Tag Archives: education

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

A Capacity to Care

I want to make a disclaimer: This article will most likely lack the structure and finesse of my other blogs.

I originally had planned a different article this week with the same title. My goal was to do a full education/politics crossover next week with four critical traits. However, on Thursday I had a meeting that put today’s trait front and center. I am going to go with my heart and go more in-depth today than I had originally planned. I will include as many of my draft thoughts about caring as I can.

AZQuote image of Teddy Roosevelt quote "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care."
TR Quote 1 of 2 for the day. I often look to our 26th president when I am in need of inspiration. (C) AZQuotes

Every educator I have met that has been in the profession for an extended amount of time is caring by nature. Even for those that don’t know this first hand, it doesn’t take a great deal of research to find that almost all educators do what they do despite the financial and emotional toll that comes with the title of teacher. Those sacrifices are made with the intention of building up others every semester, every day, and every class.

The essence of education is a desire to make the world a better place and to empower others.

Ideally, anyone in a position of power should share the same goal, especially those in political power.

I spent the better part of the afternoon Thursday in a room surrounded by powerful regional entities: utility owners, ports, economic advisors, mayors, councilmembers, development directors.

I walked out of that meeting feeling frustrated, defeated, and depressed. I walked out questioning my volunteerism and optimism for the future.

Many of the conversations I witnessed at that meeting boiled people down to numbers, put profit over affordable living, and came across with a callous disconnect that broke my heart.

Image of money from pixabay
Currency has people on it. Close enough, right?

More than anything at this very moment, I regret not saying anything. I regret just listening and accepting the pecking order. I doubt anyone in that room would have listened to me. I doubt my speech would have been as eloquent and as well rehearsed as those I would have been opposing. Nevertheless, it would have been the right thing to do.

AZQuote image of Teddy Roosevelt quote "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing"
Sorry Teddy… I forgot. (C) AZQuotes

Others were silent as well, I would like to think that those in silence felt the same as me, but I will never know the answer.

When I sat down in front of my computer, wanting to talk about the capacity to care, of how it is reflected in everyone I meet in education, I simply couldn’t shake how I had just seen the opposite end of the spectrum.

I could have stuck with my plan and said some of these things in my closing next week. As important as the other traits I have discussed are, upon reflection, the capacity to care is the cornerstone. The vast majority of educators have open caring hearts. The vast majority of those I have met in positions of power do not.  Fortunately, the problem presents a solution: have more educators active in their communities and governments.

Solution over problem on chalkboard - pixabay
A Capacity to Care.
 

STUDENTS MATTER

 

 

Evaluations  I like student evaluations. Many dread them because of the anxiety of what students might say on a form, but I look forward to them. I encourage my students to complete them since they let me know how I’m doing. I let them know that their thoughts matter. I read every positive and negative comment on each evaluation form. I let them know that pay close attention to what they say because I am always striving to be better than I was the day before. To me, evaluations are all about helping me to improve.

I understand that some don’t share my view and that is ok, but they are needed, and I think that they are effective. What have I learned from my student evaluations over the past five years? The importance of having clear instructions and criteria for my assignments, providing deeper explanations for course content, slowing down in my lectures, having more of a variety of activities in my lessons, and not going off on a tangent during lectures (I have my soap box moments) =>). I’ve improved in most areas, I still go off on tangents. =>) I’m still a work in progress in this area. =>)

Evaluations provide feedback that helps us to improve, but they also inform us of the impact we have on our students. Feedback can communicate how much we matter to our students. For the past five years, I have been floored by the feedback I have received from my students. Some express an interest in the field of communication, some mention how they have been able to use what we learn in their lives, others enjoy the discussions and the activities we have in class, some have even said that they feel like I care about teaching and them.

As instructors, we never really know the impact we will have on our student’s lives. Evaluation season helps us improve and reminds us WE MATTER. I encourage you to take a moment to review past evaluations from students, chairs, deans, managers, supervisors etc. Ask yourself: How have I grown? How has my growth impacted others? How does my evaluation communicate my value and my worth to the people that I serve? I hope the evaluation review will provide you some information that will help you to see your room for growth and the impact you have on others.

The Mother of all Virtues

Patience can make or break a teacher; consider the following examples:

  • The first time a student struggles while others want to get through the assignment
  • The ever-evolving battle of classroom management
  • The realization that three years of lectures are now obsolete and need to be remade
  • The endless forms, regulations, training, seminars, webinars, assessments, observations, and reviews
  • The implementation of new technology that is routinely phased and replaced
  • The grind from tutor to adjunct to associate
Hands gripping puzzle pieces.
We’ve had one assessment, yes… but what about SECOND assessment?

Much like a nurse without crisis management skills, the realization will quickly set in that an error in career choice was made if an educator lacks patience.

Teacher writing on board with student texting in foreground.
Cell phones in class… Breathe in… Breathe out…

Teachers may not always feel patient. I know I have lost my patience during trying moments, but no other career path exemplifies the concept of patience better than education.

Time itself slows for an instructor. Where many jobs provide tasks to be completed in a week or day, educators live in a world of semesters. This is a world where careful planning is followed by laborious execution and capped off with in-depth assessment.

Sand in an hourglass.
Looks to be half past midterm.

It is fitting that the mother of all virtues is the most important trait for the mother of all other professions.

Continue to be patient, my friends.

 

Confidence Matters: 3 Tips to Boost Your Confidence

Everyone could use a little more confidence. Imagine a campus where faculty, staff, and students walked around with a little more confidence, it would make a significant difference in the academic environment. When you have more confidence you feel like you are a person of worth and value and you feel like you can take on anything. You feel like what you do matters. Below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your confidence. Hope you enjoy!

