Tag Archives: Professional Development

Finding Inspiration from Isolation

This year marks the three-year anniversary of my teaching solely online as an Adjunct Faculty at GCC. At first glance teaching from the comforts of home might seem like a win-win situation, but I can assure you there are many setbacks, each of which deserving its own article. The most obvious and problematic setback is that of isolation. I don’t get to see my students face-to-face unless it is via a rare Skype conference. I don’t get to have my treasured lunch outings with Gary or Andy. I don’t even get to participate in Assessment Day or Adjunct Appreciation. I am, by most respects, a ghost in a machine that sometimes sends out e-mails and makes videos to remind the world I exist.

So where do I find inspiration in such a situation? Fortunately, even behind a keyboard and monitor, there are those who have managed to help keep me improving my courses and teaching, and grading all those essays.

Although not a part of GCC, my wife’s support is essential to my improvement. She is a workaholic, a zealot for her career and passions, and a stickler for punctuality. Her work ethic and drive have, over the course of our fifteen years together, rubbed off. I do my best to seize what opportunities come my way now, one example being that I volunteer as an emergency substitute teacher at my community’s local school. When my schedule permits, I get to work with and teach children ranging from kindergarten all the way to High School seniors; it is a blessing, and something I would not have pursued if not for my wife’s example.

Despite being a solid twenty-hour drive away from campus, I still treasure my conversations with the faculty at GCC. This includes both full-time faculty and fellow adjuncts like myself. Alisa Cooper has been my bedrock ever since I left the desert valley. Her drive and curiosity about new and exciting technologies has prompted me to reform how I approach online learning, all for the better. During her time as my direct supervisor she pointed me in the direction of opportunities and helped me correct and learn from my mistakes. Thanks to her I am now a video fiend. I’ve started my own youtube series of power lectures, and made myself less of a digital phantom to my students by posting videos and voice overs regularly. This continued with Beth Eyres who took over for Alisa after “Dr. Coop” (#cooperize) moved to the CTLE. Beth has helped me feel like I am still connected to the English faculty and community at GCC. She often informs me about events that I can take part in from a distance, like this blog. Most importantly she has made me feel like a contributor. I have worked as adjunct for four colleges in my ten years as an educator and she was one of the first supervisors to make me feel like my opinion mattered. Helping to create and develop the online English 101 shell has been one of the best experiences of my career, and I have Beth and her faith in me to thank for that.

Inspiration, even in isolation, is not hard to find when you stay in contact with the right people. My family at home and my family at GCC continue to be the right people to help me improve and better myself every day.

 

Lo Hice

Professional development is probably one of my favorite parts of my job.  I thrive on changes and possibilities, and professional development keeps life from getting too still  or predictable.

I tend to think of professional development as conferences and research and breakout sessions, but I think any time we push ourselves, either professionally or personally, we stand to develop as humans.

Wednesday night I found myself at GCC’s first bilingual open mic poetry reading. I organized it as part of my job as directing the creative writing program here at the college, so it made sense that I was there.  We were going to have two hosts and some featured guests who would read poetry in both Spanish and English after the open mic portion of the evening.  My job was to be there, represent GCC, encourage community and student members who wanted to read, and make sure nothing went wrong with technology. I had been planning an event like this for a year — not that it took that long to plan, but that I had the idea that long ago, and it just took a while to produce.  Since GCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), and many of our  students and community members are Spanish speakers, why not celebrate writing and creativity by offering an evening for expression in both languages?

What I didn’t expect was the following: The host who organized the entire evening, beginning to end, couldn’t come at the last minute due to a family emergency. The host who was to actually serve as the emcee got stuck in Phoenix rush hour traffic and was half an hour late. That meant that I had to get the evening started. I had to speak Spanish into a microphone and have it broadcast before fluent Spanish speakers. Certainly my Spanish is conversational, but speaking in front of a group of people in English is hard enough, even as a teacher (because it’s not my classroom, my students, a zone I am familiar in). Doing so in a different language was scary enough to make me break into a real sweat.

