Two Prof’s in a Pod Podcast

Hello readers! I’m super excited for this week’s post. I’m on a podcast with my colleague Beth Eyres, it mostly focuses on teaching and learning. This is our first podcast. We’re learning so much, and we know that there is still a lot more learn. We’re working on it. =>)

The first episode is all about Inspiration! We discuss what it is, what the research says, how to cultivate it, things on our radar, and little learning nuggets for the audience. Hope you get a chance to listen to it. Hope you enjoy!  =>)

P.S. – All of our podcasts can be found at

P.S.S – Our episode pic is the moment we heard our first published podcast on the internet. =>)



-Tenisha Baca


THE JUMP: Adjunct Faculty to Full Time Faculty

“Every successful person in this world has jumped. You eventually are going to jump, you cannot just exist in this life”

steve harvey

                        -Steve Harvey

The above quote is an excerpt from the inspiring video of Steve Harvey delivering a speech to his Family Feud audience. It is one of my absolute favorite videos. (CLICK THE STEVE HARVEY PIC FOR THE YOUTUBE VIDEO). Take the time to watch it. It may inspire you in the same way it inspired me.

When I watched the video, I had already made the jump and I was already reaping the benefits of my bold decision. Watching it encouraged me to keep jumping. The video made me realize the significance of one of the many jumps I have made in my life. The jump I am referring to is my leap of faith decision to transition from adjunct faculty to full-time faculty at a community college. I only started teaching part-time because I thought I was going to be out of a job and I needed something to help me pay some of my bills. I started teaching, fell in love with it, and decided that full-time teaching was a path I wanted to follow, but was absolutely terrified of the decision I had made.

My decision meant going back to school to obtain an MA in Communication Studies. My decision was a financial and professional risk. Best case scenario: I graduate, a job opens up over the summer at the community college I want to teach at, and I start in the Fall. Worst case scenario: I graduate, nothing really opens up for years, I find nothing in my state, and I play the waiting game for a really long time since relocation was not an option for me, there is also the risk that the dream is never fully realized.

I decided to jump, and the best-case scenario presented itself when I completed the program. I am currently in my fourth year as a full-time professor at the community college I wanted to teach at, and I am nearly one year away from tenure (if accepted by the college by the end of my probationary period).  I am also the co-faculty developer for the Center of Teaching Learning and Engagement for my campus, a center committed to the personal and professional development of faculty and staff. I also present at conferences, have published chapters and web content for a university, and I do presentations for corporations and institutions in higher education. The topics include communication in the workplace and teaching strategies for faculty. None of this would have happened if I didn’t take the leap.

I encourage you to jump, but I strongly encourage you to carefully consider the positive and negative consequences of leaping into the fold. I made the jump, but I put a significant amount of thought into the consequences that could unfold as a result of that choice. The jump was so scary and it was risky, but it felt like a jump that I needed to take. While I was falling, like Steve Harvey said in the video, “my parachute did not open”. I had some doubts. I thought that there was a possibility that I had made a mistake.  I was worried that it wouldn’t open. It eventually opened for me. I had many conversations with God, myself, my husband, my friends, and my mentors. I had a vision for my future but knew it could only come into fruition if I took the jump. I’m so glad that I did. I would not be in the place that I am in today if I did not take the leap.





Bringing the Joy

I often joke about wanting everyone to be my BFF. In an idyllic world, that would be possible. Unfortunately, we have an invisible professional barrier that we need to keep in place so we can do our jobs effectively.

That said, we still need to build professional relationships with our students and our peers. I hope the following does not sound preachy in any way, because I need to work on all of it myself.

  1. Learn names
  2. Smile
  3. Bring the joy

Recalling peoples’ names is a difficult task for me sometimes, and when I see someone outside of a familiar location it is nearly impossible for me to remember their name. Unless…I write it down, repeat their name, and say something about them to someone else. I am the queen of sticky notes.

