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.