Tag Archives: self improvement

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.
 

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.

 

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.

 

Pride and Prejudice

After last week’s feel good story, this week is going to focus on the other side of the emotional coin: struggles and frustrations.

As an educator, there is a particular situation which can be extremely difficult and painful to deal with. That is entitlement.

Online course, end of the semester, grades due in 48 hours, inbox flooded with excuses ranging from computer malfunctions to ill pets, and in the digital pile of alibis one has several attachments. Teeth grind, palms clench, eyes close as the message opens:

“I was sick so was not able to hand in the last three essays, I have now completed them. Please remove the 0’s and update my grade. I need to pass this class to graduate.”

There are only a few options available in terms of response, and though limited, the repercussions are numerous.

If blessed with a deity-like ability to forgive, grade the papers, update the scores, and accept that by doing so, both syllabus policy and self respect are thrown out the window.

OR

Stand firm, say no, and accept that by doing so, both inbox and patience will be pushed to their limit by messages of vitriol and accusation.

As an educator, the reality is there is only one choice that maintains the integrity that is expected of the position.

Say no.

By doing so it will feel like the other tenets of education (kindness, understanding, and a desire to see every student succeed) are forced to the side like sediment from a river.

I promise they are not.

In education, scenarios like this will arise. They will be difficult, and that gnawing guilt those hate-filled messages leave is just a shadow on a wall, a fictional monster created by the fingers of a student who just learned some of the most important lessons of life.

Anything worthwhile must be earned, not given.

To be successful requires personal responsibility.

The earlier these lessons are taught, the easier they are to absorb. Have faith that once learned, the inevitable outcome is a wiser, better individual. That is what education is all about.