Some people are really good with names. I don’t know if it just comes naturally, or they practice some unconscious habits in the process of saving and recalling. I find that people are really impressed when you remember their name and are secretly disappointed when you don’t. I claim most of the responsibility for learning names, but if a student is practicing the camouflage-in-the-classroom technique, I blame them!

Each semester I learn between 50 and 80 new student names. When I think about that, I wonder how I ever survive a semester! Before a class begins, I print out the roster, study it, notice commonalities and differences, and practice pronouncing names. Once in the classroom, I begin with first-day introductions. I scribble notes feverishly, usually illegibly, and then draw a map of the classroom so I know where everyone was sitting. Any paperwork I collect, I will go through and alphabetize after class.  I do this with each of my classes.

When a student shows up at my office door or says hi at the Student Union for the first time, and they are not sitting at their designated classroom map location, I am typically stumped on their name! I listen and wait for clues in their conversation and hopefully can save myself the embarrassment of having to ask their name and which class they are taking. At the beginning of the semester it is not so embarrassing to ask, but after week four it is downright flabbergasting!

The students I do remember are the ones who ask questions in class and show a genuine interest in the subject matter. They are the ones that email me after class to ask questions, or have to take a makeup test. If I have three Mikes and three Marys in one class, then it will take me the full four weeks to sort them all out!

Smile. When I concentrate really hard on something, I am not smiling. I have my game face on. If I am desperately trying to remember a name, it is likely that I am not smiling. Strike 2! It turns out that when you maintain a half smile and belly breathe, you turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, get out of fight or fight mode, and turn on your pre-frontal cortex so you can actually begin thinking again. That’s a bonus!

When you smile at someone, you can change the course of their day and simultaneously affect the people they come in contact with. The ripple effect is insane! Imagine if everyone smiled at three strangers every day, and each of those people smiled at three more people and so on…imagine the impact!

Bring the joy. Let’s face it, we seek to be around people who make us happy. What can we do to ensure this? Well, smiling is a good start. Knowing people’s names really helps too. Using tasteful humor, even when things seem bleak can really help. If you know that you are about to face a difficult day and difficult decisions, it is good to plan ahead. Ask yourself “what would my best self do if xyz happens today?” “How will I bring my best energy to the people I engage with today?” Try setting a reminder on your phone that simply says “bring the joy” once every hour. See what happens!

So to recap: Remember names, smile, and bring the joy!

Good luck!


6X6 continued…

Since this is the final post for this round of 6X6, the next step is on my mind. How do I continue this writing challenge? How can I stay motivated to continue writing for an audience?

For now, I will continue to read the blogs of other writers and strive to respond to their work. Below is my comment to Jonas Ellison’s daily post with a link to his blog. His writing inspires me to keep writing. It’s a great cycle for me…read…write…read…write…

View at


Your words are not lofty drivel. And you’re never boring. I love your line Good writing comes from friction in daily life. To take it further, good writing also comes from pain in daily life, and humor in daily life and courage, and failure and uncertainty and the raw humanity in daily life.

Your line inspires me to draw ideas from daily life for my writing. I think I get caught up trying to express amazing new insights that will blow my readers away when really I just need to offer a small human connection. Because that’s what blows me away…when another writer perfectly expresses how I feel. I am always amazed and overjoyed when a total stranger and fellow writer “hits it right on the head” and brings clarity to my situation. Jonas you do this on a daily basis.

Thanks for sharing your work.


*******So, to all the GCC 6X6 writers- please share with me your recommendations for your favorite blogs that focus on writing, or art, or creativity, or any writing that spreads a positive, empowering message.  I believe in that ripple effect I wrote about last week.


