Category Archives: Glendale Community College

Faking it

When was the last time you saw a film or television show where someone was supposed to play an instrument or sing well?  When that moment of reckoning occurs I always hold my breath and wait for the tell.  The tell is the point where it is clear that the actor is faking it.  That actor may be faking it successfully or poorly – or, of course, the actor may actually be a musician, as many are, and is not faking it at all.   But if faking does occur, an editor often gets involved to fake it further.  We see, we listen, we constantly assess.

When we assess students isn’t this ultimately what we are trying to determine? Are they faking it, or do they know and understand the material? As a musician, do they know how to play musically or are they simply playing the notes?

When we assess aren’t we also looking for those who fake it well?

One of the jokes among instructors of applied music (performing music) is when the teacher corrects the student and the student says, “Well, I just don’t understand. It sounded perfectly fine in the practice room.”

What that means is that most of the time (not all) the student can’t tell the difference and is, ultimately, faking it.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It?

I remember a student who was excellent at mimicry. I learned never to play a piece for her because she had too good an ear and could fake it. The problem was that she could not read music. She was a good pianist but when asked to play something that she misheard or ostensibly misread because it was incorrect she could not “replicate the results.”

I have tremendous respect for her because she had been playing for many years and had to face the fact that not only was she faking it but she had to face the degree of how much she was faking it. If she wanted to continue lessons she had to re-learn how to read music after many years of classical piano lessons, her chosen genre.

There is a part of me that thinks she always knew how much she was faking it but she had choices moving forward. She could have stayed at the level where she was because she could fool many. She could have gone on her merry way and continued to play the way she did. She could have walked away and given up. Music was not her major so that might have been the easiest choice. She chose instead to go back to the basics and learn how to read music. It was a daunting task and I commend her for her perseverance. It was a lesson in patience because, in this case, one does not fake it until you make it. She’d already been down that path.

Two Studies that May Surprise You

I love surprising students (not that you are students) so I leave you with two listenings of people who are not faking it – or are they? In the first example, Bence Peter’s Fibonacci series moves to a video image which allows him to re-sequence the series so that it can go backward, using digital editing. This video clip often offers my students a new “take” on music and they are surprised because they are hearing something different. If you are using speakers, turn them up. In the classroom, I usually turn off the lights.

The second video clip shows an interesting twist on talking and singing where he includes the spoken word. Is he having trouble or is he faking it? Here is Al Jarreau.

 

A writer writes about writing

Writer’s block prompted me to search for an idea for this week’s post. I turned to the poetry of Alberto Rios, 2013 Arizona poet laureate. In his poem An Instruction to Myself, I found my inspiration. Rios defined the task of a writer in the first line. His instruction suggests we “Shepherd the things of the world to the page.”

I love his word choice. The verb shepherd communicates such a gentle guidance. Now I can visualize gently guiding my thoughts into words. Thanks Alberto.

I met Alberto Rios last semester when he spoke here at GCC. He read the following poem. Perhaps sharing is the ultimate gift of a writer.

When Giving Is All We Have

Alberto Ríos 

One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

 

The Big Picture

As another episode of 6 X 6 begins, it is appropriate that we start with the topic of inspiration. If given the opportunity, this idea can momentarily draw our focus away from today’s to-do list and inspire us to look at the Big Picture.

From the Circulation Desk in the GCC Library, I have an amazing view of the Big Picture. If I pay attention, I can watch a preview of the future parading in front of me. It usually begins when a student requests a textbook at the Circulation counter. This simple encounter inspires me to imagine how many people this student will help in the future. For a few seconds, I think about what career she might pursue. The positive effect of this individual’s efforts to study at GCC could someday benefit countless others.

If I expand this Big Picture idea, I realize I play an important role in the GCC cycle of student success. My college experience started at GCC and involved countless hours of homework here in the library. As a student, I was primarily focused on my daily to-do list of assignments. At the time, I did not realize the ideas and inspiration I was developing at GCC would eventually lead me back to work in this building. Now I am proud to be part of the GCC staff. Today on this side of the circulation desk, I have a different to-do list and a more expansive view of the Big Picture. From where I sit, there is no shortage of inspiration.

 

Unforeseen struggles for my students and I

The beginning of the spring semester started my  7th year here at GCC. The semester started out the same , but I soon found that I was struggling with my college mathematics courses. I had taught these courses numerous times before and could usually anticipate the questions and confusion throughout each topic. This semester I thought would be no different, but I soon realized that many of my students had not taken a math class in 5 or more years and their knowledge about the basics were lacking,  The reason for this change is the way we now place students (High School GPA only). I had to really think about the knowledge that I expect my students to have when they enter my class, but also how I can help them remediate these skills if they are lacking.

