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!

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.




You Stay Messy, College

Even though I am a scientist, I was born a Libra, Baby! Although I hold no stock in the pseudoscience of astrology, I always felt good about all-things-Libra as my sign: balance, harmony, love, peace, justice. It just so happens Kim Kardashian and Gandhi are also Libras. How’s that for balance?

I do an activity with my Psychology 101 students where I provide the standard descriptions of Zodiac signs without their labels and ask students to pick the set that most applies to them. Do you know how often they are able to blindly select their own signs? Almost never. And yet, some students persist in their astrological beliefs and get quite agitated when their views are challenged. Arms are crossed, eyes go white, and audible sighs reverberate. This is the life of a college classroom – socially and emotionally “messy” at times.

Exhibit A from my teaching archives: Picture my student Paul weaving his favorite video game into a class discussion for about the hundredth time this semester, (never mind that this is an adolescent psychology course). Then see George who finally has enough and yells, “Would you please shut up!” Finally, visualize Libra-me struggling to restore balance and harmony in the class. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t end well on this particular day.

In an intellectually-rich college classroom, ideas clash. Personalities collide. Students engage in a foxtrot of give-and-take, and it is not always tea and crumpets. But, conflict is an essential part of learning. Damn, how the Libra in me hates this! However, to achieve longevity in teaching, it is essential to effectively work through conflict because on the other side is greater learning. There are many strategies to process conflict in the classroom, but below are three of my “go-to”s.

Calm the stress-response system

Conflict can activate the fight-flight reflex. When this happens, a cascade of stress hormones shuttle energy away from the thinking part of the brain to the large muscles to prepare for battle. When George yelled at Paul in my class, I had not yet learned important calming techniques. As a result, I simply blurted out, “That’s enough now!” à la my former kindergarten-teacher self. I was not capable in that moment of a more reasoned response.

Since that time, I have learned to be more mindful of what is happening live in the classroom. And, when I sense conflict arising, my first step is to deepen my breath — a good inhale through the nose and a slower exhale through the mouth — repeated a few times. I am mindful when I sense my heart racing, and I silently repeat certain mantras. Slow down – you don’t need to immediately respond.

Practice “verbal judo”

You might not be surprised to learn that George called me later that day to talk about what happened. George felt that, as a person of color, he was basically being told to “go along and behave” when I cut off the conversation. Whereas I was new to the mindfulness game at that point, I was familiar with the concept of verbal judo. I first read about verbal judo in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns. Although this technique is often associated with persuasion, I actually see it as a precursor to negotiation.

Burns outlines three steps to verbal judo: 1) empathy, 2) disarming the critic, and 3) feedback and negotiation. In Step 1, I asked George to explain his point of view fully, and I didn’t interrupt. The key to this step is to allow the other person to feel fully heard, and this step takes as long as it takes.

Step 2 involves finding some way to agree with the other person. This point of agreement must be genuine. I replied to George, “It must have been frustrating to feel silenced.” (Note that I am not saying I meant to silence George, but empathized with how he felt in that moment.)

In Step 3, George was ready to hear my perspective as well. I was able to explain to George that my actual concern was a physical fight would break out in class. We then engaged in a conversation where we heard each other’s perspectives without defensiveness or judgment. Out of conflict came a greater understanding on both our parts.

Maintain appropriate boundaries

I can sit with worry with the best of them. I could take Paul and George home with me, in my mind anyway, and re-run different plays on how this all could have gone down better. I could question my life choices and think I should take a job selling shoes or do anything else besides teaching.

Even after conflict is processed, it’s hard to not take it home and chew it over in your mind along with your dinner. But, rehashing it over the hash doesn’t do anything to change the events. When conflict is seen as an inevitable part of the classroom life, it’s easier to put it down at night knowing I can always pick it up again tomorrow. Moreover, knowing that conflict is normal keeps me from taking it personally. Finally, seeing conflict as potentially beneficial prevents me from running away from it. So, an essential aspect of classroom balance for me is holding conflict carefully in my arms knowing that it can be a great teacher of lessons.

This post is part of the Write 6X6 challenge at Glendale Community College.

