Inspired by Educated by Tara Westover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Reimagine Project Dares to Lead

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Interviewing Tour

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Re-Post: See You. See Me. See Possibility

We recently received the news that our former GCC President Dr. Velvie Green had passed away. She inspired me when I met her as a student at GCC. In 2018, I posted a cultural reflection/inspirational story connected to her on Write 6 x 6. I thought that it would be appropriate to re-post it here in honor of her.

Originally posted February 8th, 2018

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Dr. Velvie Green

My cultural reflection/inspirational story is connected to Dr. Velvie Green, the former President of Glendale Community College. I met her when I was a student at GCC. I was hanging around the Communication Department and Jim Reed, the Department Chair, was giving our newly appointed President a tour of the department. Jim came around the corner and said that he wanted to introduce me to her. When she came around the corner I saw an African American woman standing in front of me. I had a moment of pause. I looked at this stranger and felt like I was looking at my future physical self. I couldn’t tell you what I was expecting, but I could definitely tell you that I was not expecting her.

I recognized something in her that connected with me on a level I had never recognized before. I recognized possibility in something that I would have never considered without this encounter, the possibility that I could become a college president myself. I saw a cultural reflection of myself on campus and it inspired me. For years I pursued becoming a college president. My pursuit brought me to teaching and I fell in love with it and changed course.

That day motivates and inspires me daily. It really showcases the importance of cultural reflection on college campuses. That day is one of the things that motivates me to bring excellence into everything that I do, because someone out there may see themselves in me through my work. They may see me and they may be encouraged to be excellent in their career. They may see me and see the possibility of a career path that they would have never considered for themselves. They look at me and think to themselves if she can do it, I can do it too.

I encourage others to think of themselves in the same way. All it takes is someone seeing themselves represented, right in front of them to inspire and motivate them to greatness.  Each encounter that you have on this campus could make or break someone’s hopes, dreams, or desires. Be mindful of the fact that you matter to someone and that they are paying attention to what you say and do.

I don’t know Dr. Velvie Green personally. She doesn’t know the impact she has had on me. I hope that she will come across this one day, so she can read about the difference she has made in my life. I am thankful and grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her. It changed my life.

Inclusivity = Pronouns

 

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When I first started as Residential Faculty I kept encountering students who identified as transgender and they would let me know their preferred pronouns. When they approached me I gave off the appearance of knowing what they were talking about, but I had no clue. I have to admit that I felt a little ashamed not knowing, I consider myself to be a pretty woke person and I realized that I was clueless in this area. So what did I do? What any teacher would do, I educated myself on the subject and I realized there was even more that I didn’t know.

On my quest for education, I googled “What is transgender?” I found myself on the transgender FAQ page for GLAAD, an organization that centrally focuses on acceptance of the LGBTQ community. They not only explained what it means to be a transgender person, they also had headers like “What name and pronoun do I use?”, “How do I treat a transgender person with respect?”, “Why is transgender equality important?” How did I not know this? One thing that stuck out to me was the sentence where it mentioned the anxiety a transgender person could experience when they are associated with the birth name they do not identify with. After visiting the page, I visited other sources that would help me to understand my students even more. I went even further and attended a workshop at SMCC where the focus of one of the break out sessions was gender identity, expression, and the LGBTQ community.

One thing that is important to me is creating and cultivating a positive, constructive learning environment for EVERY student. I currently address students by their preferred name and pronoun of he/him/she/her/they/them. At the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s about the student and their experience in the classroom. I’ve been doing it ever since I started my journey into educating myself about transgender people years ago. On the first day of class, I ask my students to let me know if they have a preferred name/pronoun during roll or after class so that I can address them appropriately. Students do mention it during roll, or come up to me after class and let me know their preferred names/pronouns.

Now some real talk, it took me a moment to adjust. There have been moments in the first couple of weeks where I accidentally call my students their roster name or I get the pronouns wrong. There was a moment in one class when I did that and I talked with the student after class and apologized, and let them know that I didn’t mean any disrespect in that moment. Despite my mistakes, I think what matters most is that I’m trying and I’m continuing to learn and grow. I’m making an effort to create an environment where students feel like they matter and feel like they are included.

Inspiration From Kindergarten Through College

I am someone who is inspired by so many different things in life. I was recently inspired by the Netflix Series Cheer. In what way? Well, that’s another blog post for another day.

