All posts by Lori Walk

HT2 152 – Our home away from home!

My workspace is my classroom, and there are a couple of things that I do to make a room of computers and monitors feel more welcoming. I’m sure you do several of these as well! My unknown colleagues who share HT2 152 also add to the collection. I appreciate you!

  • Supply corner for pencils, pens, post-its, stapler (when it doesn’t walk away!), tape, 5 x 8 cards for name plates, and markers
  • Snack basket including some protein options and quick carbs. Students bring things when they’re celebrating birthdays or a new job.
  • Kleenex
  • Sanitizing supplies thanks to maintenance! We share computers so we’re staying safe!
  • Oils and lotions for aromatherapy. We practice breathing exercises to help us transition and focus.
  • LOTS of white board markers and erasers since we’re all adding our good ideas to the walls.

Do you have anything else in your classroom that I should add to ours?


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!


Making Research Real for my CRE101 and ENG102 students

I’m grateful to be attending AERA in San Diego. Most of you probably already know that the American Educational Research Association (AERA), “a national research society, strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.”

This has been a great opportunity for me to reconnect with long-time colleagues and be reminded of the importance of scholarship in our teaching profession.

As I’ve been learning and reflecting over these past few days, I realize that my students are using the word “research” loosely and incorrectly. I’m considering changing my vocabulary, and I want my ENG and CRE peeps to help me with this. We really have three very different processes when my students and I talk about research at GCC:

  1. Conducting a scholarly investigation
  2. Reading research, and
  3. Doing research 

    When we are reading and evaluating sources with ABC or CRAAP, we’re conducting a scholarly investigation. I’ve realized that I need to help students be more intentional because some think that when they Google a term, they are researching it.

When I help my students to read research, it is typically part of learning about the benefits and limitations of different types of evidence.

The final area of doing research is not something my students do; however, they do participate in the PSY290 data collection and we learn about the process through the poster sessions. PSY 290 students will be presenting their research at an in-person Poster Session on Wednesday, April 27th from 10-11:30am in the Lobby of the LS Building (entrance is on the west side of the building).  My students will earn five (5) points extra credit for texting me a selfie with one of the presenters and their poster.  We will be doing an assignment next week related to the poster presentations.

I’ve also been reminded by my colleagues here at AERA that gathering student data and self-reflection are key to improving myself and the overall teaching profession. I plan to engage more with the self-study special interest group. I’m grateful that MCCCD allows us the time and funding to travel and grow! I’m grateful that COVID has eased up enough to allow these inspiring people to gather!


A culturally relevant campus: my GCC Wellness Community

When I came to GCC full time in 2011, I was a desk rat who had been commuting an hour each way each day, and my body showed the result of years of too many meetings and bad food choices.  One of the best things that Nancy Oreshack recommended to me was our GCC yoga class . . . it was five minutes from my office and we got a tuition waiver!  Although the first semester was painful and consisted of an hour workout followed by a Tylenol on the drive home, it was so worth it!  I began to feel better and actually regained an inch of my height lost from years of hunching over a computer.

Since then I have become entrenched in all of our wellness resources.  I’ve lost 38 pounds thanks to our Naturally Slim program.  I learned to eat better thanks to the expertise of speakers like Shannon Smith, GCC nutrition faculty and registered dietician.  I’m a regular swimmer thanks to Louise So, and before COVID I practiced Pilates with Mary Lea and yoga with Anna Hall.  My doctors were lucky to find breast cancer early thanks to the on-campus mammogram opportunities that Margo Bates coordinates. I started walking regularly thanks to Meghan Kennedy of our CTLE and I continue with regular walks with President Leyba-Ruiz.

The best part of this wellness culture is the people.  This is my community.   These are my walking, swimming, hiking, and laughing buddies who keep me on track.  According to Dr. Chris Drew, our 2022 definition of culture has changed:

“While in the past cultures were built around geographical, social class, ethnic, and family ties, this is changing. The internet allows us to create our own ‘tribes’ of people spread out around the world who share our personal interest and values.”