The post You Stay Messy, College appeared first on My Love of Learning.

Conference Inspo


**I’m late to the writing party, but I’ll be adding more than one post this week.**

On the way to class today, I heard an eager, “Hi Ms. Dewey! Ms. Dewey! Hi!” One of my former students sought me out. Immediately, I recognized him with the nagging realization that oh boy, time flies, as it has been at least six years since he enrolled in my ENG091 class, then subsequently for ENG101. He is a veteran, and when he came to GCC initially, he struggled with navigating how the skills he learned and used as an innate leader in the military could integrate into his daily life as a civilian and student. I remember the chilling first lines of his narrative: “If death was a person, I would have shook his hand on October 1, 2009. During a combat patrol in Afghanistan, I was with my platoon of twenty men.” This morning, he wanted to let me know that though he had taken a few years off, he is back and here now to finish his degree. Little did he know that in the earlier part of this week I was finding inspiration in Seattle at the Innovations Conference with the League for Innovation in the Community College, so I couldn’t help but respond with, “Awesome! I think that’s what community colleges do. Our students come, they may have to leave to take care of things, but we are always here to educate them when they come back.”

It is nothing short of appropriate that I ran into him today, when I did, as yesterday, I flew home to Phoenix guiltily mulling over what I was going to write for my blog posts I’ve clearly been postponing. At the conference, the theme of innovation, of course, was ever-present in a majority of the sessions, along with the encouragement that though we are in precarious times in higher education, the importance of the community college remains steadfast. Roy Spence of The Purpose Institute and The Promiseland Project kickstarted the innovative insight with a quote from Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go where there is no path and leave a trail.” This is something, he asserts, we should be conveying to our students as we help them to find what they love to do. After a video of a Norwegian quartet crooning with a beautifully haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” he reveals this is what purpose in our work sounds like because: “Everyone needs to know the words to the song, listen to each other, stand up for when it’s your turn, and it sounds pretty awesome when we sing it together” (Spence, 2020). As community college faculty and leaders, we have a great song to sing.

Martha Kanter continued the message with news on College Promise juxtaposing some of the nation’s challenges like “99% of new jobs are awarded to workers with some college; the cost of college has increased times twelve over the past thirty years; students have accumulated 1.6 trillion in debt; fourteen percent of community college students are homeless” (Kanter, 2020). In Kanter’s keynote, we also heard from a young woman who spoke about her past as a homeless trafficking victim with an eighth grade education who could not speak at the age of 27. Ten years ago, she found an escape in attending community college and is now in a Ph.D. program and leads a non-profit in downtown Seattle. She gave immense gratitude to her community college instructors for changing her life’s trajectory, essentially for saving her life.

We live in challenging, uncertain times, especially in the community college when students have more options for higher education than ever before and are simultaneously facing increasing basic needs insecurity. Indubitably, the Innovations Conference was introspectively motivational regarding my current role and pedagogy. It seems we must remain optimistic, innovative, and continue to believe that, “In doing our work, our community colleges are building the real American Dream for our country” (Kanter, 2020). We will always remain relevant for our students and our communities.

Sleepless in Seattle!

Difficult Conversations


A few years ago, I cancelled my cable subscription. I had kept it far too long because every time I called to cancel it the sales person on the other end of the line would remind me that I had a bundled package with my internet service which was only a little bit more a month than interwebs alone. Then they would give me some sort of incentive that gave me premium channels for another 6 months and the cycle would continue.

When I made that final call to ACTUALLY cancel my cable, it was different. It was different because my reason for canceling was different. I cancelled my cable to save myself from my bad viewing habits. I had realized that the only things I was watching on live television were home renovation shows with amazing before and after moments and The Real Housewives of anywhere, you name it, and I watched it. Now, while I do love a big reveal and a discovery of shiplap behind plaster, I do not love the fact that I had become immune to the forced conflict of women behaving badly towards one another for my viewing pleasure. I watched women scream at one another, throw drinks, flip tables, smash cakes, and be generally vile. I watched as conflict became “reality.” The level of schadenfreude I experienced was not worth the pangs of guilt I felt as a feminist, human, and educator.

