Tag Archives: faculty

Dream on…

Yes, we are singing again and again (you probably missed the second one because it is on another blog!).

Dream until your dreams come true…and you get to do some cool things on campus with your colleagues.

Yeah, so that one was a bit off melody! 😉 No disrespect!

I am not going to write about my dreams. Nope. I won’t be writing about lofty dreams of peace, or the elimination of poverty, or even meal times that don’t include my kids complaining about “vegetables again.” I am not going to do that. That discussion is worthwhile, but that is not what Steven is telling me to write about, and right now, I’m listening to Steven.

Dream until your dreams come true. In other words, don’t give up (thanks for that translation, Captain Obvious!). We can talk all day about how cool it would be to have virtual reality glasses in every classroom, or give every new student a brand new laptop when they enroll, or how great it would be if faculty members from all corners of campus regularly attended workshops in the CTLE, but we can’t go that big all the time. Don’t get me wrong, those are fun conversations to have, and sometimes they are useful or necessary; however, they tend to lead no where because often no first step is taken.

Really BIG first steps are scary. So are chocolate covered sardines.

source

Both happen. We may not know how, and we may not know why, and sometimes we may not like it, but sometimes BIG dreams do come true. And the coolest thing about it is that those big dreams come true the same way those “regular” dreams come true: take the first step. It doesn’t have to be a big step just because it is a big dream, it just has to be a step. We just have to work towards those goals one step at a time; we just have to dream on.

 

 

Humility + Assessment = Success

I have always been fascinated by assessment, unfortunately I know not everyone shares my feelings on the subject. I have had colleagues who consider it a dirty word. They dread the thought of it, and treat it as just another hoop to jump through when the time comes to participate.

A pre-test here.

A post-test there.

A journal reflection.

Or the ultimate avoidance, just saying a regular class assignment is, in fact, assessment.

Unfortunately, those who avoid confronting the challenges of assessments are not helping with the end goal, to improve student education through meaningful analysis and feedback.

The reason that some fear to participate in a group assessment and decide to take a solo route is that assessments are looked at as inconvenient or difficult; however, these approaches often overshadow efficient strategies for approaching this dilemma, strategies that which rely on one, simple trait: humility.

I love my standardized rubric for essays. It isn’t perfect, but it is consistent, and students appreciate that. The rubric is based off of one that is required to be used in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. That system consists of 16 colleges and every writing instructor uses the same rubric for their essays. I was lucky enough to see that rubric be initially implemented as well as its evolution over the last decade into its current form.

Now there was significant pushback when the rubric was first forced upon the faculty. Arguments ranged from “but I don’t grade essays with a rubric” to “my rubric is already better than this one”, but top to bottom it was adopted.

It is difficult to adjust teaching habits, but understand that a standardized rubric doesn’t change the way we teach, it simply unifies the way we grade. In that way, a standard rubric is even less intrusive than requiring a specific assignment for assessment.

So what is gained from using the same rubric for every essay?

Starting on the class level, it is easy to get a snapshot of student’s skills improving (or not improving) over a semester. It also allows the teacher to see if the class as a whole is struggling in a specific area (I’m looking at you point of view slips). This lets allows class needs to be addressed on a holistic level through lectures. I do this with my youtube series “English Power Lectures”, but setting aside 15 minutes when essays are handed back to address major problems does the trick as well.

When multiple faculty start to use the same rubric the assessment becomes that much more valuable. Now trends can be seen over a much larger group of students, it is also possible to see where one class struggles and another doesn’t. With this knowledge, teachers can share techniques for dealing with that particular issue. This is the beauty (and truly the purpose) of assessment. It serves as a common tool and focal point that can start an analysis, conversation, and implementation of course wide improvements.

Now implementing something district or even school wide is difficult, so start small. Talk to a group of fellow faculty (or adjunct faculty) and do your best to develop a rubric that works for multiple assignments or essays. Use that rubric in a course and compare notes. It won’t be perfect, but assessment can always be improved upon. It may be difficult to unify your grading techniques with others, but remember that teaching isn’t meant to be a solo endeavor. Instructors are stronger as a community, and students will benefit from that community. All it takes is a little bit of humility.

 

The Strength of the Base of the Pillar

As adjunct faculty, our power inside and outside the classroom is like night and day. We are not full-time; our job is always at the whim of funding or enrollment. We don’t advise students or get the chance to participate in most staff meetings. How can someone with so little power have a positive impact on the workplace when they are, by most respects, the lowest member on the totem pole?