Are you a member of my culture?  Perhaps you are, and we just haven’t met yet.  If you keep a pair of sneakers under your desk, if you have a locker in the FW building, or if you carry a hydro flask, you may be one of my people!  Let’s talk! Let’s walk!

***Our Fitness and Wellness was recently recognized (again!) as an Exercise is Medicine Gold Campus.

***Our Wellness Committee has curated a range of employee wellness opportunities.



No, this isn’t Burger King. It is, however, the GCC English and reading team available to help you and your colleagues contextualize your literacy courses to fit your FOI.

This past fall, Lisa Lewis and her Fitness and Wellness team members worked with David Miller and me to craft ENG101 and ENG102 course offerings to fit both the time schedule and the topic requests for their students.

Fitness and Wellness has moved to eight-week blocks. They requested eight-week courses. Can our department do that? YES!

Fitness and Wellness students have a break Mondays and Wednesdays at noon. Can we teach courses at that time? YES! One of the new sessions goes from 12:00 – 1:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays.

Fitness and Wellness faculty want students to be proficient with APA format. Can our department do that? YES! ENG102 is all APA format.

Fitness and Wellness want topics to relate to the course materials in F&W. Can our department do that? YES! Assignment topics now include sedentary lifestyle, body image, and recess in the K-12 schools. The F&W librarian, Michelle Petry, helped add the Library Resources specific to the FOI. In addition, she helped select literary selections to align with the topics.

In response to the planning sessions we held, we offered eight-week accelerated hybrid courses beginning in January. Enrollment was light, but the courses made. In spite of efforts by the Fitness and Wellness advisor and faculty, only one F&W student enrolled. However, it was interesting to see that over half of the students were nursing majors. They were very interested in the course topics.

We just completed the ENG101 eight-week courses and are prepared to begin ENG102 after spring break. ENG101 writing assignments included evaluating GCC resources like the Fitness Center and the lap pool. Students wrote position arguments on sugar and diabetes as well as using personal tracking devices to improve fitness. 50% of the students who completed ENG101 enrolled in ENG102. In addition, plenty of other students signed up. The courses currently have wait lists.

After seeing the success of the contextualized English courses, we’ll be revising hybrid CRE101 to have similar readings and topics. We will also offer the contextualized ENG101 and ENG102 again in the fall.

Is your department wanting to support student success by creating reading and writing assignments to align with your FOI? If so, you CAN have it your way! Department chairs should contact David Miller. Our English and reading instructional team is diverse and able to craft F2F, hybrid, and online offerings to meet your needs.

You CAN have it your way. The answer is YES!


Hold on tight!

Hold on tight!

Tone:  I want to convey a sense of urgency while still sounding encouraging and helpful

Purpose: Persuade students to carefully consider their time availability to do well

Audience: Students who have registered for an eight-week accelerated hybrid ENG102 course.  I’ll also use similar information for next semester for ENG101.

Context: I was talking with Jackie Wietzke about the mortality rate in my ENG101 eight-week accelerated hybrid.  Students didn’t realize how much writing they would be doing in a short amount of time, and about half withdrew in the first week.  We were brainstorming the “if only they knew” ideas that might help them think about whether this class is a fit for them at this time.

Good morning,  You’re registered for ENG102, and I look forward to seeing you in just a few weeks.  You’ve successfully passed ENG101, and I know you want to do well in ENG102.  

Do you know that you’ve signed up for a hybrid?  I don’t want there to be any surprises. 

