Dear 17-year-old Irene

Silohouette of a person in a misty field

It’s August 9, 1982, and you, my younger self, are feeling pretty good! You are registered at C.K.S.S. for your grade 12 year. No more Christian High School! You have hated the majority of the last three years. That whole “you can’t take Economics, you have to take Home Economics” fiasco was the last straw. You have your schedule and you are truly excited about going to school. A fresh start with people who don’t suck.

Brace yourself. Seriously, sit down.

Mom and Dad have been praying. God doesn’t want you to go to a public school.

You, my younger self, have to be the first one in your family to graduate from the Christian Highschool. Yup, when your brothers and sisters when to the school, it didn’t go all the way to Grade 12. Now, it does.

Put that down, you like that thing. Breaking it will not make you feel better.  Pfft, you call that swearing? Honey, you are in for a treat! By 53, you will have an amazing repertoire of swear words at your disposal!

Now, I am going to tell you something you already know. Mom and Dad believe they are doing the right thing because they love you and  want the best for you. They are wrong, of course, but their hearts are in the right place.  Later, you will learn to smile and nod. Smiling and nodding and then still doing your own thing will be important in the future.

I am not going to tell you too much more. You are going to be angry for a long time. You are going to do a lot of stupid things. You are going to do a lot of smart things. You will regret none of them. They will make you who you are at 53 and you are amazing. I promise, you will laugh more than you will cry.

Just keep doing what you are doing now: learn everything. Read anything. You want to know something, go learn about it. Don’t let someone else decide what you are allowed to know.

Now, stop scowling. You are not going to change their minds. Just get out some paper and a pencil and use that “dangerous” mind of yours to get a jump-start on figuring out how you are going to skip out of 49% of your classes for the next school year.¬† You won’t get a detention.

This is not the best time of your life. It’s coming, trust me!

Love,  53-year-old Irene

This letter is in response to #oext259 Daily Extend.

Featured image: Photo by Rob Potter on Unsplash

Inspired: Art & Science of teaching

Montage credits listed in post

Is teaching an art or a science? This is the question of today’s Daily Extend. The challenge is to find an artist and a scientist that represents some part of your own personal practice. In this reflection, I give you Sarah Bernhardt, sculptor, and Katherine Johnson, mathematician.

Sarah Bernhardt

Sarah Bernhardt was a famous French actor. While pursuing a very public acting career, she also pursued sculpting. She studied both the craft and other disciplines such as anatomy (Moura, 2017).

She was attacked by the press and important sculptors of the time [such] as Rodin. It was said that she was pursuing an inappropriate activity. (Moura, 2017)

After the storm 1876
Photo from National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Connection to Teaching Practice

Certainly, in the college arena, professors come to the field of teaching by first studying and working in a particular career and then learning to teach. The challenge is to become equal skilled in your subject discipline and in teaching. The amount of time and effort that is expended in the pursuit of excellence in teaching is a personal decision.

On a personal note, I was intrigued by the fact that Bernhardt was criticized for sculpting as this was considered an “inappropriate activity.” I wonder why? Was it because she was female?

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was a computer for NASA. In the early 1950s, women were hired for the computing pool in the Guidance and Navigation Department of NASA to complete calculations (Loff, 2016). Johnson was the only woman moved from the pool to work directly with engineers. She verified calculations made by electronic computers for space flights in the 1960s (Loff, 2016).

Women were not allowed to attend meetings with the male engineers and scientists. Johnson wanted to go to these meetings to learn more about the projects, so she went. (Wild, 2016)

Connection to Teaching Practice

In Johnson, we find another example of the pursuit of learning on the job, and of understanding new problems and finding the solutions. This is also true for professors who must meet the challenges of a new cohort and changes in both their discipline and the field of teaching.

On a personal note, I smiled at the simple phrasing in Wild’s NASA article, “so she went.” Another example of a female who was not supposed to be doing something but did it anyways.

I don’t think of myself as an activist for woman’s rights. I have lived experiences of being female and faculty. I have been questioned about my credentials. I have been challenged about my right to develop materials and to lead workshops. I once had a male faculty member, when confronting me about working on a particular project, announce that he “didn’t think I knew anything” in front of 30 plus students. Timing and awareness of his audience was not his forte that day. In the stunned silence of his departure, a student turned to me and asked, “what does he think you are, a potted plant?”