The Farm Effect

I grew up in a large family with 7 siblings. Four boys and three girls, with all different personalities. Not only did we have a large family but we also had many different pets. Everything from dogs, cats, guinea pigs, chickens, geese and ducks that ran around our small urban home. Like all of my siblings these animals also had many differing personalities. So how do you get all of these people and creatures to coexist? You need to build relationships. Easier said than done sometimes. If you ask my family, I am the peacekeeper.
To be successful as the peacekeeper you need to utilize the following skills:
1. Patience
A good example of this was when my brother and sister would constantly argue over who was better at something. My sister was very athletic and my younger brother was book smart. Learning came very easy for him. He never had to study and would always get an “A”. This would infuriate my sister because later in life she discovered she was dyslexic. So to combat this rage she would brag that she was a faster runner. They would compete and argue all the time. I would pull them aside separately and reassure them that they each had their own talents and didn’t need to compete. Every time they would begin their argument I would remind them of these talents. It took patience for me to make an effort to remind them each time. It would have been easy to let them bicker, but I felt it was more peaceful if they got along.
2. Understanding
Another example from my past was how we all had to care for the animals we loved. Well some of us loved. I did not get along with the chickens. I loved the dogs and only wanted to care for them, but we all had to take turns feeding and watering the “farm”. I would try to trade jobs with my sister since she was not scared of the chickens. I would bribe her to help her with her homework if she covered for me. Understanding others needs is important in negotiating.
3. Empathy
To be patient and understand where folks are coming from takes empathy. To keep the peace at home, with so many different people and animals, I must first take into consideration their needs. I tend to be a problem solver and not focus on feelings. I have had to remind myself that problems exist because the issue is important to the person who it affects. I first need to be empathetic to the persons feelings to effectively solve the problem.
Each of these skills together and separately have helped me to build relationships with my GCC family. I remember in my conversations that each individual has needs and I engage my patience and understanding to help solve problems. They say it takes a village to raise a family and I believe it takes skills to raise a farm.

Conversation = Relationship


relatinoships pics


Positive relationships are the glue that hold an organization together. Without the glue, the organization will fall. Over the years, I have been a part of organizations where the adhesiveness of the positive relationships in the organization was strong. I’ve also been a part of organizations where the relationships were extremely negative and the organization just fell apart.

Majority of the positive relationships are held together with communication. Majority of my time in the classroom is spent teaching students how to build positive relationships with family, friends, and in the workplace. One way to build relationships is through conversation. Conversation, especially multiple conversations over a period of time, builds rapport, trust, openness, etc. through self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is the information we share about ourselves with others. Sharing information helps us discover similarities and intriguing differences between each other.

Today I will share how to carry a conversation.

Step 1: Start a conversation

Start a conversation by saying hello, stating your name, or asking a simple question. Initiation is key when starting a relationship. Tip: Take notice of anything that the person is carrying or wearing that indicates their interest. Example: Band shirts, jerseys, books, skateboard. Say something like: “Hey, I noticed your U2 shirt. Are you a fan? I’m one too.” Yesterday I saw someone with a Good Burger shirt, and I had to start a conversation with him since I am a fan of the movie.

Step 2: Keep the conversation going

Maintain the conversation by asking open-ended questions as opposed to closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions can be answered with one-word responses. Example: What is your major? Closed-ended response: Accounting. Open-ended questions encourage the listener to expand on their answers. Example: What do you like about our psychology class so far? Open-ended response: I like our teacher and the theories are so interesting. My favorite one is……Continue asking questions of interest, but don’t interrogate the person you a carrying a conversation with. I recommend trying to find a topic that excites the person you are talking to, or a topic that they are passionate about. Focus the conversation mostly on them, some people really enjoy sharing, but don’t forget to share something about yourself.

Step 3: End the conversation

This is a tough one. When is it a good time to end the conversation? Sometimes the conversation will naturally exhaust itself out. There is really nothing else that needs to be said. The conversation will eventually start slowing down. This would be a great time to make your exit with an exit statement like: “Well, I hate to end our conversation short, but I have to go. I really enjoyed talking to you. We should do it again sometime”. The statement can also be used if the conversation has not slowed down and you really have to go. If you have to check your watch for the time or your phone towards the end of the conversation, just let the listener know that you’re not trying to be rude, you’re just checking the time really quick since you are on your way to work/class/ etc.