Regardless of the previous failed attempts to cut the cord, I made the call. It was difficult to say no to all the offers of free HBO and extended discounts, but this time the difficult conversation of saying no to a cable provider was made much easier because the reason for cancelling was worthy of the difficult conversation.

I provide this somewhat silly example above because I think it highlights some ideas I have for having difficult conversations in general both with classes, individual students, and colleagues.

I am by no means an expert in this field, but I am always working towards being an advocate and accomplice in the face of systemic oppression which means lending my voice to some difficult conversations. Since I am a fan of lists, here is my list of are some of the thoughts I have had when thinking about difficult conversations:

1. Pick your battles.

Not everything needs to be addressed all of the time. We must decided which difficult conversations are even worth having. This can be anything from cell phone use in the classroom to microaggressions. You have to decide whether you are safe to have a conversation, and if your audience is receptive to hearing. And yes, sometimes we need to speak up even if our audience isn’t receptive to hearing what we have to say. My point is that when presented with a choice of whether or not you want to have a discussion you can make that decision.

2. Know your limits.

This goes hand in hand with pick your battles. Knowing what you care about how far you are willing to take that conversation will make it easier to set boundaries in difficult conversations.

3. Be mindful of outcomes

When having a difficult conversation, I find it helpful to keep in mind the outcome I desire. Am I looking for action or am I simply looking to be heard? Knowing what I want to gain from the conversation helps me to keep focused on the task at hand.

Teaching Philosophy


This week’s blog post is dedicated to an activity I embarked on last week, the process of rewriting a teaching philosophy.   Due to self-reflection, professional development, and a re-examination of motivations, I rewrote my teaching philosophy. The process I went through in writing my philosophy has been eye-opening for me and might be helpful for some of the 6×6 blog readers.  

 I had a teaching philosophy that I wrote prior to my first position in higher education and every teaching philosophy since that time has been a variation of that original philosophy.  Don’t get me wrong, it had been added to, altered, grown and developed, but a recent discussion with a colleague actually brought me to the epitome moment where I realized that I had not only outgrown my previous teaching philosophy, but that I also needed deep reflection on my current philosophy in order to properly understand where I am and who I am as a teacher. 

As I began the process, I didn’t even bother to look at my previous philosophy.  I decided that the best way to work on my teaching philosophy was to step back and approach it in the same way I had at the beginning of my career, with fresh eyes and a fresh outlook. 

I started with a review of the research.  “Teaching philosophy statements help us stay true to our original vocation as professors and help us to evolve and improve our teaching over the course of our academic career” asserted researchers Niall Hegarty and Benhamin Silliman (2016).  Lecturer Susan Yager (2013) further elaborated that it is not a stationary document to be set aside, the teaching philosophy is “a document in progress and it should change and evolve as your teaching experiences build”. The research further explained that the philosophy is not just the domain of applying to a faculty position, the importance of which is discussed by Eirman (2008) but further is meant to help faculty stay focused on their reason for teaching and staying current with the student population regardless of their current career point (Hegarty & Silliman, 2016).  I knew I was on the right track.

Next, I examined some of the elements of my own purpose in rewriting my teaching philosophy.  Since effective teaching philosophy statements are meant to inform teaching practices specifically with the purpose of improving quality learning for students, and my recent efforts at self-improvement and professional development are directly related to expanding and developing my teaching methods, I came to the realization that my teaching philosophy was going to be directly tied to my self-reflection.

So, I prepared an in-depth examination of my setting. The research recommends starting with the institution, the mission & values, the population descriptors, and the learning outcome requirements.   According to Hegarty and Silliman, there is a clear difference between the ideal classroom and the reality that we face each day, and having the foundational understanding of the student population, the context, the subject matter, the organization & teaching situation, and the level of accountability provides a far better framework than a philosophy written spontaneously (2016).  In fact, they created a clear understanding of the pattern of the continuum process that demonstrates the ongoing evolution and how the mission and vision are part of approaching best practices. The called it a continuum as opposed to cyclical as it is a process of continuous improvement in a forward motion. With an understanding that the philosophy begins with this foundation of the student population, I recorded my understanding of the setting.