I had to go back to the basics and started to explain examples differently, give some in time reviews, extra review practices and give some more ticket in the door and out of the door exercises. I am finding it difficult as the semester continues because I see that they are struggling more and they ask numerous more questions. I am grateful they feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and I am hoping that the extra information I have added to the course is helping them, but we will see.

I am hopeful for them and I will continue to try to support them as much as I can.

 

 

 

 

Flying Books Deliver Daily Inspiration

This is my reality: All day…every day, books fly through the library and ultimately land in my hands. It’s as if these items take flight from the book stacks and land right on my desk… This experience of coming into direct contact with countless, random books every day inspires me tremendously. I wish I could track how much I’ve grown and learned, professionally and personally, since I joined the GCC Library family. Working in Access Services at an academic library is certainly a dream come true for a bookworm like me. A sample of our library’s extensive collection materializes each day. On every horizontal surface, books perch patiently, inviting me to take a closer look.

The written word speaks to my soul. Spoken words are fine, but reading words on a page transcends an auditory experience. Silent and deep, books change my life, one sentence at a time. Each book feels like a stepping stone. Or maybe more like shells on the beach…I ignore most, but certain gems capture my attention. In the same way, some books go unnoticed while others introduce me to a perfectly-timed message with lasting effects. It’s magical actually.

Momentary, random encounters can yield deep thoughts.
Recently I found the words of Octavia Butler and Brian Bilston.  In the library, inspiration is just a page away…

Refugees by Brian Bilston

They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
Welcome here
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
They cannot
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way

          (now read from bottom to top)

 


 

6X6 continued…

Since this is the final post for this round of 6X6, the next step is on my mind. How do I continue this writing challenge? How can I stay motivated to continue writing for an audience?

For now, I will continue to read the blogs of other writers and strive to respond to their work. Below is my comment to Jonas Ellison’s daily post with a link to his blog. His writing inspires me to keep writing. It’s a great cycle for me…read…write…read…write…

View at Medium.com

Jonas,

Your words are not lofty drivel. And you’re never boring. I love your line Good writing comes from friction in daily life. To take it further, good writing also comes from pain in daily life, and humor in daily life and courage, and failure and uncertainty and the raw humanity in daily life.

Your line inspires me to draw ideas from daily life for my writing. I think I get caught up trying to express amazing new insights that will blow my readers away when really I just need to offer a small human connection. Because that’s what blows me away…when another writer perfectly expresses how I feel. I am always amazed and overjoyed when a total stranger and fellow writer “hits it right on the head” and brings clarity to my situation. Jonas you do this on a daily basis.

Thanks for sharing your work.

________________________________________________________________________

*******So, to all the GCC 6X6 writers- please share with me your recommendations for your favorite blogs that focus on writing, or art, or creativity, or any writing that spreads a positive, empowering message.  I believe in that ripple effect I wrote about last week.

 

It’s a Library Thing…

 

This 6X6 Writing Challenge is a great example of basking in the reflection of my culture on the GCC campus. I’m in love with the idea of life-long learning and the exchange of ideas.

GCC is the epitome of life-long learning. Specifically, my position in GCC Library Access Services offers constant opportunities to celebrate student and staff success in regards to providing access to information. My goal is simple: If you need information, I want to help you access it. If what you need is not housed in our library, I want to help you find it.

At times, I love to stand back and look at the BIG picture in library terms: Historically, the library is at the foundation of civilization. This is a powerful idea as I walk through our library…it’s a big deal to experience this academic setting and appreciate the limitless opportunities that might begin here.  I like to imagine that all the mental effort that takes place in the library is transformed into positive futures and a better world. I love to savor my BIG picture idea and realize that what I do today really matters.

Also, I love to lean in and appreciate the small, everyday moments I share with library patrons. It is almost magical to meet others who share my specific love for library books and learning. It’s an over-the-edge, possessive behavior. I totally understand the patrons who feel like 28 days is never long enough to keep a book…who have a hard time actually letting go and setting the book on the counter to return it. Don’t laugh, there are a few of us who clutch certain books and wish we could keep them just a little longer since we never seem to feel truly done. ( I know, why don’t we just buy it, you say…but that’s not how we roll…remember, the library is a cornerstone of civilization, Amazon is not…and some of us need to feel the pages in our hands…electronic words don’t feed our souls)

When’s the last time you walked through our library? Stop in and experience the sheer joy of 90,000+ books – all in one big room. It’s old-school awesome!

Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else.                                                                                                                                                                                     ~Maya Angelou

 

 

Week 1: The One Thing You can do to Raise Enrollment

A six week “how-to” series
Week 1, Step 1: How to Impact Enrollment. But first, a story.