Teaching, for me is both an art and a science that requires ongoing study, part pursued as a passion in spirit of Bernhardt and part pursued as a personal necessity in the spirit of Johnson. And later, I hope someone says “they didn’t think she should, but she wanted to, so she did.”

Resources:

Loff, S. (2016, February 25). Mathematician Katherine Johnson at work. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/mathematician-katherine-johnson-at-work

Moura, N. (2017).¬†Sarah Bernhardt ‚Äď The sculptor. Retrieved from¬†https://womennart.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/sarah-bernhardt-the-sculptor/

National Museum of Women in the Arts. (n.d.). Sarah Bernhardt. Retrieved from https://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/sarah-bernhardt

Wikipedia. (2018, August 4). Sarah Bernhardt.  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sarah_Bernhardt&oldid=853380849

Wild, F. (2016, December 30). Who is Katherine Johnson?  Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/who-is-katherine-johnson-5-8

Montage created with Photojoiner using Public Domain Images. Montage Photo Credits:

  • The death of Ophelia: Sotheby‚Äôs
  • Sarah Bernhardt:¬†Napoleon Sarony
  • Mercury Space Flight Network: NASA
  • Kathrine Johnson: NASA

100 days of Daily Extend

100 days ago, I started an adventure with Ontario Extend and created my first Daily Extend. This was the beginning of building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) as an educator in the post secondary arena in Ontario.

Here’s what happened:

Three pictures showing a growing number of connections

In case you are interested, here is my first tweet.

You are more than your work: General Education Course Requirements

"Our passion led us here" written on a sidewalk.

I submit that we create a problem for students with the language we use for General Education course requirements in the college arena. We call them Electives. The term Electives gives students the impression that these courses are optional, that they are not important and that these courses do not deserve the same attention as students’ vocational courses. Many faculty reinforce this idea with the way they think and speak about the place electives have in their program.

In the summer of 2016, I got curious about a specific group of students who didn’t graduate. I wondered how many students where in their final semester of a program, who had at least a grade point average of 3.0 out of 4 and were not eligible to graduate. There were more than I expected. And then I looked at why they were not eligible. Electives. The majority had failed, dropped or skipped an elective in their first three semesters and that was what prevented their graduation at the end of their final semester. Many had enrolled in an elective course in the Spring semester but it meant that these students would not be walking across the stage with their class in June. Our college had set targets for increasing retention for the year. Graduating this group of students would have exceeded our targets.

So how do we address this? I have three suggestions:

  1. Let’s stop calling these courses electives. These are General Education REQUIREMENTS – you need these to graduate. An addendum would be to also change other faculty conversations about the importance of these course to students.
  2. Let’s do a systematic check of students as Winter semester ends and suggest Spring semester options for catching up missing courses or a plan for picking up the additional course during the regular semesters.
  3. Let’s talk to students about the benefits of General Education requirements.

Today’s Daily Extend took me to ClassHook, and there I found this clip:

Dead Poet’s Society: What will be your verse

Mr. Keating emphasizes the¬†real-world applicability of words, language, and poetry. He¬†encourages his students to contemplate their life’s purpose. The human race is full of passion- poetry, beauty, romance and life: the things people stay alive for. “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

Let’s ask students about their passions, their life outside of work and the impact they wish to have. Let’s explore the options they have with General Education Courses and show them the possibilities for making their college experience unique. This discussion could come as part of a workshop, at faculty meetings during Orientation, or during one of their core courses in 1st semester.

If we can reframe electives, I believe we could both improve student experience and graduation rates.

Featured image: Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Reflecting on Experimenting

Reflecting is an important part of extending. I am finding that I am changing a little bit every day because of this process, because of being part of OntarioExtend. If I don’t occasionally look back, I could miss that. I am becoming a bit more open, through my experiences and through the ideas and perspectives of my ExtendWest my cohort and PLN. This experimenting and practicing out loud is becoming a habit.