The process of recording my understanding led me to further research and reflection.  I examined the pedagogical vs andragogical approaches, delving into understanding humanagogy and teliogogy until I found myself in a debate hole (Holmes & Abington-Cooper, 2000). For a moment, I got a little lost in the research. Then, I remembered my colleague’s cry to “Fail Forward” and moved into elements of self-reflection through assumptions.  I looked closely at my students and the assumptions I have of them as a teacher and reflected on whether my assumptions actually fit with the context. I examined my assumptions about money, shelter, food, and safety challenges that some students face. I examined my assumptions on what I believe will help students learn. I looked at my student-written reflections, both short term and long term reflections; I looked at the student evaluation feedback.  I examined my peer feedback from observations. I examined my own reflections. I examined the published material on the setting and the recent research presented at local conferences by peers and colleagues. This was an attempt at a deliberate and purposeful critical reflection. It was my attempt to embrace and learn from the evaluation and reflection process (Lewis & Benson, 1998).

Next, following the advice of Goodyear and Allchin (1998) I began to consider my own teaching values, considering the “big” questions of motivation and expectations, and establishing my understanding of student success in the classroom. As I started establishing the answers to those questions, I allowed myself to be guided by the “characteristics of successful teaching statements” as described by Meizlish & Kaplan (2008).  

First, I ensured that my philosophy included specific personal examples rather than catchphrases, or explanations of personal examples where a catchphrase is used.  For example, rather than stating that I am a teacher who embraces educational technology, I delve into an explanation of how I use specific tools to support the learning.  I explained my experience using learning management systems as a guide to student’s independent learning efforts. I elaborated on how I show students how to use student-use tools like NoodleTools to support their efforts in research.  I described my use of Google Docs and embedded annotation programs like Perusall. I presented my favorite interactive activities, gamified adaptations that allow students to demonstrate their understanding, such as my Genial.ly plagiarism game or the Badgr Leaderboard.  Finally, I rounded it off by describing my use of non-tech and printable options for students who are not comfortable with those approaches or have accessibility issues. Every ‘jargon’ word or phrase was defined in connection to my actual experiences.

Integrated within my personal examples, I also attempted to establish examples of my responses to instructional challenges woven into my continued efforts at professional development and personal growth. I want to communicate my passion and commitment to teaching in my philosophy.  While it is possible that other people may read my teaching philosophy, when I sat down to write this philosophy, I was my audience. My enthusiasm, my love of teaching should shine through my writing. As this is also a reflective process, the minute I feel that teaching is a burden, I will know that I am either slipping into burnout or it is time for me to retire.  Students know. They know when a teacher loves teaching them, they know when teachers care.  

Last week, I had a student ask if they could give me a hug because they know that I care and wanted me to know that they know.  They informed me that they look forward to my class and that their efforts in my class have actually contributed to success in other classes.  They told me that they hoped I wouldn’t change my “teaching approach” and requested that I “don’t stop teaching”. I care and they know it. That is an element that needs to come across in my teaching philosophy, which leads me to the next characteristic.

My examples and personal experiences are meant to clearly convey my recognition of differences in student levels, abilities, background knowledge, and accessibility issues.  They are a part of demonstrating (rather than just stating) my commitment to learning-centered student supported teaching. For this reason, I added the story of the importance of a single student. I discussed the time I had one student in my class that didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to work, didn’t like me as a teacher, and had “checked out”.  I talked about how I changed my own perspective and approach, how I adapted and showed that student how important they were to me, and how my efforts not only made a difference in that student but in the entire class. I then discussed how this has continued as I have adapted to new populations and how that experience has evolved into an inclusive approach. Whether it is a little extra time on assignments or ensuring every video has closed captioning, choosing materials from diverse sources and being sensitive to historically underrepresented students or “boosting my accessibility capability” through continued training, I made sure that my philosophy describes specific examples at each stage, showing rather than saying.  