I value relationships. They are vital to our well-being. My relationships have provided me with colleagues, friends, and mentors who have been a source of guidance, wisdom, and opportunities throughout my entire life. I encourage you to cultivate positive relationships in your life today. Start by just talking to someone. If you have no one to talk to, stop my office. I talk to everybody, and I’d love to get to know you.


Building Relationships with Online Students

Image result for relationships

For the past 11 years, I have been working with a company whose sole focus is helping people build relationships, both personally and professionally. I have helped hundreds of business owners develop a strategy for communicating with their customers in a way that creates long-term relationships. The secret lies in appreciation.

People want to be seen and heard; we want to be known. With the simple act of sending out appreciation to those in our life, celebrating their successes, empathizing with them when life gets hard, we tap into that core desire to be known.

Here’s the interesting thing–we don’t have to be physically present with a person to build a relationship with him/her. We can use our words to reach out in kindness to the people in our lives, and you never know what the result might be.

I try to keep this in mind when interacting with my online students. In the online forum, we don’t have facial expressions or tone of voice to convey concern, so we have to be extra careful in our communication.

In my online classes…

  • I try to be more personal than I might be in my ground classes. I have an About Me page that gives them an introduction to me, keep my profile picture current, and respond to discussion posts frequently.
  • In my interactions with students, I allow myself to reveal a little bit more about who I am than I typically do–this helps students to see me as a person. This means that I try to make connections with their experiences (Oh, I have a toddler, too!) or share stories from my life to illustrate points.
  • I use their names in my responses (both to discussion posts and e-mails) and sign off with my name.
  • When students send me a message with a challenge they are having, my first response is empathy, instead of suspicion. I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m sorry you aren’t feeling well, I’m sorry you’re confused…all of these statements help students to feel heard and known.
  • I try to include videos of myself or tutorials with my voice whenever possible–this allows students to see me and hear me. It is amazing what a difference just having a glimpse into a person’s personality can make. And our online students don’t have any other way, really, to see us or to learn anything about us that meeting us in person might tell them. (The style of our clothes, the way we do our hair, our dialect–these things give clues about our personality and identity that online students miss out on!)
  • In some semesters, I have even sent my students a series of cards–one welcoming them to the class, another encouraging them mid-semester, and a final card congratulating them for completing the semester. Not only does this provide additional encouragement, but it creates a tangible point of connection.
  • When I’m on campus, I invite students to join me. Last fall, I gave online students extra credit for visiting me in my office in costume on Halloween. I extended invitations for students to join me at a presentation on campus–again for extra credit. Not only does this help build relationships, but, even if students don’t participate, it creates a culture of connectivity in the online classroom.
  • Even using Zoom to do office hours or hold live Q & A sessions can help students feel supported and connected.

The point is that online students need us to be real people–and they need to be seen as real people. When we make the effort as teachers to connect to our students, it pays off. Students may not be buying anything from us, but they are still our customers in a way. Their success ensures the continuing success of our colleges.


Relationship Building

I find that making lasting relationships with other faculty members challenging. I am not sure why but this has always been a struggle for me, even before GCC. I know that the faculty here at GCC are all trying to create quality instruction for their students and we are all attempting to help our students achieve their goals.If any relationship should be easy to build it should be this type. We all have a good amount of job related characteristics that we share. However, I still find it difficult. FYRE has probably been the best way for me to meet faculty outside of my department but within my department opportunities are limited.

I want to feel connected with the faculty here at GCC and I believe the best way to do this is to start saying yes to extracurricular events. I am not a huge fan of happy hour but this might be the best way to build lasting relationships with my fellow faculty members.

When making relationships with Staff, I feel more at ease. I feel comfortable coming to the staff for help on pretty much everything. This level of comfort helps me to connect with the staff. I get to learn about their families and we can usually find common interest fairly easily. These relationships mean a lot to me and I put forth a good deal of effort in making connections with the staff.