Here are some tips to help you prepare to be successful in our eight-week accelerated hybrid course format:

  • Review your work and personal schedule to ensure that you can attend ALL classes.  Students who miss class don’t catch up easily.
  • Identify thirty minutes a day EVERY DAY that you’ll be able to access Canvas and Google docs to read instructions, get feedback, and make a plan for your workload.
  • Be sure that you’re comfortable with the Notifications, Calendar, and other aspects of Canvas that help you stay organized.
  • Identify two hours FOUR TIMES a week that you’ll be able to work on rough drafts.
  • Identify thirty minutes a day FIVE TIMES a week that you’ll be able to work on short assignments.
  • You’re writing a research paper, and most students need an hour EVERY DAY to keep up gathering information.
  • Identify two hours EACH WEEK that you’ll be able to revise and edit your final papers.  These are worth 50% of your grade.

To learn more, consider visiting one of my accelerated classes sometime in the next few weeks.  We meet in HT2 157 from 12:00 – 3:15 p.m. You can talk to current GCC students who have figured out their own time management strategies for success.  

Many students decide not to do an eight-week format because they don’t realize how intense the writing requirements can be.  If that’s you, please withdraw ASAP as I currently have a waiting list of students who want to attend.


Week 1

An anonymous colleague and I are writing notes back and forth about our courses. I’m posting here. My postings will be in casual letter format:

Dear Friend,

Thanks so much for agreeing to talk with me about our courses . I especially want your ideas as we both try to increase engagement in our online environment. I’m in week 2 of the 8 week late start online class, and I went ahead and changed the submission time to 6:00 p.m. as we discussed. I’ve had good results so far. No one has died from (or complained about!) the change and students are asking for help earlier. Best of all, I’m not getting frantic messages at 11:00 p.m. I’ll keep you posted on the quality of the submissions. We’ve just had the Get Started module and a few small assignments.

I’ll be interested to hear your results from the extra credit opportunity that you’re trying. Have a great weekend!



Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came . . .


That’s how I feel when I come to GCC every day.  I’ve been building relationships here since 2003, and I value them deeply.

I like feeling known.  I like feeling that I’m on a team with like-minded people.  I like to feel that we’re all solving problems on behalf of our students.

Anyone who knows me knows that I build relationships around food and exercise.  One of my mentors told me about the psychological impact of offering a snack.  She said that it hearkens back to stone-age times.  Offering something to your guest sends the signal that you have your own food; you won’t eat them.  Ha!

The biggest barrier to relationships for me is time.  If we stay busy being busy, we don’t have time to listen to each other.  I’m always looking for ways to add breathing space to my day so that I can connect with someone.  Exercising with colleagues allows me to do that.  Want to brainstorm?  Let’s take a walk!



Can we talk?

Does any phrase strike more fear in our hearts?  Our brains immediately go to the deepest, scariest places to imagine what terrible news or problem must be addressed.

Decades ago, I used to think that if I were only in the right job or the right relationship that there wouldn’t be any problems.  Time changes everything.

Now I know it’s not “if there’s a problem” but “when there’s a problem”, and I’ve tried to develop some tools.

This article from Harvard Business Review focuses on actions we can take to prepare for and engage in hard conversations.   From all of these, my strong suit is #2:  lead with bad news simply and clearly in the first sentence.  My experience has taught me that this helps scare away the monster thoughts that inevitably fill our minds.  My growth area is to find the best time and place for these conversations.  For example, I used to close my door, but I found that seems to scare people.  I used to make appointments, but the anticipation can leave a person too worried to process information clearly.   Now I try to be in person and immediate so that there are no lingering doubts about a situation.  Almost always I find that the person I’m talking with “knew” something was coming and is glad to have the open dialogue.  Notice that I said almost always?

My advice to others is to find a strategy that fits your personal style and allows you to feel that you are being your most authentic self.

Of course, before doing anything, be sure that it’s really your problem to solve.  Remember the monkeys!



To dream the impossible dream

My dream is to have flexibility with my nemesis, time.  I want to continue to learn more about technology and scheduling options so that I can support learning 24/7 for my students and myself.  I don’t want to be locked into class periods and semesters.  I want my courses to be responsive enough to support continuous student growth.  Google docs is one of my  strategies now, but I’m looking for more ideas.  Until then, I’m dreaming the impossible dream.