Finally, I came back to that element of how I define student success in my class. I started by considering the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that I consider important in my course.  I looked at the course learning outcomes, the array of assessments and how well those assessments matched the learning outcomes and my own considerations of what is important. I evaluated my use of my assessments and how well they reinforce the priorities and context of my course.  I examined how the assessments contributed to student learning and how I recognize that success. Then, I took a step back and considered the guiding question. What am I preparing my students for? Once I had the answer, I wove my understanding of student success with my concrete classroom experiences.  

Overall, I am pleased with the process that I went through in creating my updated teaching philosophy. This week’s Genially graphic is meant to convey all of the elements that I blended as part of my process in writing my teaching philosophy, conveying several of the elements from the references that I used as I researched and prepared to write.   

Below, I have included several of the references that I directly refer to in this blog post. 

Eierman, R. (2008). The teaching philosophy statement: Purposes and organizational structure, Journal of Chemical Education, 85(3), 336- 339.

Goodyear, G. E., & Allchin, D. (1998). Statements of teaching philosophy. In M. Kaplan & D. Lieberman (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, Vol. 17 (pp. 103-122). Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press. Accessed through https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1403&context=podimproveacad

Hegarty, N. C. & Silliman, B. R. (2016). How to approach teaching philosophy statements as career mission statements. Journal of Business and Educational Leadership, 6(1), 103-114. 

Homes, G. & Abington-Cooper, M. (2000). Pedagogy vs. andragogy: A false dichotomy? Journal of Technology Studies, 26(2), https://doi.org/10.21061/jots.v26i2.a.8. 

Lewis, J. M. & Benson, D. E. (1998). Course evaluations. Tips for Teaching Introductory Sociology. Wadsworth.  

Meizlish, D.  & Kaplan, M. (2008) Valuing and evaluating teaching in academic hiring: A multidisciplinary, cross-institutional study, The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 489-512, DOI: 10.1080/00221546.2008.11772114

O’Neal, C., Meizlish, D. & Kaplan, M. (2007) Writing a statement of teaching philosophy for the academic job search. CRLT Occasional Papers: Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The University of Michigan. 

Yager, S. (2013). Writing a teaching philosophy statement, Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, [Video], retrieved from https://youtu.be/tbqS25mHCiM. 



What do bananas, Bonytail Chub, and teaching have in common? Prepare to get my take on life, the universe, and everything…

In my hastily written (and grammatically unsound) post on inclusion, I had two major regrets. The first was the aforementioned text level grammar (my only defense was that I did write it on a phone). The second was that the focus on the importance of inclusion and how it relates to title bias prevented me from talking about a related issue that fundamentally defines my personal world view: Diversity.

I love bananas. They are easy to eat, versatile to bake with, and potassium helps keep my blood pressure regulated naturally. Bananas also served as an important lesson in diversity. Currently, bananas are in danger of extinction. Even though most of the concern is recent, the situation has been long predicted because of the reliance on just a few varieties of the crop. Pre-1950 there were two main varieties in stores. Then Panama Disease devastated the then common Gros Michel variety, which made Cavendish the most likely banana you would purchase in the store today. The lack of diversity in the banana crop made it ripe for an extinction-level problem. There is now a real chance my breakfast of choice won’t be available for the next generation. Foresight into maintaining the diversity of the bananas, even if some of the varieties weren’t as “commercially ideal” as a cash crop, would have resulted in an easier solution to the possibility of extinction.

Bananas in a store (from Pexels image by Kio)
Breakfast is served… for now…

If you haven’t been keeping up on the amazing progress made in science in the last decade, you would be amazed (or horrified) at the godlike possibilities. The good news: those that worry about the human race ending in the next twenty years can take some consolation in the fact that we are a fairly inventive lot, and when push comes to shove can do some incredible things. The bad news: we really work best with templates, and as the banana issue shows, humanity often gets a failing grade in foresight.