I don’t know how I did.  It was nobody’s job to provide me with feedback, and in the moment I was too panicked to notice anything besides my own panic.  Eventually, the real host appeared and took over. He was charming, funny, and completely fluent in both languages.  The evening went on and my magnified moment of mass uncertainty drifted away.

What I do know is that Wednesday night professional development happened.  To me. I stretched my comfort zone more than a hair. Whether I did well or not seems almost moot.  What matters at this point is that we had the event, it was well attended and fun, and I did what I had to do to facilitate it.  In the meantime, my entire self, like the Grinch’s heart at the end of the book, grew a few sizes that day. I did it.  Lo hice.

 

Find Your Passion

The above image shows the results from last week’s poll and has nothing to do with the content of this week’s blog.

Week 3 Blog – Find Your Passion

I have a problem with following directions. I am always looking for the road less traveled. Our theme this week is about professional development, and I want to get to the heart of the matter, but with a twist.

Let’s face it, we don’t love our jobs every day. We tell our students to find a career they are passionate about so that they will “love” their jobs. Well, we all know that is an unrealistic expectation.

In order to have ultimate job satisfaction, you have to be passionate about SOMETHING. You have to make time for the things that you love. If you are an artist, you should be drawing, painting or designing. But you don’t have to do it at work. You do have to make sure you take the time to do it at some point in the day!

Take a look around at your work colleagues. You can see who is bringing passion to work. It’s like the good life is flowing over into their otherwise ho-hum life.

Take me, for example. Louise likes her job, she has a passion for health and fitness and loves teaching. Her job can be overwhelming and repetitive at times. Her true passion is swimming. When she swims, she is able to be creative and excited about her job, constantly coming up with something new and fun to keep it from feeling overwhelming and repetitive.

When Louise does not take the time to swim, she is grumpy and overwhelmed. Her professional development is directly affected by whether or not she gets to swim (her true passion). There are other obvious health-related benefits from swimming that get her blood flowing and her brain working, but jogging on the treadmill does not have the same effect, because she is terrible at running (not her true passion).

So what does this have to do with professional development, you ask? Everything. The point of professional development is to get better at what you do, to stay current in your field of study, and to network with others on the same career path. You can’t do any of that without passion. Let your passion for your “thing” overflow into your work life and you will find that your professional development will take care of itself. You will find yourself seeking opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

Here is your call to action for the week: “What are you passionate about and are you spending enough time doing what you love?”

p.s. My “actual” professional development consists of an annual conference with the American College of Sports Medicine, nutrition seminars, various  MCCCD FPG workshops, and my favorite: CTLE offerings throughout the year. I have immense appreciation for the work of the GCC CTLE crew of Meghan, Alisa, Mark and Cheryl. They are oozing with talent and I love to learn from them.  ls

 

Making a Small Difference with Faculty Observations

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role at GCC is having the opportunity to observe and evaluate our faculty teaching in the classroom.  This evaluation occurs for our probationary faculty members and is a chance to see our talented faculty in action.

Although I do not proclaim to be a teaching expert (we can always grow as an instructor), I do believe I have some expertise to offer through my experiences teaching middle school and community college English courses, as well as my having completed over 50 evaluations in my four years at GCC.

This process is even more rewarding when I have the opportunity to observe a faculty member for a second time during his or her first five years.  This past fall semester, I observed a few instructors for the second time; I found this to be very productive as it gave me an opportunity to witness firsthand their growth as instructors.  In multiple instances, I observed faculty members intentionally modifying their teaching style to increase opportunities for student engagement.  I observed faculty members paying close attention to their movement and position in the classroom.  I observed faculty members strategically calling on a number of students to respond, to ensure students have equal voice during discussions.  And, finally, I observed faculty members using informal classroom assessment techniques to check students’ understanding of the day’s content.

By no means do I think those changes occurred because of direct comments I made or because of the evaluation summaries I wrote.  But, I do think these pedagogical changes occurred because those faculty members took the time to reflect on their teaching practice, something I hope I stress when I talk to faculty members’ after an observation.  Classroom evaluations are very meaningful for me; and, this process is even more gratifying when I have the opportunity to see the incredible growth and enhancements to faculty members’ teaching practices.