My biggest failure happened when I was a wet-behind-the-ears youth leader. I was actively looking to raise money for youth activities and I had responded to an ad pitching a T-shirt fundraiser. The company featured exciting, fun, faith-based designs on sleeveless T-shirts, and, for a limited time, was selling the shirts at a steep discount. The deal involved paying in advance with no returns and no refunds, but these things did not matter because these sleeveless shirts would sell themselves. I used my tax refund money to purchase the shirts. The shirts arrived and we began selling. But, instead of buying the shirts, our friends and families asked: Don’t you have any T-shirts with short sleeves? It turns out that people are so adverse to wearing sleeveless T’s that the fundraiser tanked horribly. It was a hard pill to swallow, but it changed my life.

I learned to never make decisions “based on a hunch.” I came to love data informed decision-making, and I am not alone. In this data driven age, even the youngest consumers are making informed decisions by comparing products, pricing, and reputation, including incoming college students and their families.

You’ve probably guessed by now, the “one thing” you can do is based on what works, study proven methods, and not gut instinct. So, what is the “one thing” you can do to influence the student decision-making process, raise enrollment, and raise GCC’s reputation in an increasingly crowded marketplace?

Before I spill the beans, you should know that conversely, by not doing this “one thing,” you risk falling off your potential students’ radar completely, and losing them to a competitor. There is a lot at stake and much to be gained.

The first step:

Go to www.gccaz.edu, and type your last name into the search box. Take a look at your employee biography webpage. What do you see?  If you were a student, is there anything on your page that would make you choose you?

What’s ahead:

WEEK 2: THE “ONE THING” AND ITS POWERFUL SWAY
When it comes to students choosing your classes, leaving choice up to chance is not your only option.

WEEK 3: THE “ONE THING” AND IT’S NOT BRAGGING
Reputation is king. Making your achievements public enables people to make informed choices.

WEEK 4: THE “ONE THING,” AND HOW TO INFLUENCE ASSUMPTIONS
Learn the top trait people assess when viewing strangers’ photos, and how your face, wrinkles and all, makes people choose you.

WEEK 5: The “One Thing” Before and After
If two faculty are each offering the same class, who would YOU choose?

WEEK 6: The “One Thing” and the Final Step

 

Gather Around the Coffee Mug

The significance of building relationships is often overlooked in education. As a teacher, it is easy to fall into that boss/employee relationship with your students. As a professor, it is easy to get the feeling that you are on your own, with little support outside of the occasional observation from a superior.


Fortunately there is an easy solution to both of these problems:

Coffee.

Cup of Coffee
You can almost smell it. (c) giphy.com

When I first started teaching I had a difficult time managing the classroom. Despite their classroom antics, I found they still would always say hello or try to strike up a conversation when I was on my lunch break having a cup of coffee.

Eventually this evolved into a post-class ritual: I would leave the class, go the to the lunch area, and have coffee. Those students who did not have a class to go to would join me. We would chat about things, sometimes English related, sometimes movies, and sometimes just idle banter.

As the semester moved on, my insecurities within the classroom started to diminish. I was more comfortable with the class, and they realized I was just as human as everyone else.

Fast-forward a few years and I found myself in a similar situation in the Adjunct Faculty Office. There was always a silence there, the room serving as a cross street as we sped to our various destinations. On the rare occasion a question or idea would come up, but it was far from a daily occurrence.

Busy intersection
Off to class I go. (c) giphy.com


The solution was to make things more personal, have a chat, offer that cup of coffee. It wasn’t long before I started having lunch and coffee with a few of my fellow adjuncts. At those short meetings I was able to discuss assignments, classroom management, teaching techniques, and various other topics that made me a better instructor and a better person. One person in particular, Gary, even encouraged me to pursue publishing my short stories after the topic came up during one of our lunch breaks. That one conversation had a major impact on my life.

So the final message I leave is this: Students are people. Teachers are people. We all have similar fears, desires, struggles, and pursuits. Discovering that bond in a structured environment can be difficult, but put a lunch or nice hot cup of coffee in the mix, and friendship is just around the corner.

 

Simple, not easy

Since my hero Austin Kleon writes in bullet points, I think I will too. Here are a few thoughts about dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • The Four Agreements is a tiny book filled with enormous wisdom.
  • Take Away Message: Don’t take anything personally.
  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Great quote from Chapter 3, page 48.
  • Avoid the urge to be right and make everyone else wrong.
  • Bottom Line: In a difficult situation, don’t take it personally because everyone lives in their own reality. Their anger is about them, not you. Even if they say something ugly, that’s their ugliness. Don’t make it yours too.

Unconditional Positive Regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

  • Try to accept and support others without passing judgment.
  • Starting from a point of unconditional positive regard will probably improve any situation.

If all else fails, lighten your mood.

  • Imagine your current difficult situation is happening in a sitcom.
  • Think about a silly sign. Here are a few examples: