Tag Archive for 9x9x25

When Did You First Want to Become a Teacher?

Earlier in the week, I asked my First Year Experience students, “When did you first want to become a _________ (their career choice)?” The responses proved wonderfully diverse. One student said “since I was like two or four,” and another called out an answer akin to “since last week.” The other answers fell somewhere in between.

When did you first want to become a teacher? The answer to this question matters. I’m not sure that someone who has possessed this dream since childhood is necessarily a better teacher than someone who didn’t decide until, say, graduate school. But the depth of the roots of self-identification do seem do appear to be significant. Deep roots uphold tall trees.

Some of you may have come to education later in your life, and that, of course, is perfectly acceptable. It just may have taken you a while to realize where you wanted to be in the world. It really is more a matter of intensity than time.

I’ve wanted to be a teacher since 4th grade, so that would have been about age nine. I didn’t share this dream with any of my peers at the time. Oh, no. Teachers were the enemy. It was way too uncool to want to be a teacher to tell anybody about it. I kept quiet, until, at least, high school.

4th grade really did change my life and set me on the path on which I still walk. And Mrs. Lynda Juencke (pronounced Yankee) was my first guide. She made learning fun. She made learning important. She made learning a source of personal pride. She taught me my multiplication tables, the wonders of geography (including how to memorize the capital of Iceland), and all of the presidents in order (up through Jimmy Carter, the prez at the time). This love of learning has never left me, and today, my successful days as an instructor are counted by those in which I manage to pass on this love to my students.

My personal (and, by extension, professional) Pedagogical Hall of Fame has many entries. Three more are worth mentioning here. Professor Alan Bernstein taught me how to think like a scholar, and, even more importantly, he was the one who finally convinced me that I was smart. This was no small undertaking, and I now strive to do the same with my students, for a strong sense of intelligence leads to a powerful self-efficacy.

Professor Donald Worster showed me that one can be a teacher and still change the world. Education is a powerful weapon in the fight against the many injustices of this world.

And, lastly, the character Robin Williams plays in Dead Poet’s Society inspired me to inspire others. Every once in a while, a teacher can brighten our souls. And every time I see this movie, or even a clip from it, I remember why I do what I do.

When did you first want to become a teacher? How deep are your roots? I know some of you are mighty oaks in the forest of education. Who planted your acorn, and who nourished your growth?


I wish I’d known then what I know now!

First, information for you: I talked to a friend who is a psychologist, and she says that the name of the disorder that I described in my 10/14/14 post is borderline personality disorder. There are no meds for this disorder, but with cognitive behavior therapy, people can have better relationships.

This brings me to my next post: graduate programs need to include information not only about content areas, but about teaching strategies and psychology (or social work) as well.

As with any job, there’s a lot of on-the-job learning that comes with being a community college instructor. Sure, I’d spent a lot of time in classrooms, observing instructors, getting to know what I liked and disliked, but I never took courses that taught me how to prepare a balanced, semester-long course. I never took a course that brought up issues like classroom civility. And I don’t think it’s just me: when I presented on the topic of classroom civility at a Winter Institute, I had a full house of instructors who were grappling with the same issue.

I feel pretty embarrassed about the classes I taught during my first few years. There was so much trial and error, and I’m afraid students got shortchanged as I learned to do my job..

Reading articles from journals like The Teaching Professor is helpful. Talking with colleagues and sharing solutions is helpful. But I think a class about 21st century classroom realities and fundamentals should be required for most graduate programs. I’d like to teach that class. I’d like to talk about

Planning a semester and planning one class.

Dealing with student issues: motivation, discipline, crises.

Avoiding burnout

Even with this class, there would still be plenty of on-the-job learning: times change, and this profession changes. But a solid foundation would be a great help for both instructors and students.

(As an aside, I think that our new faculty orientation covers this material, and I think that it’s a good thing. I wish that our adjunct received the same information.)

I guess that’s all for now. Have a great week.


Pushing a big, giant boulder up hill!

Two issues have collided as of late! At first glance, they may seem unrelated, but the more these events percolated in my thoughts, the more the connection became clear.  First, I had one of those ‘accidental’ teaching moments that became a very powerful moment.  A few weeks back, I was holding a ‘quiz review’ session for a class. I had previously given out a study guide for the students to complete to help them prepare. (Yes, they did ask if I would simply provide them with a guide, with answers and concepts included…NOT!!!!…but that’s a different topic) A few days later, we met for a quiz review session.  Being ‘early childhood me’, I had chosen to utilize a game setting for the review.  Digging back into my elementary teaching days, I pulled out the old ‘baseball game’. I had prepared questions that were worth a single, double or triple. Students divided up in teams, scorekeepers were chosen to sit at the white board.  Then, me, the umpire, set the rules….After going over the time allowed to answer and make clear that” the other team can’t steal,” I said that there was really only one other rule.  “While we play, you can sit anywhere in the room, except in a chair”.   This ‘rule’ was met with enthusiasm for sure. The students rearranged themselves, and we were off and playing. After several  minutes of playing (aka reviewing), students realized that they hadn’t scored too many points.  The  ‘triple question’ was harder to achieve than they thought. It was then, after an especially tough question was asked, I saw a student trying to ‘sneak’ some notes or words from their study guide to the ‘up to bat’ student…..and then things got hilarious! With a collective guilty look, I saw my students look over at me.

Then someone sheepishly asked,  “Wait-can we look at our notes?”, I responded by simply saying, “We have one rule: While we play, you can sit anywhere in the room except in a chair”.  Bedlam followed, the notes came out, the study guides (some complete and some not) came out.  From that point on, the game took on new life. Actually reviewing the material became the focus. Students helped each other, clarifications and new explanations were asked for and shared.  The results of the quiz were decent, but that wasn’t my ah-ha.  It was the process that had me thinking.

We talk a lot about critical thinking skills. This unexpected critical thinking lesson reminded me of how often we like to think that we’ve taught them how to do it….however, it’s the application that is so often missing!

The unrelated event had to do with a conversation I had with some colleagues in the field of early childhood. These good-hearted, hard-working folks oversee several early childhood programs that serve children daily. They are committed to increasing the quality of their programs. They support their teachers in the pursuit of certificates and degrees in ECE through scholarships and are receiving ‘coaching’ from a separate agency to improve daily practice to prepare for a quality assessment.   What troubled me was hearing that a blanket statement had been made in regards to ‘not being allowed’ to use Berenstein Bears or Dr. Seuss books in their preschools.   Now, I am not arguing that there aren’t thousands of quality and appropriate children’s books to use with children. I’m not even defending Dr. Seuss! (Some of his books are LONG and beyond a whole group of 16 -3 year olds to sit through during a circle time). But…..there are wonderful pages full of rhymes, nonsense, creativity and biblio-theraputic possibilities with the Berenstein Bears. What bothered me the most was that those teachers and caregivers were just ‘told’.  These professionals were not valued enough to talk about how to be discriminating when choosing children’s books. They weren’t exposed to a criteria for selecting appropriate children’s books for THEIR children,  children they work with each and every day.  No, they were simply told a rule.  No questioning assumptions, no problem-solving….. no opportunity to draw their own conclusions.  What scares me the most? If there is an expectation for educators to promote critical thinking in even our youngest children, then why can’t we model that with those that are working with them? Yes, I have a plan to bring this up to those that can help resolve, or at least reflect on it. Another reminder of our need to constantly collaborate.

Let me tell you,  I love my job…but sometimes I feel like I’m pushing a big, giant boulder up hill!


What Does “A Culture of Learning” Look Like?

I want you to describe for me the elements that are active in a college where there is a clear “culture of learning” among faculty. Ok, go ahead.

