All posts by Tenisha Baca

Re-Post: See You. See Me. See Possibility

We recently received the news that our former GCC President Dr. Velvie Green had passed away. She inspired me when I met her as a student at GCC. In 2018, I posted a cultural reflection/inspirational story connected to her on Write 6 x 6. I thought that it would be appropriate to re-post it here in honor of her.

Originally posted February 8th, 2018

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Dr. Velvie Green

My cultural reflection/inspirational story is connected to Dr. Velvie Green, the former President of Glendale Community College. I met her when I was a student at GCC. I was hanging around the Communication Department and Jim Reed, the Department Chair, was giving our newly appointed President a tour of the department. Jim came around the corner and said that he wanted to introduce me to her. When she came around the corner I saw an African American woman standing in front of me. I had a moment of pause. I looked at this stranger and felt like I was looking at my future physical self. I couldn’t tell you what I was expecting, but I could definitely tell you that I was not expecting her.

I recognized something in her that connected with me on a level I had never recognized before. I recognized possibility in something that I would have never considered without this encounter, the possibility that I could become a college president myself. I saw a cultural reflection of myself on campus and it inspired me. For years I pursued becoming a college president. My pursuit brought me to teaching and I fell in love with it and changed course.

That day motivates and inspires me daily. It really showcases the importance of cultural reflection on college campuses. That day is one of the things that motivates me to bring excellence into everything that I do, because someone out there may see themselves in me through my work. They may see me and they may be encouraged to be excellent in their career. They may see me and see the possibility of a career path that they would have never considered for themselves. They look at me and think to themselves if she can do it, I can do it too.

I encourage others to think of themselves in the same way. All it takes is someone seeing themselves represented, right in front of them to inspire and motivate them to greatness.  Each encounter that you have on this campus could make or break someone’s hopes, dreams, or desires. Be mindful of the fact that you matter to someone and that they are paying attention to what you say and do.

I don’t know Dr. Velvie Green personally. She doesn’t know the impact she has had on me. I hope that she will come across this one day, so she can read about the difference she has made in my life. I am thankful and grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her. It changed my life.

Inclusivity = Pronouns

 

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When I first started as Residential Faculty I kept encountering students who identified as transgender and they would let me know their preferred pronouns. When they approached me I gave off the appearance of knowing what they were talking about, but I had no clue. I have to admit that I felt a little ashamed not knowing, I consider myself to be a pretty woke person and I realized that I was clueless in this area. So what did I do? What any teacher would do, I educated myself on the subject and I realized there was even more that I didn’t know.

On my quest for education, I googled “What is transgender?” I found myself on the transgender FAQ page for GLAAD, an organization that centrally focuses on acceptance of the LGBTQ community. They not only explained what it means to be a transgender person, they also had headers like “What name and pronoun do I use?”, “How do I treat a transgender person with respect?”, “Why is transgender equality important?” How did I not know this? One thing that stuck out to me was the sentence where it mentioned the anxiety a transgender person could experience when they are associated with the birth name they do not identify with. After visiting the page, I visited other sources that would help me to understand my students even more. I went even further and attended a workshop at SMCC where the focus of one of the break out sessions was gender identity, expression, and the LGBTQ community.

One thing that is important to me is creating and cultivating a positive, constructive learning environment for EVERY student. I currently address students by their preferred name and pronoun of he/him/she/her/they/them. At the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s about the student and their experience in the classroom. I’ve been doing it ever since I started my journey into educating myself about transgender people years ago. On the first day of class, I ask my students to let me know if they have a preferred name/pronoun during roll or after class so that I can address them appropriately. Students do mention it during roll, or come up to me after class and let me know their preferred names/pronouns.

Now some real talk, it took me a moment to adjust. There have been moments in the first couple of weeks where I accidentally call my students their roster name or I get the pronouns wrong. There was a moment in one class when I did that and I talked with the student after class and apologized, and let them know that I didn’t mean any disrespect in that moment. Despite my mistakes, I think what matters most is that I’m trying and I’m continuing to learn and grow. I’m making an effort to create an environment where students feel like they matter and feel like they are included.

Inspiration From Kindergarten Through College

I am someone who is inspired by so many different things in life. I was recently inspired by the Netflix Series Cheer. In what way? Well, that’s another blog post for another day.

The two consistent things that have inspired me the most are my former teachers and my mentors. Some of these individuals have played the role of both the former teacher and the mentor.  Who I am today and the work that I do is representative of the key individuals who have crossed my path in education. Below you will find six lessons learned from teachers/mentors, that I apply in the classroom and my life.

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Kindergarten Teacher: The only thing that limits you is your imagination. I learned this when we had green eggs and ham in class. We read the book and my teacher made it a reality. My little mind was blown and the food was delicious!!!!

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4th Grade Teacher: No matter how behind you are, you can always catch up, you gotta work a little harder, but you can make it. I learned this when I transitioned from one school district that was lagging into another school district that was way ahead of where I was at. I caught up eventually, but it took a little bit of time.