My first Daily Extend, my first experiment in extending was on April 26, 2018. I have been extending for just over a month. In that time, I have done 42 daily extends. You can see my work on the Daily Extend Leaderboard. I am proud to say that, at the moment, I am in the Top 10 of all time Daily Extenders!

top ten

Through the Dailies, I have:

delfiero-brahmantya-565875-unsplash
“If I ask a student to take risks, I should too. In fact, I should go first.” Irene Stewart¬† ¬† ¬†*Photo by Delfiero Brahmantya on Unsplash
  • found creative common resources to share
  • learned to take some of my own photos creating some original content
  • wrote some poetry and a story
  • made a gif, a video, a meme, an infographic, a poster and a superhero
  • tried free and interesting online services

I also got over my fear of tweeting, found some fellow educators to connect with and have become a part of a community that extends beyond Ontario.

Some of the tools I used:

  • Snagit by Techsmith
  • YouTube with Advanced Search
  • Giphy
  • Marvel SuperHero Creator
  • Open Culture website
  • The Noun Project
  • Randomness Story Generator Widget
  • Imgflip Meme Generator
  • FlipGrid
  • Twitter

Not every experiment went well. Sometimes, I made spelling mistakes. Sometimes, I posted in the middle of the night and no one noticed. And while that is okay, it is nice when someone likes your tweet. My first gif was rough and looked a little odd. A couple of my pictures were out of focus. And while these things may or may not be noticeable, I don’t think I would change it because it is part of my process of learning and extending. I have the privilege of failing, nothing bad is going to happen.

bernard-hermant-665070-unsplash
“It is okay if I am not perfect, I can be a work in progress.” Irene Stewart¬† *Photo by Bernard Hermant on¬†Unsplash

I will keep experimenting through the Dailies and through the Extend Modules. It feels uncomfortable at times but that is part of extending, stretching and growing. But I will be aware what I have learned so far and work to improve my dailies, my extend activities and my blog. I will also look to be inspired by some of my experimenting to find ways to incorporate what I am doing here for myself to benefit my students and my institution.

If you have not yet tried the Daily Extend or any of the modules, I invite you to join us. It is unlike any other professional development opportunity you are likely to experience this summer!

Featured Image Photo by Rebecca Oliver on Unsplash

Imagine no student services

Erase your field Daily Extend #173 – imagine a world where a field you work in does not exist. I am a faculty member working in Student Services, the so-called non-academic side of post-secondary education. I say so-called because many student services have a definite academic role and focus such as library and tutoring services. I think I prefer out-of-class services, but no one asked me.

Imagine what our campuses would be like with no counselling services or library or tutoring or health services or accessibility services or financial aid or ….. it would be a lonely, bleak place, in my opinion. Often, it feels like student services are seen as nice to have, not need to have.

As it happens, yesterday we had a Tutoring Services staff meeting and we reviewed our purpose. In brief, at St. Clair College, we develop and maintain a credible and responsive system of tutoring that focuses on academic support to students through peer, walk-in and group services as well as resources and workshops to support independent learning; opportunities for tutors to build communication and employability skills while protecting their own academics; and providing accurate and timely information back to the institution as a whole to highlight trends in student’s needs and barriers to student success. Because I come from a business background, we talk about having three customers:

  1. Students – where our goals is independent learners, we are working out way out of a job with individuals students.
  2. Tutors – where our goal is to enhance skills and provide experiences that helps them get their future job without jeopardizing their education. (Think workplace that doesn’t care if you have two exams tomorrow.)
  3. The college as a whole – where we can identify student issues within the semester and try to identify solutions to barriers to success.

This last function of feeding information back to the college is a fascinating one. Let me explain. Because we linked tutoring services into our business enterprise system, we can track semester trends to historical trends. We can see when tutoring request unexpectedly spike and move to discover why. Sometimes it means adding a service such as targeted walk-in or facilitated study groups. Other times, we can identify a class or program issue. For example, a probe into a sudden spike in requests (more than 25% of a class) in one class lead to the realization that two co-curricular classes had gotten off sequence which was causing student confusion. It was fixed within that semester and tutoring requests dropped off and student success increased.

I believe student services is a need to have in post-secondary education and, my fellow faculty, if you have a change to be involved in that field – take it – you will learn about your students in new ways that will improve your teaching when you return to the classroom.

P.S. The featured image is my first attempt at a GIF using Gyazo and it is not very smooth. Trying out new things and not being perfect is part of practicing out loud so I am running with it!

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