 

A Sound Investment

After teaching here for five semesters, I can say that one of the best parts of working for a college in the Maricopa District is the plethora professional development opportunities available.  Everything from the robust CTLE’s we find on each Maricopa campus to the MCLI Learn Shops and the individual funding for conferences makes for invaluable growth opportunities that can be found everywhere from right on campus, across the Valley, or across the country.

I am the kind of faculty person to take advantage of every development opportunity that I can–as much as my schedule, energy, and family allow.  I love to travel to new places, and am grateful that since I’ve joined GCC, I’ve been able to go to conferences as far away as New Orleans and Seattle.

The past few weeks, however, I’ve been making the long drive out to Scottdale Community College to attend an MCLI Learn Shop — Engaging Students through Active Learning (ESAL) taught by Rosie Magarelli.  This is, by far and away, the best professional development I’ve experienced in many years–and there’s some pretty stiff competition.  Still, attending this Learn Shop has reinvigorated my teaching in more direct ways than any other opportunity has.  Most importantly, it’s made me incredibly mindful of my connections with each student in class.  The ESAL Learn Shop has me asking some important questions that professors can begin to take for granted after teaching for so long (in my case, since 1992 at the college level): 1) Am I constructing a safe environment for each student in class to participate, speak up, and engage in?  2) Am I doing the most to get and retain the students’ attentions?  3) What can I do differently and more effectively to provide these important aspects of learning for my students?

I’ve also learned about neurons and the brain — *how* humans learn. I’ve learned about Brain Myths and brain plasticity.  I’ve learned the biology of learning.  That’s pretty cool.

Rosie teaches the Learn Shop to model the content: we faculty are actively engaged learners–the entire time.   And since sessions run for just over three hours each, that’s been important.  This past month, I’ve been able feel exactly how engaging active learning feels, and I’ve been learning simple techniques, which I can work into my courses right away or little by little over time.  But by being in Rosie’s Learn Shop, I’ve put back on the learners shoes, and they feel great to walk in!

Last night (Thursday), as I was making the long drive home through rush hour traffic  from Scottsdale to the Phoenix/Glendale border, I felt such gratitude for the ESAL Learn Shop.  But I also felt immense gratitude to be able to work for an organization that really provides professional development as a top priority. In investing time, energy and resources into me, MCCCD is investing time and energy into our students and our entire learning community.

 

EDU 250 – More than what I thought!

In my ongoing journey of professional development to increase my knowledge and skills as an academic advisor I am currently in the process of working on the  Foundations of Student Services Certificate Program.  As part of the program I was required to take EDU 250 – Teaching and Learning in the Community College.  As an academic advisor I was tenaciously focused on delving into my craft and learning all I could about ADVISING students, so this class really wasn’t at the  top of my list.  As is goes, it has been the class which I was disinclined to take that has been the most useful! Little did I know that EDU 250 would provide me with some of the most essential skills I needed to serve students and help my team as we built the Gaucho 101 Program.

With the EDU 250 course under my belt I acquired a critical understanding of the many characteristics a community college student might have and the challenges some those characteristics bring.  I have a new respect for our students and what it has taken for many of them to simply walk onto the campus.  From the 1st Generation Student to the young parent who is balancing home, work, and school it is vital that each get advisement that suits their individual needs.

Then after examining the different learning styles of a student that awareness impressed upon me how important it is to build programs which incorporate different learning styles.  I now deeply understand that just talking at a student might not serve their needs and how vital it is to include visual and tactile moments of learning when possible.  Admittedly it takes time to add such elements to an advisement session but it gives the student more opportunity to truly learn.

What really rocked my advisor world was learning about course planning and design, as it gave me a good action plan for both advising students and building programs.    I have endeavored to make these four elements of course design part of my every interaction with students and to do my best to bring them into any program our team designs.

  • Knowing the aim, goals and objectives for the student
  • Finding clear ways to present the subject matter
  • Include learning activities
  • Evaluating

Beyond giving our instructors a solid foundation the EDU 250 course offers valuable knowledge at the heart of Student Services.  I highly encourage anyone who advises students or works on student programming to enroll!!