The answer is to use the position to your advantage. As an adjunct there is very little danger involved in sharing your ideas or asking questions. You have the advantage of avoiding workplace dynamics, the so-called “water cooler talks” or “he said she said”. As the lowest member on the totem pole, you have the advantage of being part of the team while also being outside of it. It is tough to make enemies as part time staff, so be brave. If you have an idea, go ahead and start talking it over with other adjuncts to see how it is received. If it goes well, suggest it to your advisor or department head. Making suggestions and taking an active part in trying to help those around you will help you shake any feelings of self-doubt you might have. Not all of your ideas might be used right away, but by sharing them, you are showing everyone that you do have ideas, and you do want to help. The other thing you can do is ask questions. You will find that most educators are more than willing to help you in your hour of need. Helping, after all, is part of what defines us as educators. Asking other adjuncts about their ideas or solutions is encouraging to them. When someone comes to you and asks for your help it shows that they have faith in you, that they trust your opinion. Trust and kindness often go hand in hand.

So don’t be afraid to share ideas and ask meaningful questions. By doing these two things a dialogue and community is created. Support others when you see them trying to reach out, and seek out support when you need to. By moving past your fear and realizing the impact you can have, even as an adjunct, you will encourage kindness and understanding in the workplace.

 

Student Success (from a Fiscal Perspective)

How many times a day do you see, hear, or think about the phrase “student success”? It is our primary goal, our focus, and the driving force behind everything we do. What about when your job duties (including the “other duties as assigned”) do not bring you in direct contact with students? Can you still contribute to student success? The answer is yes.

This is something I think about often because we are frequently asked to report on how we promote student success and I have a job that does not bring me in direct contact with students. However, after reading some of my fellow bloggers’ posts, I found that I am not alone in my assertion that yes I can contribute to student success.

I promote student success by helping faculty members navigate the myriad of forms, processes, and systems we have in the fiscal world. When faculty members are successful at the non-teaching part of their jobs, they are likely to translate that feeling into a happier and more successful learning environment. In “Sincere Thanks from an Adjunct” Chris Krause says, “The positive feelings and willingness to help I have experienced outside the classroom spills over into my classes as well. Students are the direct beneficiaries of this. I can be more available and am more willing to advocate for them when needed, because I am happy and comfortable in the environment” (Write 6X6 Blog).

I promote student success by participating in the One2One mentoring program. This program allows me to share with students strategies I have used to overcome obstacles in obtaining a college degree or finding my way around campus or dealing with the pressures of family, job and college all at the same time. It gives me an opportunity to listen and learn what that student needs to be successful and offer guidance and reassurance that their goals are attainable.  Ladonna Lewis, in “Coming Out of the Closet,” says “We all have closets that we can come out of with our students when appropriate” and “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” (Write 6X6 Blog).

I promote student success by identifying myself as an employee of GCC. When I walk through the Enrollment Center or across campus students routinely stop me and ask directions, how to work the computers, or where to get help with… you name it.  Every day I come to work there is an opportunity for me to make a difference, taking the time to stop and answer their questions (or find someone who can) is a little thing that can make a big impact. In “Feeling Disgruntled?” Ingrid Austin says, “Just remember that we’re here to make a difference and that everything we do should be done with pride, joy, and self-satisfaction because what we do matters.  It matters to the students who are out there making an effort to better themselves” (Write 6X6 Blog).

Finally, I hope to promote student success in the future by accepting the suggestion of President Kovala. In “Random Acts of Relief” she says, “… to pay it forward with these and any other great ideas to give our students the extra nudge to the finish line. Stopping a student on the sidewalk and simply asking how they are doing, or walking through computer commons or the Library and checking in with students as they are busily working on the computer. Better yet, when a student is in line at Grounds for Thought, offer to pay for their coffee. These small gestures go a long way to assure students know we care about them and their success” (Write 6X6 Blog).

 

I believe in you.

6th grade. I don’t even remember her name, but my 6th grade teacher commended me on using the correct too (two/to/too).   It was at that point I felt that what I had to say (and write) in class mattered.  It set a standard for me academically; and I didn’t want to be less than what the teacher said I was (smart!).

I wish I could remember her name and thank her for believing in me more than I did.