can find the time…

Leadership changes have been off the charts for our district lately. It can be very discombobulating when you are being steered in one direction and you are just getting comfortable with the status quo when suddenly what was once normal is now history. My therapy for this is to take a deep breath and listen to all of the new perspectives. There is usually a bright side and some of it may not be seen for several years.

The biggest change for me lately has been getting accustomed to the outfits that my 5-year-old daughter insists on choosing for me every morning. For someone who is most comfortable in workout attire, wearing a skirt every day has been interesting. It draws many a curious question.

The hardest part is explaining the color schemes. Red stripes on top of pink flowers could drive someone into a nauseating delirium. Sometimes I have enough time to sneak back home to change before I drive to work, but last Monday I was racing against the clock. So off I went to work in my long sleeved red shirt, flowery pink skirt and black Nike shoes. Rose colored glasses would not have done it justice.

The one time I really wanted to go home and change, I could not, so I had to live with this fashion expression for a day. If you can’t laugh at a situation you would be a mental and physical wreck. Humor is good. I am glad that humor is part of the Irish way of dealing with stress and change. My sense of humor is my built-in superpower that I can take with me any where I go.

So if you are trying to find ways to cope with the stress of change, maybe one of these three techniques will suit your fancy.

 

In Between

     I heard one time that people go through one major change every ten years.  The idea is proving true for me.  The most recent change I experienced (and am experiencing) was leaving a job I had for 23 years to come to GCC. To say that I was rooted in that location, tied to the people, traditions, and processes would be an understatement.  I started and grew my career there, and I involved myself in as many parts of campus and district life as I could, from sponsoring clubs and coaching sports to helping teachers experiencing discipline and being an officer in the teachers’ association.  To come to GCC meant leaving the familiar and comfortable for something different, something new.

     Being in that state of unfamiliarity is a strange place to be.  It sparked reflection about the big questions in life.  It jostled my confidence a time or two.  Sometimes those things happen and cause a change.  In this case, the change provoked what I can only call growth.
     By far the biggest assistance I’ve had in this change has been through my colleagues, the opportunities I’ve experienced, and our students.  My colleagues have accepted me with the friendliness of a thousand Quokkas.

I’ve attended conferences that have allowed me to stretch my classroom practices. Finally, teaching is teaching, and while students are students, the ones at GCC are particularly friendly, eager to meet their goals, and, though a little concerned, generally optimistic about their futures.  I’m optimistic, too.

Jin Xiang

 

Motivation for Change

This week’s blogging theme is change.  Wait for it…

Tuesday morning, I stepped into the garage, hit the button to open the door, and saw this!  (Disclaimer: This photo was cropped, which caused the snake to look bigger and like I was closer.)

snake

I wasn’t exactly sure what it was because we currently have a rope and bungee cord stuck in a tree in front of our house and the first time I saw them, I thought they were a snake. I walked through the garage as far away from the possible snake as I could and made it to the driveway. At that point, I confirmed it was a snake but since it totally ignored me, I wasn’t sure it was alive. I was fairly certain the scientific method for determining the health status of wild animals is throwing rocks at them, so I did that… but only small rocks because I didn’t want to accidentally hit it and make it squish. When I threw the rocks it didn’t move so I concluded it’s a) got nerves of steel b) a heavy sleeper or c) dead. Since my testing did not result in any conclusive findings, I did what any responsible researcher would do and left my findings to be confirmed by a more qualified researcher (my boyfriend). I trapped the crafty snake faking death in the universal recognized snake-trapping device (pictured below) and went to work.

trashcan

 

As a result of this encounter, I have CHANGED the way I enter the garage. Now, I open the garage door (so the light comes on) before stepping into the garage.

Oh… and the snake was dead. My boyfriend removed it from the garage using his 4-iron.

 

 

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

The fitness industry is booming these days. What changed, you may ask?

For years, the medical community has been focused on fighting communicable diseases. Vaccines took care of most of these problems. Today we are faced with a more challenging problem…hypokinetic disease…or the disease of inactivity.

The act of sitting too much has made us sick. It is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, cancer, back pain, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and many diseases and disorders related to mental health.

Trillions of dollars are spent on this “sickness” industry each year. I cannot fathom “trillions.”

whatsyourmed_forweb-01

Positive change is afoot.

In 2007, the American Medical Association joined forces with the American College of Sports Medicine to ignite an initiative called Exercise is Medicine. (You have probably heard about it because we are embracing it at GCC!) They are simply asking that exercise be recognized as a medical vital sign. If patients are not getting enough exercise (150 minutes per week), they should be referred to an exercise professional.

A long time ago…before times changed…the exercise professional was the person who liked sports and spent a lot of time in the gym. If you had muscle definition, you were considered an expert.

The fitness professional has evolved, thank goodness. We now have reputable organizations that certify and demand excellence through continuing education. Today’s fitness experts have a solid understanding of the skeletal and neuromuscular systems, they understand the inner workings of the heart and lungs, and they know how to fuel the body with optimum nutrition. They can design individualized exercise programs for a variety of populations, they know how to motivate and lead, and they understand their scope of practice within the allied health continuum.

The other thing that changed that has led to a booming fitness industry is the number of baby boomers hitting retirement. Sedentary baby boomers…

This is great news for graduates of the GCC Exercise Science and Personal Training programs who are looking for immediate entry into the workforce. Back in 1985 GCC was one of the first colleges in the country to offer a personal trainer certification. We were innovators on the cusp of a health revolution.

This health revolution is preventative medicine. It is very simple and it does not require any pills. It simply requires that we move more.

What does this change mean to the faculty, staff, students and GCC community? It’s time to “move” in the right direction and stop sitting so much!

 

WHAT’S MY PASSWORD?

I don’t know about you but when I transitioned from high school to college I was not ready.  Funny thing is when I talked to my dad about it he also indicated that his experience was the same.  Both of us bombed out of courses that first semester and had to recover.  However he was quicker than me as he went on to get his degree in a few years and I took…20!  I was a retention/persistence nightmare student.  I never saw an advisor, declared all sorts of majors, went to several colleges, and took a WIDE variety of courses.  Now I advise new first year students, Waahahaha!

I am sure it is easy to see why I can identify with the new student.  When a student walks onto our campus for the first time it is at that very moment life changes drastically. So much is coming at them that even something as common as setting a password becomes foreign.  We expect them to instantly understand, even know, common used words, processes, and requirements.  I don’t know about you but I only know what I LEARN and I learn faster if someone takes the time to teach me.  FYI, letting a student struggle to figure all this out is NOT student empowerment, that’s just laziness on our part. Going the extra mile will help our students go further down their educational path.

Each time we engage a student we have the opportunity to share in a learning experience.  It is in these sorts of engagements that we can create change in our students’ lives, change in our campus, and change in our community.  We need to understand that change takes time and it is our job to be patient.  Each of us have the POWER to stimulate change in those we encounter by simply taking the time to share our knowledge.

I think Spiderman says it best…

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