Category Archives: empowerment

Inspired by Educated by Tara Westover

Over Spring Break I finished reading Educated by Tara Westover. The memoir is about a young woman’s journey from her religious family to higher education. The book has several themes. There are areas that focus on identity, family, faith, education, etc. The book really resonated with me for several reasons, but the area that really resonated with me the most was the power of education in the author’s life and how it helped her to evaluate who she was and discover the woman that she is today.  Her ability to go through this process is really due to her education inside and outside of the classroom.

A huge part of my identity revolves around education. Just like the author, I was able to discover who I am and who I wanted to be in life. My parents encouraged all of their children to get an education, they believed that they were the keys to success. I thrust myself into my studies and quite a few of the lessons I learned came from inside  and outside of the classroom. As educators, we must never forget the impact the classroom has on not only our students and their profession but also who they are as an individual. The author learned a lot about herself inside and outside of school. Here are some things I learned about myself from my educational experiences:

I didn’t want to be a lawyer when I grew up. For the longest time I wanted to be a lawyer. We did a mock trial in high school and I realized, THIS IS NOT FOR ME. I played the lawyer and I choked. My heart was not in it. My heart is in teaching.

Hard work and belief go a long way. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I was not the best speech and debate competitor in college. I lacked confidence and some key skills. Over time I decided to up my work ethic and to really believe that I could do it. The end result, I have some championships under my belt and I’m proud of that accomplishment.

I’m a nerd and I’m proud of it. I love school, reading, studying, and watching and engaging in nerdy things like Game of Thrones. I have reaped many benefits and rewards from my nerdiness. I even include it in my lessons in the classroom.

Prayer and Coffee. Ever since high school, people have mentioned to me how they can’t believe how I get through the crazy business of life. I tell them that I get through it with a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of coffee. Both came from my family. I grew up in a religious home and everything revolved around prayer. The coffee came from my mom, she loves it, I picked up the habit my senior year of high school and I have not let it go. Prayer and coffee are my lifeline. =>)

Life will hand you some serious lemons, make the best batch of lemonade you can, and drink a giant big gulp cup of it in front of life. I’ve drunk several big gulp cups of lemonade in front of life. I’ve done my best to make the best lemonade from some sour lemons in life. I’ve had uncertainty and struggles with school, work, and health, but I’m thankful that lemonade has come from that. I’m grateful.

The lessons learned are only a small portion of the things that have shaped me. All of the lessons learned, just like the author in Educated, have contributed to who I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

 

 

Confessions of a people pleaser

Advice on how to deal with difficult conversations in the classroom or workplace? Here’s a tip: Don’t follow my lead. I could write a textbook about how to be a people-pleaser and a doormat. I could have been the poster child for how not to stand up for yourself. But, that’s changing…

In the past year, my rose-colored glasses started to crack and now they have pretty much shattered. Surprisingly, I am OK with this. It’s almost a relief. Maybe it was turning 55. Maybe it was a book I read. Whatever prompted the breakage, I’m not overthinking it. I’m just grateful for the epiphany.

Even without my pink lenses, my default reaction still looks for the warm and fuzzy side of any problem. But at least now I recognize my inclination and try to redirect. Difficult conversations?  I always had rosy ideas for those. My go-to attitude was always to make everyone else feel OK. Five decades of people-pleasing is a hard habit to shake. But I’m starting to adjust to my new non-rose-colored view. I guess most people just call it reality. I call it liberating. 

Now I realize that most of my life, I avoided difficult conversations with the intention of sparing others bad feelings or preventing an argument. I was a wimp. My rose-colored shades kept me weak and in pain. Today as I write this, I’m still in the beginning stages of recovery from my rose addiction, but I’m getting stronger. I like the view from where I am, without people-pleasing eyewear. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot less painful. 

Difficult conversations? Now I just call it communication…

 

The Reimagine Project Dares to Lead

Dare-to-Lead-Cover-Facebook (1)I am proud. I am proud of the leadership of GCC faculty and staff. Over the past few months I have seen faculty and staff courageously offer their thoughts and opinions of how to improve our district, campus, and our classrooms. The work of GCC faculty and staff have resulted in committees being created, campus calls to action, panel discussions, task force, etc. I wish I had the time and space to call everyone’s attention to several things that represent the sheer amount of tenacity, passion, and courage on our campus. I only have the time and the space to focus on one thing, so I will focus on the Reimagine Project.

The Reimagine Project is a project that centrally focuses on encouraging faculty to reimagine their classrooms with high impact classroom strategies. I am one of the individuals responsible for teaching our cohorts a specific strategy and assisting them with implementation in the classroom. The program was launched this academic year. The purpose of the project is to encourage faculty to try these strategies so that we can create the best learning environments that we possibly can for our students.

The Reimagine Project is daring to lead because they are addressing an important question from Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, which is: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? Brown proposes doing it through vulnerability, values, trust, and learning to rise. Participants have to be vulnerable, which means being open to the process and trying new things in the classroom that they have never tried before. The program also encompasses all of GCC’s values which includes learning and quality. Participants also have to trust themselves and trust the facilitators guiding them through the experience. Finally, participants have to learn how to rise because they may experience failure along the way, and failure is not completely negative, it’s actually a lesson in disguise.

Shout out to to Jennifer Lane and Meghan Kennedy for creating the nuts and bolts of the program. Shout out to the institution for the support. Shout out to the participants who are engaged in the program. Shout out to the leads for guiding the participants through the strategy. I dare everyone to follow in their footsteps and dare to lead in the places and spaces of their profession. If you are already Daring to Lead, I encourage you to keep leading in this way, because you are having impact in the work that you do.

 

 

 

Interviewing Tour

The writing prompt for Write 6 x 6 this week asked this question:

What would you love to be able to do to improve yourself in relation to your job or to change your job?

I would love to interview teachers from different professions in MCCCD, the state of Arizona, the U.S. and around the world. I want to talk to teachers who teach higher education, or karate, or piano, or knitting. I want to get a collective sense of why they are teaching , the keys to successful teaching, and what they love most about it. I would love to pull from their experiences and get a sense of what drives them everyday.

I just watched a You Tube video that’s an oldie, but a goodie, from someone known as the Kid President. The videos on this channel never get old, and is usually a good go to when my work week has been crazy and I haven’t had enough time to work on my blog post. In the video Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students! He asks a central question I’d ask in all of my interviews: What are you teaching the world?

Have you thought about that? What are you teaching the world? I would love to jump into that question and unpack it with others in an interview. I feel their answer would really inform mine and would help me to grow as a person and as a professional.

 

 

 

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.

download.jpg

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!!!!

download-1.jpg

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.

download-2.jpg

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”.

download-3.jpg

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.

download.png

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.

download-4.jpg

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.”