It’s the Climb

                                                                “The Climb”

I am honored to be working in the Veterans Service Center at the Main campus of Glendale Community College.  I am a School Certifying Official and Student Services Specialist, which basically means that I have been trained to assist our Veteran Students getting enrolled in classes while utilizing VA Benefits.  We serve as a liaison between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the college.  I, too, am a Veteran and the one thing I remember most about leaving the military and getting back into civilian life is the transition time being painful.  It’s a private battle no one can relate to, unless you have served.

One day you are standing in formation waiting for your name to be announced to be given the Orders for your next duty station or Orders to return home.  You spend months marking off the days until you are deployed and honorably discharged.  You daydream about the feeling of not having to wake up at 0430 hours or running PT with a cadence ringing in your ears.  All of a sudden the day comes when you pack up your belongings in a duffle bag, slap the hands of your fellow comrades in the form of high fives, who are staying behind to finish out the assignment, execute an about face and board the plane to home or the next best place to home, only to find you feel more lost with no direction the minute you land.

The majority of students we come into contact with on a daily basis can concur these feelings.  Every step I’m taking, Every move I make feels Lost with no direction, My faith is shaking….  Miley Cyrus sings it best in her song, The Climb.  

The men and women who serve our Country are trained to do battle and many find themselves continuing to wage a war inside themselves as they enter the academic world, a world much different than the military world.  They are facing struggles and they are taking chances.  They get knocked down, but I encourage each and every one of them to hold their heads high and keep on trying, keep on fighting.  

I have even used the analogy of being a runner.  All of us former military folks have run many miles.  The first mile was and still remains the worst for me.  The same is also true about hiking.  The first few miles seem to be the most awkward and my breath often seems more labored.  When I meet with our students, I reassure them that, “It is okay to not be okay.”  It is okay to doubt.  I tell them, “The first few weeks your footing is going to feel awkward and you are going to be overwhelmed.  Just like the first mile of a good run – the first few weeks of a new semester can be the worst until you find your groove.  Enjoy the journey.”  

This bit of advice often brings a smile and a reply, “Thank you, I needed to hear this.”  It’s about the journey that gets us to where we are going.  And in this song by Miley Cyrus, it’s about the Climb.  She says it best, “Ain’t about how fast I get there, Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, ‘It’s the Climb.’”

We all can relate to the mountains in our own lives.  None of us are exempt to mountains.  We just have to keep on moving, keep on climbing, and keep the faith.  Enjoy your Climb, Everyone.  Let’s help each other and our students to enjoy The Climb!


Don’t Stop Believin’

Don't stop believin'

Hold on to that feeling

In the spring of 2001, with years of internships and the trial-by-fire that is student teaching behind me, I had my first-ever paying gig teaching lit and comp at a nearby high school. The job didn’t pay enough for me to move out of my childhood bedroom, and instead of my own classroom, I was given an AV cart and a forgotten corner of a teacher workroom to call my own. Because I was hired to fill the shoes of a teacher who quit with little warning, I’d had next to no time to plan out my semester. Every day, I showed up, foundered convincingly, and counted the days til summer break with one shining jewel of a thought in mind: “I know next semester will be better.”

I’ve taught in some sort of classroom every semester since that first one, and every semester, I’ve clung to the belief that “oh yes, next semester is gonna be better.”

Photo by Apelcini 

In 2001, “better” meant I knew I’d trade that clunky cart for a room of my own, and I’d have time to plan out my curriculum over the summer. Over the years, “better” took on a more nuanced meaning. As the semester’s end was in sight, I’d begin to think about how I’d tweak a writing assignment, teach a new novel, or try a new project when the new semester dawned.  Now that I have set down roots at GCC, “next semester will be better” has meant pivoting to OER, building new course shells, and finding new ways to make writing relevant to my studens. Next semester, I am trying out a Learning Community with one of my colleagues and it’s gonna be awesome

In no other career than teaching does one have so much creative freedom paired with periods of time where the “doing” stops and gives way to time to think, marinate, and plan. Every semester, we run full steam ahead at the hard stop that is the date that grades are due, then we slow down, we rest, and we plan with feelings of excitement for the semester to come. 

This rhythm of teaching–the deep well of creativity and the jolts of excitement–are my favorite thing about this career that I chose before I even knew anything about work and being an adult. In 22 years of teaching, I’ve never stopped believing that next semester will be better. That feeling of excitement and promise always arises in me as one semester draws to a close and I see the next waiting on the horizon.

This Ain’t No Disco…!

One day, in an ESL class, I had the students get up and do a brain break where they each made up their own dance. I played the instrumental karaoke version of All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow.

What was great about it is that I had a deaf student who was the star dancer of the day! He was really jammin’!

It helped me realize that the best music often doesn’t come from the outside but radiates out from within us.

Go ahead and start dancing to whatever music is radiating from you right now. Who cares if this ain’t no disco…!


Music that Moves my Students

People are often surprised that I have music playing almost constantly in my English and reading classroom. I arrive to class early to turn on the instructor station and get the music going.

For the first day and last day of the semester when I especially want students up, moving, talking, and smiling, I play the Beach channel, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

During writing and thinking times I play classical, instrumental jazz, and our new favorite: instrumental chill. These are all free from Pandora, and yes, I tolerate the ads.

Music is one of the many brain-based strategies we use to help us focus. Others include snack, water, and stretch breaks, mindful breathing, and aromatherapy.