Creating relationships with my students is the easiest for me. I have had a good amount of practice since I have taught for 10 years. I like to start my semester off with introductions surrounding their hobbies, interests, and long term academic goals. This helps me connect with the students outside of them being in my class. I also start to learn their names fast since I can parallel their hobbies with their names.


A fly on the wall inside my skull

Illustration of a housefly crawling into a human skull

The inspiration for this post comes from one of the FUN PROMPTS: “If you could be a fly on the wall on any place on campus, where would you want to be? Explain why.” My response is probably not in the direction the prompt author intended, but here’s where I went with it.

This close to Spring Break, I always feel hectic and frazzled. I am more likely to forget something, “drop the ball”. I’m describing stress, though there’s no real reason for me to be more stressed now than any other time of year. But invariably, I am. It’s a pattern for me when I’m employed in academia. (I almost wonder if I’m picking it up from the faculty and students around me, like the common cold, but seeping into me by empathy or telepathy instead of spreading virally.)

Photograph of a housefly showing the large compound eyes

So right now if I could be a fly on the wall anywhere on campus, I would be a fly on the wall inside my own skull, with my compound eyes showing me the mosaic of what’s happening inside my head, big picture. And I would allow my superb motion detection to spot stress coming, and flit away from it, toward the tranquil places.
I actually tried becoming that fly yesterday morning on the way to work. Here’s how it went:

I turn on the car radio to KJZZ, hoping for a traffic report.

News Announcer: “…our conservative commentator…”

I punch the radio off, darting away. I breathe for a few minutes. I turn the radio back on.

News Announcer: “President Trump had this to say about…”

I punch the radio off, darting away. I breathe for a few minutes more. I tentatively turn the radio back on to hear the news announcer report a story about a woman who was refused service at Starbucks because she rode her horse through the drive-through. It becomes apparent the only reason to report the story is so the news announcer can end with a hipster snarky comment at the woman’s and horse’s expense in order to manufacture a lighthearted moment.

I punch the radio off, darting away from my dismay that the news isn’t really news anymore – it’s facts mixed with lies and lame attempts at humor. This time I leave the radio off.

I insert a CD and drum on my steering wheel, playing along with some seriously windswept Scots energetically attacking drums and pipes. I do this all the way to work and arrive feeling focused and energized.

Reflecting on this 20 minutes spent observing the inside of my own skull while choosing and responding to external stimuli, I remember:

The only thing I can change is me.

illustration of a butterfly with wings spread (symbol of transformation)

I get to choose at least some of the things I’m exposed to. I get to choose whether I stress out in response to something I can’t control.

I understand again, if I want to change feeling scattered and stressed, I need to change myself.

I think in order to do that, I’ll need to carve out time to be a fly on the wall in my own skull, observing, identifying what to change. And then, I have some work to do, making it tranquil in here.

Images used in this post are from:


Making up for Week 3

I was recently blessed to become a mom to a wonderful little boy.

I knew that becoming a mother meant that I would have to give up some of the finer things I enjoyed. Like sleep! Especially sleep! What I didn’t know was how much I would gain in becoming a mother.

I have always been a Type A personality, to a fault at times. The best part about children is their lack of concern about the plans you make.

My son does not care if I was planning to wear a certain outfit to work. He is more than happy to spit up all over my clothes. This reminds me to be flexible.

My son does not tell me exactly what he needs but instead cries for everything, i.e. food, diaper, pain, etc. This forces me to listen carefully to his cries. There are subtle differences that can be made if I choose to enact good listening skills.

My son reminds me that setting small goals and enjoying the moment is important. Since some days I feel very accomplished if I can take a shower.

My son has also shown me that I can be gentle, kind, and loving. These are all things that I felt like I was lacking prior to his arrival. I feel blessed to be a mother and I am excited for the life lessons I will learn as parent.