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High School Theater Teacher: Go against the grain and take risks. My high school theater teacher always had us involved in work that was not typical for high school students. We did Shakespeare (A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream) and Greek tragedy (Antigone) and adult work like A Few Good Men and A Lion in Winter. The same attitude was also placed in our speech pieces since he was our speech and debate coach. I also learned that, no one is above or below anyone else. We were taught to respect each other as actors and tech people. Everyone contributed to building the set, the production of the play, and tearing down the set. No one was allowed to talk down to each other or treat anyone as less than because of their “status”.

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High School Multicultural Club Adviser: People are different, but there is so much that we could offer each other in this world if we would just take a moment to listen to each other and learn from each other. All we need to do is to get out of our own way. I am so thankful that I was a part of this club. In high school I learned about the importance of diversity and inclusivity. We also learned about the barriers of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. I had the opportunity to serve as the President of the club and as a counselor for our multicultural camp Rammietown. The experiences I had then, still impact me to this day.

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College Speech and Debate Coach/Mentor: The most successful people in life are those who combine talent with hard work. When I started speech and debate in college, I was not the most talented person. I lacked a lot of confidence and felt like I was pretty small compared to the big competitors on the team. Many came in with several titles and I had one. I was absolutely terrified in many of the practices I had my first year because I felt like I was  completely exposed and that everyone could see my weaknesses on the team. Despite my insecurities, I kept working hard, while those who were naturally talented, just coasted on their talent. I continued to get better and eventually surpassed some of them. I eventually became a multi national and international champion. I discovered that I had some talent, but what separated me from everyone else was how hard I worked. I never want to be wasted talent.

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College Professor/Mentor: Be excellent in everything that you do and how you live your life. I am a firm believer in excellence, it aligns with our campus value of quality. I try to strive for excellence in my personal and professional life. Like Oprah has said ” Excellence is the best deterrent to racism, sexism, etc.,” but it also brings me joy and pride. When people enjoy my work, I have joy and pride because I did my best work, and the end result is the most satisfying. My college professor is an embodiment of excellence. They taught me the importance of putting your best foot forward in everything that you do.

I have so many more that I could share. The list goes on and on. I’m sharing this because what we do in the classroom matters. As instructors we must never forget the impact that we have on our students. The list above shows the impact we can have on our students.

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

STUDENTS MATTER

 

 

Evaluations  I like student evaluations. Many dread them because of the anxiety of what students might say on a form, but I look forward to them. I encourage my students to complete them since they let me know how I’m doing. I let them know that their thoughts matter. I read every positive and negative comment on each evaluation form. I let them know that pay close attention to what they say because I am always striving to be better than I was the day before. To me, evaluations are all about helping me to improve.

I understand that some don’t share my view and that is ok, but they are needed, and I think that they are effective. What have I learned from my student evaluations over the past five years? The importance of having clear instructions and criteria for my assignments, providing deeper explanations for course content, slowing down in my lectures, having more of a variety of activities in my lessons, and not going off on a tangent during lectures (I have my soap box moments) =>). I’ve improved in most areas, I still go off on tangents. =>) I’m still a work in progress in this area. =>)

Evaluations provide feedback that helps us to improve, but they also inform us of the impact we have on our students. Feedback can communicate how much we matter to our students. For the past five years, I have been floored by the feedback I have received from my students. Some express an interest in the field of communication, some mention how they have been able to use what we learn in their lives, others enjoy the discussions and the activities we have in class, some have even said that they feel like I care about teaching and them.

As instructors, we never really know the impact we will have on our student’s lives. Evaluation season helps us improve and reminds us WE MATTER. I encourage you to take a moment to review past evaluations from students, chairs, deans, managers, supervisors etc. Ask yourself: How have I grown? How has my growth impacted others? How does my evaluation communicate my value and my worth to the people that I serve? I hope the evaluation review will provide you some information that will help you to see your room for growth and the impact you have on others.

Confidence Matters: 3 Tips to Boost Your Confidence

Everyone could use a little more confidence. Imagine a campus where faculty, staff, and students walked around with a little more confidence, it would make a significant difference in the academic environment. When you have more confidence you feel like you are a person of worth and value and you feel like you can take on anything. You feel like what you do matters. Below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your confidence. Hope you enjoy!

WE MATTER

     In January, I had the honor of emceeing the 2019 Districtwide Faculty Convocation. All faculty throughout the district took the time out of their day to join us for a day of learning, sharing, and celebration. I was honored because I was asked to emcee an event that had not been conducted in years, in 2019 this special event made its comeback.

As the emcee, I had the honor of sharing final thoughts with the audience at the end of the event. The statement below is what I shared at the event. The message was WE MATTER. The message is definitely geared towards faculty, but I think anyone can pull something from the message. When we feel like we matter we bring our best to the table and those we are serving receive the best that we have to offer, and that is a wonderful thing.