Enter the Bonytail Chub, a cute fish native to the Colorado River system. Due to climate change and invasive species this little fellow (and many other native fish species) are also in danger of extinction like my beloved banana. Where the negatives of losing bananas are easy to digest, the negatives of losing the Bonytail Chub (and its many relatives) may not be as clear. Clarity is exactly the problem. Bonytail Chub’s live and thrive in muddy backwaters. Where many fish do best in clean fresh waters, the Bonytail Chub’s ability to live in less than ideal conditions make it unique. Remember how bananas wouldn’t be in their predicament if less ideal varieties had been maintained? With the very real (and aggravatingly rarely talked about) problems of dwindling freshwater supplies and water rights, having a species that contains the genetic puzzle pieces that allow it to thrive in poor water conditions could end up being what is required to save other species (moral questions of genetic manipulation aside).

Image of Bonytail Chub from FWS
Just look at the cute little face…

Bananas and Bonytail Chubs are just two examples showing the importance of diversity in the natural world. Diversity is just as critical in every other aspect of life, including one that most of you reading this might be more familiar with.

Teaching is not a zero-sum game. I spend quite a bit of time every week creating videos for my classes to explain the objectives for the week and recap issues from the previous week. I know from analytics that only a third of my students actually make use of these videos (even less if the videos are too long), but those that do have given me consistent feedback that the videos are a major help to them. In the same respect, some students respond well to written feedback and instructions, and others do best in group work settings. In thirteen years of teaching, I’ve learned that one lecture does not fit all. One assignment or delivery is not the end game. Everyone learns and excels in different ways, so trying to maintain a balance of approaches is important to success. In other words, educational diversity.

Over the last three years of writing on 6×6 I have often eluded to how one of the most important aspects of critical thinking is to be open to new ideas, my hope is that this post will explain my belief structure behind that advice. Simply put: diversity is the answer to almost every problem.

Educational diversity results in higher success rates for students.

Economic diversity fosters resilience during downturns.

Cultural diversity leads to a better more understanding society.

Biodiversity is key to the survival of the planet and the species that reside on it.

So next time you are sipping a cup of tea under a star-filled sky contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything appreciate the fact that there is probably more than one answer and more than one question, and that is a very healthy thing.

♫ Community College Dreamin’ ♪

My husband and I found ourselves at In-N-Out Burger last Saturday just before midnight. (We’re old-ish but we occasionally have late nights. Leave it alone.) In all the fun with friends that evening we forgot to eat. And that’s how we found ourselves watching the choreography of the burger-joint food preppers as we waited for “Guest # 29” to be called.

Yep, 11:18pm!

What we saw were employees of all backgrounds united by a crisp uniform and the task at hand – feed hungry (and maybe hangry) late-nighters. What struck me is the buoyant banter and the bounce in their steps. It was like watching a well-timed ballet as they bobbed and weaved around one another. One particular food server had a booming laugh that broke us up every time it peeled out. At that moment, I yelled to my husband, “This is why I love teaching at the community college!”

His puzzled look prompted me to explain. I believe the work of these employees was fueled in part by the dreams they hold for their lives (while making the best French fries in the universe). These workers were young and full of energy and striving. And that is exactly the clientele I have the privilege of teaching every day. I get to spend a good chunk of my life around people who are in the very business of pursuing their dreams.

My late-night In-N-Out epiphany led me to ask the students in my statistics courses to share their dreams with me this week. (I told them I was a “dream catcher” – yuk, yuk!) Their responses did not disappoint, as seen in this sample:

“I want to be a journalist, to learn from the world around me, and share that information with others. I want to make life better for the people around me.”

“I want to help my kids become respectful/successful adults.”

“I dream of the possibility for humans to live in peace with respect for nature.”

“I want to be able to give back to my parents. That is my biggest dream.”

“A dream I have for myself is to become a registered nurse, working in a hospital saving and improving lives.”

“Dream #2: Win the lottery. Not the entire lottery, just enough to pay off all my student loan debt!”

As their professor, I have dreams for them, too. In my courses, I hope my students will engage in learning that sticks. I want them to get slayed (in a good way) by ideas and get hooked into the pursuit of knowledge. I want them to be stunned by new information and come to understandings that help improve their lives. Yes, I dare to dream!

So, the dreams of both teacher and student are inextricably intertwined. I want students to learn things of value, and they want to achieve their life goals. At this intersection is the motivational concept of instrumentality. For students to deeply engage in learning, it helps when they can see the relevance of what they are learning to their own goals.