Some of the customs we’ve established together include:

  • The first student to class chooses the music channel for the day.
  • Some of my autistic students and others who need silence often use their own headphones.
  • I just don’t let anyone listen to lyrics while we’re reading, writing, and thinking. Everything is instrumental (with the first-day exceptions noted above) so that students can focus on the words that they’re reading and writing.

Students tell me that the low background noise makes it feel calm and relaxed. It’s also easier for me to have private conversations with students when our voices aren’t echoing around the room.

For some academic reasons to include music consider this article about the benefits of classical music or this article from the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.

Stop by HT2 152 if you’d like to see what music in the classroom feels like. I’d be interested to know if you’re using music too!


All that Jazz in the Classroom

by Christopher Le

I’ll admit right away that I don’t know much about the intricacies of jazz.

Growing up, my exposure to the genre came mostly from late nights driving home from soccer practice with my dad in his dusty Toyota MR2. At the time, I thought he loved jazz and so I loved it too.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned my dad simply never switched the radio channel over after NPR’s daily news went off the air. I had come to love a genre of music through a thoughtless error, a missed click of the dial.

Mistake or not, jazz music became part of the soundtrack of my life. As I think back on my brief decade of teaching, it is jazz that I go back to. Those cool, drifting melodies that never sound quite the same upon consecutive listens seem to be the perfect analogy for my experiences in the classroom.

If you’re not quite sure what all the fuss is about, maybe let Ryan Gosling explain it to you. In La La Land, Sebastian (Gosling) is telling Mia (Emma Stone) why jazz is so fascinating to him. His descriptions of it match how I view teaching.

“See what’s at stake. I mean, look at this sax player—he just hijacked this song, he’s on his own trip. Every one of these guys is composing, they’re re-arranging, they’re writing, and they’re playing the melody…and so, it’s conflict, and it’s compromise, and it’s just—it’s new! Every time. It’s brand new every night. It’s very, very exciting.”

I mean, c’mon. Tell me that isn’t teaching. You step into the room and you’re trying to teach the competencies, y’know…follow the melody. But as you do, you’re changing and modifying and adapting and making every learning experience different for the students in your classroom. When you’re doing it right, when you’re moving and grooving, no two performances are the same. That’s jazz. That’s teaching.

One jazz standard stands out as my favorite: “All of Me.”  

Countless music legends have moseyed through this song—Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Bublé,—uh, Willie Nelson? Yeah, even Willie Nelson took a stab at the enduring melody.

“All of me, why not take all of me? Can’t you see? I’m no good without you.”

Now, the song itself is about a lover giving themselves over entirely. For me, that idea definitely resonates when I consider how I approach my job. I’ve given everything to this career. For the most part, that’s been a beautiful thing. With teaching, you really do get out what you put in. Putting in everything I have to this job has given me countless memories accompanied by easy smiles.

But, of course, any singular pursuit can lead to a little bit of heartache.

“You took the part that once was my heart. So why not take all of me?”

When I’m on the stage in the classroom, I’m playing so many different roles for my students. It’s enough to leave anyone feeling drained. Sometimes, when I come home and I’ve left all of me in the classroom, there isn’t enough left for my family. We work a brutal job. It takes everything you’ve got to be a good teacher. But it’s hard not to love it when you see the fruits of your labor.

“So why not take all of me?”


Joy: An Evolution in Becoming a Teacher at Glendale Community College

written by Dr. Krysten Pampel

I have been teaching since Fall of 2009 and the lyrics in Joy by Andy Grammer are a good representation of my evolution in becoming a teacher at Glendale Community College.

Joy by Andy Grammer (official audio)

I vividly remember my first year teaching and the fear that sat with me on the daily. The weight of being a teacher cannot be articulated in a preservice teacher classroom. It is something you experience when you have students show up in your classroom on the first day of classes. 

Doubt was a constant in those first years of teaching since I was building and creating curriculum with the hope that students would gain the knowledge they needed in order to be successful in the next class. This was a huge challenge and the pressure felt very high to help my students who were looking to move into STEM careers after high school were given all the tools they needed to achieve their academic goals.

In the Fall of 2011, I was accepted into a doctorate program which was a great opportunity but stretched me too thin. I felt sorrow when leaving high school was the best option for me to complete my doctorate degree and have a better balance in my life.  

As a doctorate student I had very limited access to the classroom which kept me grieving the loss of leaving the high school classroom. The ways I connected with college students was significantly different than high school students. Over the years in my doctoral program, I started to change my perspective and found joy as I got closer to finishing my dissertation. 

Pressure entered my teaching evolution when I found out I was pregnant. My due date and my dissertation completion were around the day. I also felt pressure in determining what I wanted to do for work after finishing my degree.

My husband has asked me what job I would take that would make it where I no longer taught at the community college at night. I was so struck by this question because I never realized how much I liked teaching at the community college. I knew that if I got any other job I would be in a constant state of jealousy for those working at the community college inspiring college students in the classroom. 

As I applied for a full time position at Glendale Community College, I started to get excited but was told by many current residential faculty that it was normal not to get hired the first time you interview. I went into the interview still hopeful that I would be a strong candidate for the position. After making it through all three rounds, I started to let doubt creep back in which felt shameful since I had been warned that the first time you interview you rarely get hired. 

I found joy in the June of 2017 when I received a call for Dr. Chris Miller, the mathematics department chair, offered me the job. I continued to find joy when I had my son, Olyver, at the end of September 2017 and again on November 3rd, 2012 when I defended my dissertation, successfully earning my doctorate degree. 

I have been finding more joy ever since getting a position here at GCC, through the students I teach, the colleagues I collaborate with, and the opportunities for growth I have found.