 (time passes and you think about the question above and even have some answers)

What are the expectations of the faculty about their role in learning about teaching and learning? How would faculty respond to, “Tell me what you do to improve your skills as an educator?” I imagine many would say I attend workshops. I imagine many would say I talk to my colleagues. I imagine some would say I attend conferences about teaching. I imagine a few might say I read books about teaching and learning.

How does the institution support the professional growth of the faculty? Well, we have workshops, day long workshops, we bring in some guest speakers. We have monies available to send faculty to conferences. We have yearly evaluations that include professional growth activities.

How to deans support the faculty when it comes to developing a group of faculty who are literate in current educational practices and skills. Do they share books about the profession with them? Do they recommend conferences to attend? Do they send them off to confer with colleagues at other institutions to share best practices with? Do they sit in front of each faculty member and ask, “What can I do to help you?”

Finally, what is the role of each faculty member in this culture of learning? How do they share the valuable things they discover as educators? What venues are available to them to share the ideas and what opportunities might they create to share them? Are they visibly supported to be innovative and experimental in their approach to the work they do?

What can we do for ourselves as professionals in the field of learning?
  • Attend a conference that is about teaching, not a particular subject.
  • Read a book about teaching and learning.
  • Watch a movie about teaching and learning.
  • Have a conversation longer than a few minutes about specific practices in the classroom or online.
  • Take a faculty member you admire out to lunch and ask them 100 questions about how and why they do what they do.
  • Call a faculty member from another college in the state and ask them about how they teach and what works for them.
  • And most importantly, share what you read or discovered with your colleagues.
  • Go visit a local college and just see who is there and what they think about teaching and learning. There are lots of faculty sitting in offices. Some busy, some not so.
  • Take an entire class period to ask students what they need and want when it comes to learning stuff. And make sure to ask them how they know those things are actually true.
  • Pick a portion of a book or a favorite quote about teaching and put it on your office wall. Make sure everyone who comes into your office reads it and shares their thoughts about it with you. No matter what.
Here is mine. words Now, I ask you if your classes have all these same elements? They should because they also should be surrounded by a culture of learning.

Week Whatever

Yes.
Thought it would never happen “BUT” I have BURNOUT!

It stems from too many pots in the fire. It sucks really. I enjoy everything I do. It’s just that too many things have been placed upon my plate.

Yes. I keep a calendar and follow pretty closely with what can be done and when. It just sometimes does not work out as it should. I think I just need another vacation to rest from the last vacation and then I’ll be on top of everything.

retro_robot_thinking_1600_clr_11439As many of you know, or maybe not, I am in the process of building two online classes for the Spring Semester. I actually LOVE doing this. The process of Story-boarding, Writing Syllabus, Calendars and Lectures stimulates my poor, feeble brain. It’s almost like a high for me. Am I a Geek or What?!

For the Storyboard aspect of design, I have chosen to pay a small monthly fee and utilize the great SpiderScribe (http://www.spiderscribe.net/). I really like how you can add to this with click and drag style. This can also be used to share with students and create group projects.

I know some of your eyes glaze over at the mention of technology and have some have even expressed this to me vehemently. I am told you do not need or would not use technology and you are tired of hearing about it. I think the words were, “Another post on technology. I can do without that. Give me something real to read”. If you are one of these persons, stop reading my posts now. My hopes are to continually add technology “stuff” in shape or form, somehow, some way, and for some use.

So let’s go back to the SpiderScribe (http://www.spiderscribe.net/). Even the name sounds cool. This site could be used to add text, files, images, maps, and calendars. It really has some great qualities.

For myself, as I have stated, I pay a small $5.00 a month fee to create maps on courses I work with. These keep me on target and I can show anyone at any time where I am in the process. This can be done by sharing or saving an image as I have here.

VGD 282

So now I have been distracted for a brief moment on my BURNOUT. This is probably best as I reflect on this feeling. Maybe I not really at that point. Maybe I just needed to write a little.
For this feeling of calmness I am grateful.
I thank you all for listening.