To tap into their sense of instrumentality for what they are learning in statistics, I also asked my students this week, “How is this statistics course supportive of your dreams?” Teachers of statistics know that this question is not without risk. (To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “That’s a pretty big matzah ball
hanging out there.”) But, their responses were consistently positive. In truth, most students mentioned that this course will help them meet their major requirements, and we discussed how this type of extrinsic motivation is the way of things sometimes. However, some students mentioned more intrinsic value for learning statistics:

“This class helps me not believe every number I see.”

“It gives me the ability to think for myself and question information I am given.”

“It helps me to see the realistic numbers with life and how things are calculated in the real world. So it helps me to open my eyes to new things.”

“This course is helping me figure out how I learn best.”

“This course provides a way of spotting false research. It makes me not take everything at face value.”

“Taking this course supports my dreams by keeping my brain healthy and active!”

How can it not be anyone’s dream to teach at the community college? To be around people day in and day out who are on the cusp of making their dreams a reality. I attended a teaching conference today, and one of the presenters said, “Education is often done to students, not with them.” Having explicit discussions about the dreams and how their courses are useful to them is definitely an example of the latter.

This post is part of the Write 6X6 challenge at Glendale Community College.

The post ♫ Community College Dreamin’ ♪ appeared first on My Love of Learning.

Tough Times Create Tough People


by Dr. Krysten Pampel and Dr. Ashley Nicoloff

In my life as an educator, I have been faced with many difficult situations that were hard for me to navigate. The one that has stuck with me the longest was when I was teaching high school. I had two brothers who were both taking my algebra course, one a freshman and the other a junior. The only day that they both attended my class was the first day of school, from there on out I only ever had one of the brothers. About two weeks into the school year, I approached the older brother to enquire why I only saw him every other day. He chose to be vague and blame illness and bad timing of a family emergency. I didn’t push but I watched for another two weeks as the brother continued their alternating attendance in my class. They were both doing reasonably well in my course and they weren’t hurting anyone but the situation bothered me.

I decided that enough was enough, I needed to get to the bottom of this unusual behavior. I approached the younger brother this time and asked about the unusual attendance pattern. The younger brother explained that they were alternating days to attend because they had two non-school aged siblings at home and their mother was working a second job. They had to alternate attendance in order to make sure that the siblings at home were cared for.

I was astounded that this was the reason but checked with the older brother the next day to confirm the story since I was unable to get the mother on the phone, understandably, in the previous weeks. The older brother asked me to keep this quiet and that he appreciated my willingness to work with him and his brother for the assignments and tests. He admitted to me that they had been doing this alternating attendance for the past two years and he was excited to have his brother in high school so it could work more effectively.

I explained to him that I could not keep our conversation a secret and I would speak with the social worker to see if there could be any support given. It was risking to bring in the social worker since in some cases the students flee the school as a way to avoid the conversations that follow. In this case, I was happy that everything worked out. The school was able to find support for the family so that the younger children could receive care, their mother could work, and both brothers could attend school regularly.

This was a difficult situation for me to navigate but those two brothers were the ones that had “difficult situations.” Those two brothers will forever be a reminder to me that “tough times create tough people.”

My Dream Classroom


As I read the prompt this week, I heard the Barenaked Ladies’ song singing to me, “When you dream, what do you dream about?” (I’ve embedded the song below if you need to get this ear-worm in your head.)

Not actual bare, naked ladies. I’ve taken the Title IV training.

My dream classroom is a little far-fetched, but for the sake of the dreamers who dream big dreams out there, here it is!

I teach Communication, so all of my classes have different components and styles of speaking, including Public Speaking and group presentations. One important lesson is adapting to the environment, in our case, the classroom that we’re assigned. This replicates many “real life” public speaking situations where the speaker may not have control over the room chosen for the speech: the keynote speaker didn’t chose the city, the hotel, or the Gray Cliffs conference room where the opening banquet (and speech) will take place, nor did the speaker get to pick the audio visual equipment provided by, or absent from, the venue.