The Mark of an Educated Mind

The ability to think critically is the most important tool education can provide. It is a universal skill that is advantageous regardless of experience, background, or future ambitions. It should not be a surprise that one of the few common themes between my three years of writing for Write6x6 is critical thinking.

Since I transitioned to online teaching, there has been one series of assignments that I have continued to incorporate into all my courses. It starts as an entry-level writing assignment where I first give students carte blanche to defend a personally held belief. Next, the students summarize their defense into a discussion post and then play devil’s advocate with other students’ submissions. The final stage is writing a defense of the opposing viewpoint to their original work.  The overall goal is to introduce students to the concept of understanding, without adopting, differing opinions.

A favorite quote of mine comes from Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it”. I felt, and still feel, these assignments put that wisdom into action.

The assignment originated from a journal prompt I gave before doing a lecture on critical thinking in my face to face courses.  In those courses, the students were able to get a full lecture of context before they were challenged to “put on someone else’s shoes”. The online assignments evolved into a background to a larger module of materials.

Without the face to face lecture to provide specific context, I received some impassioned pushback when I first started using the series of assignments. I still have an e-mail archived away from a student who accused me of pushing my personal political bias on them for making them write an opposing viewpoint on the issue of abortion. This was, of course, the topic the student had chosen to defend in their first assignment.  I will say it was one of the more heated and accusatory letters I have ever received from a student.

The letter probably had the opposite impact the student hoped for. It serves as a continual reminder to me that critical thinking skills are the true definition of “educated”. I have since added more context to the assignments, but I have every intention of keeping a similar assignment early on in every course I teach for the rest of my career.

I plan on elaborating more on the need for critical thinking in politics in my final Write6x6 post, but the need expands well beyond politics and permeates the fabric of our society. The first and last lines of defense for critical thinking are educators, so find your battlefield and dig in.

 

WE MATTER

     In January, I had the honor of emceeing the 2019 Districtwide Faculty Convocation. All faculty throughout the district took the time out of their day to join us for a day of learning, sharing, and celebration. I was honored because I was asked to emcee an event that had not been conducted in years, in 2019 this special event made its comeback.

As the emcee, I had the honor of sharing final thoughts with the audience at the end of the event. The statement below is what I shared at the event. The message was WE MATTER. The message is definitely geared towards faculty, but I think anyone can pull something from the message. When we feel like we matter we bring our best to the table and those we are serving receive the best that we have to offer, and that is a wonderful thing.

 “We matter. As a collective, as a whole, we are some of the best and brightest. We are responsible for teaching students. Everything we say and do impacts their lives in direct and indirect ways. We are responsible for engaging in instruction, systems, and processes that will contribute to their success. This engagement requires change and it makes us uncomfortable, which can lead to uncertainty and can lead to anxiety. We matter when change comes about. Our thoughts, ideas, opinions, and actions can go a long way and has a significant impact. We can help things thrive when we come together. When we realize we are on the same team. I’ve seen amazing things happen when faculty come together. I’ve seen faculty pull together and donate textbooks so that the students will have the materials they need to be successful in the classroom. I’ve seen faculty senate come together and contribute to Student Appreciation Night so that students feel like they are important, and that they have worth and value. The two examples I just gave, are just two of the many reasons why we matter. There is power in the work that we do, especially when we come together. We are stronger together than we are apart. That power is diminished when we are working against each other. I encourage all of us to remember that we matter and that we serve a purpose in this district. We all have worth and value, and we’re not alone. We are surrounded by colleagues and campuses who support each other and are here to ensure that we are successful throughout the district. Thank you.”

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!

 

Do You. Be You. You Matter.

In high school I remember this message very clearly: High self-esteem is everything. In high school, some of us rolled our eyes at the cheesy posters and videos preaching the importance of this message. Fast forward to our adult years and we find that all of that cheesiness is true. Self-esteem is connected to feeling like you matter. People with high self-esteem feel like they matter because they feel like they are a person of worth and value. People with low self-esteem may not feel like they matter because they don’t feel like they are a person of worth and value.

black-and-white-black-and-white-handwriting-760728   One of the many contributing factors to your self-esteem is social comparison (McCornack, 2016). Comparing ourselves to others impacts how we see ourselves. It’s our measuring stick. We use it to see how we size up against others. Social media has introduced society to the ultimate measuring stick. Every day we are inundated with posts and images of others we think are better than us, or are living the lives we want to live. Students see images of their friends graduating from universities, while they are here at the community college. Faculty see posts from colleagues who are getting published, being awarded grants, and obtaining Ph.D.’s. Staff see individuals getting promoted to higher positions in education and think to themselves, why not me?  We feel like if we are not famous, or doing anything significant that is on the level of Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey, that we are not important, that we do not matter, and that we don’t have value or worth.

There are two things that can be done. Number 1: Stop comparing yourself.  In the words of my colleague Michelle Jackson, “Stop comparing yourself to others! They are not you and you are not them. Be and do you. Enjoy it! Embrace it!” Number Two: Practice critical self-reflection to cultivate self-awareness (McCornack, 2016). Here are some critical reflection questions to start with:

1. What am I thinking and feeling about my worth and value?

2. Why am I thinking and feeling this way?

3. Are my thoughts and feelings accurate about my worth and value?

4. How can I improve my thoughts and feelings about my value and worth?

          The questions were adapted from a textbook from my course (McCornack, 2016)

Give it a try and see if it makes a difference. It has for me. =>)

 

Source:

McCornack, S. (2016). Reflect and relate: an introduction to interpersonal                 communication (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin’s.

(*Note: I know my hanging indent is missing for my APA citation. =>) The struggle was real with the formatting. =>(    )