 “We matter. As a collective, as a whole, we are some of the best and brightest. We are responsible for teaching students. Everything we say and do impacts their lives in direct and indirect ways. We are responsible for engaging in instruction, systems, and processes that will contribute to their success. This engagement requires change and it makes us uncomfortable, which can lead to uncertainty and can lead to anxiety. We matter when change comes about. Our thoughts, ideas, opinions, and actions can go a long way and has a significant impact. We can help things thrive when we come together. When we realize we are on the same team. I’ve seen amazing things happen when faculty come together. I’ve seen faculty pull together and donate textbooks so that the students will have the materials they need to be successful in the classroom. I’ve seen faculty senate come together and contribute to Student Appreciation Night so that students feel like they are important, and that they have worth and value. The two examples I just gave, are just two of the many reasons why we matter. There is power in the work that we do, especially when we come together. We are stronger together than we are apart. That power is diminished when we are working against each other. I encourage all of us to remember that we matter and that we serve a purpose in this district. We all have worth and value, and we’re not alone. We are surrounded by colleagues and campuses who support each other and are here to ensure that we are successful throughout the district. Thank you.”

Do You. Be You. You Matter.

In high school I remember this message very clearly: High self-esteem is everything. In high school, some of us rolled our eyes at the cheesy posters and videos preaching the importance of this message. Fast forward to our adult years and we find that all of that cheesiness is true. Self-esteem is connected to feeling like you matter. People with high self-esteem feel like they matter because they feel like they are a person of worth and value. People with low self-esteem may not feel like they matter because they don’t feel like they are a person of worth and value.

black-and-white-black-and-white-handwriting-760728   One of the many contributing factors to your self-esteem is social comparison (McCornack, 2016). Comparing ourselves to others impacts how we see ourselves. It’s our measuring stick. We use it to see how we size up against others. Social media has introduced society to the ultimate measuring stick. Every day we are inundated with posts and images of others we think are better than us, or are living the lives we want to live. Students see images of their friends graduating from universities, while they are here at the community college. Faculty see posts from colleagues who are getting published, being awarded grants, and obtaining Ph.D.’s. Staff see individuals getting promoted to higher positions in education and think to themselves, why not me?  We feel like if we are not famous, or doing anything significant that is on the level of Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey, that we are not important, that we do not matter, and that we don’t have value or worth.

There are two things that can be done. Number 1: Stop comparing yourself.  In the words of my colleague Michelle Jackson, “Stop comparing yourself to others! They are not you and you are not them. Be and do you. Enjoy it! Embrace it!” Number Two: Practice critical self-reflection to cultivate self-awareness (McCornack, 2016). Here are some critical reflection questions to start with:

1. What am I thinking and feeling about my worth and value?

2. Why am I thinking and feeling this way?

3. Are my thoughts and feelings accurate about my worth and value?

4. How can I improve my thoughts and feelings about my value and worth?

          The questions were adapted from a textbook from my course (McCornack, 2016)

Give it a try and see if it makes a difference. It has for me. =>)

 

Source:

McCornack, S. (2016). Reflect and relate: an introduction to interpersonal                 communication (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford St. Martin’s.

(*Note: I know my hanging indent is missing for my APA citation. =>) The struggle was real with the formatting. =>(    )

 

YOU MATTER!!!!

6900297405_0596fc8ae5_b   A message that has been on my heart lately is YOU MATTER. In order to be successful in anything that you do in life on a personal and professional level, you have to always remember these two important words. I truly believe that our success is dependent on it. How do you know that you matter? I think that it really starts in the mirror. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see a person of worth and value? Or do you see a person who is worthless and has no value? Your perception of yourself significantly impacts your actions. I have worked in higher education since 2006. I’ve worked for community colleges and universities and I have worked with faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community organizations. I have witnessed the difference between individuals who believe that they matter and those who feel like they do not. Those who feel like they matter walk around with an air of confidence that radiates off of them. They work from a place of excellence and integrity because they know that the work that they do not only impact themselves but impacts others as well. They approach life ready to invest the time that is needed for success. If you don’t feel like you matter, every day can be a struggle. You may put in the work, but wonder if your efforts really mean anything at all. At this point in my career, I feel like I matter. I feel like I am a person of worth and value and I am confident in the work that I do. Unfortunately, I have not always felt that way. I have been in the place where I felt like my efforts did not matter. To be perfectly honest with you, that was a tough place to be in, and it really hurts my heart when I come across people in life who feel this way. No one should ever feel like they don’t matter!!! It’s one of my missions in life to make sure that every person I come across in life feels like they matter. I want every person that I come in contact with to feel like they are a person of worth and value, I want people to feel like they matter. For the next six weeks, I am going to focus on this theme: I matter, you matter, we matter. I hope that you will join me for the ride. I truly believe this message significantly impacts teaching, learning, student success, and life. =>)