In these ways, adapting to a classroom situation and speaking with the tools available in the conditions available become an important skill for budding speakers. However, one annoyance for me as a Com teacher is the disclaimers we have to make due to the classroom restrictions. Outside of academia, it is rare to speak to a group of people who are each sitting in a desk… in a room not designed for public speaking… at a specific duration of time. These are the challenges my dream classroom would overcome.

In my dream classroom, the room would be magically adaptable to any speaking situation. The classroom could become an auditorium, with theater style seating (and theater-quality projection systems, just for fun!) This would include a formal, raised stage as many presentations take place in environments such as this. Students would then get to practice filling a large space with projected volume OR how to navigate the complexities of using a microphone (handheld, attached to a podium, ominously clipped to a shirt and worn around prior to the actual speech… begging for a comical pre-speech gaff.) Students would learn how to enter and exit from a stage, literally stepping into the spotlight of the audience’s perception. They may have to navigate speaking while professionally lit, where one often cannot see the audience… yet should still appear to connect with them.

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The Stage in An Auditorium: the first speaking location in my magical classroom

But this classroom is magical. (And sure, theater has it’s own type of magic.) It would not only be a stage, because often times, speeches are not performed in such a formal, professional venue.

My magic classroom would also become a Board Room. In the fashion of many Board Rooms, this one would be long and narrow and have artful (yet totally distracting) windows. A Board Room creates new challenges. First, it is an awkward set-up. The long, skinny format means that people in the back are craning around people in the front. If the focus is not the center of the table (and let’s hope you’re not here to table dance), then everyone in the audience, except perhaps the chairperson sitting at the head of the table, must turn their chairs or heads to see the speaker. Board Rooms usually have some sort of audio and maybe even a visual outlet, but for most meetings, these go unused. Therefore, when tasked with turning on this state-of-the-art equipment, most attendees will be pretty helpless, and technical difficulties will arise.

The speaker/student would be tasked with navigating these challenges of a real-life speaking situation. Did the student contact the venue prior to the speech to ask about equipment and set-up? Did the student arrive early to get their presentation loaded (and to allow time for the receptionist to call Duane from IT to come in and figure out how to get this speaker’s portable projector linked to the network and turned on)? Once this technical portion of the speech is running, the speaker must then find ways to connect with an audience in a much more intimate space while also maintaining professionalism and likability. Oh, and landing that client with superb persuasive skills.

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The fist hit on a Google search for “Board Room”: fully equipped with a ridiculously long table, windows to weird portraits, and (probably rarely used) electronics

But my magic classroom wouldn’t be complete without being able to transform into a Banquet Hall. Many speeches occur at special occasions such as weddings, graduations, retirements, and a multitude of awards ceremonies. Usually there is food served at these events. Speaker are tasked with presenting the oral tribute while the audience is tasked with orally ingesting banquet-quality food.

Banquets are usually arranged around the meal. Therefore, tables are usually circular, pre-set with dinnerware, and large enough to accommodate 4-12 diners. Speakers are usually on a stage or dance floor. This set up forces some members of the audience to move their seats or their heads/mouths away from their meal to face the speaker while others are forced to chose between their meal and the speaker while others try to manage eating while listening/watching. Add in formal clothing, and you can see the recipe for potential disaster.

Speakers are competing over multiple distractions and must plan their speeches accordingly. Good speakers manage the distractions by being captivating, epic presenters but also by being aware of timing and appropriateness of the occasion.

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Speaking at a Banquet: usually a task less appetizing than the day-old rolls and generic baked chicken being served

My magic classroom would be able to transition seamlessly from one set-up to another. We could replicate any type of speaking situation students might be preparing for from presenting a sales pitch to a group of investors to leading military training at Boot Camp to being a guest reader at Dr. Seuss Week at your child’s elementary school. My classroom would magically change shape, location, accessibility of equipment, all with the push of a button… or a swish of the wand. Accio, magic classroom. (I had to try.)

But until my magic classroom manifests itself, I will continue to do my best to prepare students for the many challenges of “real-life” speaking situations to hopefully create more aware, diligent, and ready students.

So maybe… the magic of the classroom lies within those of us lucky enough to teach.

I’ve got the magic in me…. and so do you! 🙂

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