The two consistent things that have inspired me the most are my former teachers and my mentors. Some of these individuals have played the role of both the former teacher and the mentor.  Who I am today and the work that I do is representative of the key individuals who have crossed my path in education. Below you will find six lessons learned from teachers/mentors, that I apply in the classroom and my life.

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Kindergarten Teacher: The only thing that limits you is your imagination. I learned this when we had green eggs and ham in class. We read the book and my teacher made it a reality. My little mind was blown and the food was delicious!!!!

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4th Grade Teacher: No matter how behind you are, you can always catch up, you gotta work a little harder, but you can make it. I learned this when I transitioned from one school district that was lagging into another school district that was way ahead of where I was at. I caught up eventually, but it took a little bit of time.

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High School Theater Teacher: Go against the grain and take risks. My high school theater teacher always had us involved in work that was not typical for high school students. We did Shakespeare (A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream) and Greek tragedy (Antigone) and adult work like A Few Good Men and A Lion in Winter. The same attitude was also placed in our speech pieces since he was our speech and debate coach. I also learned that, no one is above or below anyone else. We were taught to respect each other as actors and tech people. Everyone contributed to building the set, the production of the play, and tearing down the set. No one was allowed to talk down to each other or treat anyone as less than because of their “status”.

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High School Multicultural Club Adviser: People are different, but there is so much that we could offer each other in this world if we would just take a moment to listen to each other and learn from each other. All we need to do is to get out of our own way. I am so thankful that I was a part of this club. In high school I learned about the importance of diversity and inclusivity. We also learned about the barriers of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. I had the opportunity to serve as the President of the club and as a counselor for our multicultural camp Rammietown. The experiences I had then, still impact me to this day.

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College Speech and Debate Coach/Mentor: The most successful people in life are those who combine talent with hard work. When I started speech and debate in college, I was not the most talented person. I lacked a lot of confidence and felt like I was pretty small compared to the big competitors on the team. Many came in with several titles and I had one. I was absolutely terrified in many of the practices I had my first year because I felt like I was  completely exposed and that everyone could see my weaknesses on the team. Despite my insecurities, I kept working hard, while those who were naturally talented, just coasted on their talent. I continued to get better and eventually surpassed some of them. I eventually became a multi national and international champion. I discovered that I had some talent, but what separated me from everyone else was how hard I worked. I never want to be wasted talent.

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College Professor/Mentor: Be excellent in everything that you do and how you live your life. I am a firm believer in excellence, it aligns with our campus value of quality. I try to strive for excellence in my personal and professional life. Like Oprah has said ” Excellence is the best deterrent to racism, sexism, etc.,” but it also brings me joy and pride. When people enjoy my work, I have joy and pride because I did my best work, and the end result is the most satisfying. My college professor is an embodiment of excellence. They taught me the importance of putting your best foot forward in everything that you do.

I have so many more that I could share. The list goes on and on. I’m sharing this because what we do in the classroom matters. As instructors we must never forget the impact that we have on our students. The list above shows the impact we can have on our students.

I’m a Tenured Professor!! Yassss!!!

IMG_1320     Last year, I posted a post entitled The Jump: Adjunct Faculty to Full Time Faculty. In the post, I talked about taking a leap of faith several years ago and pursuing a tenured professor position at a community college. I am so proud to announce that I have reached that goal. I’m a tenured communication professor for Glendale Community College in Arizona, the community college I went to after high school. The icing on the cake is that I was also elected to the position of Faculty Senate President-Elect (which means I’m on track to becoming Faculty Senate President). I’m thankful, grateful, and blessed. I would never have made it without my spiritual, personal, and professional support. I am here because I took that leap of faith.

The significance of my accomplishments is not lost on me. I have accomplished these goals at the age of 36, a relatively young age in my field. I’ve also accomplished these goals as a woman of color, and there aren’t a lot of us in these areas in higher education. I also made it here by overcoming some adversity, barriers, and other challenges, another reason why this is a significant time in my life.

Why am I saying all of this? I’m not saying it to brag, my hope is that I don’t come across that way. Bragging is not in my nature. I’m sharing this because I want others to feel motivated, inspired, and empowered. That is a part of my purpose in life. Here is my purpose statement if you are not familiar:

“I want to use my expertise and experiences to empower, motivate, and inspire faculty, staff, and students in higher education.”

I want people to look at me and feel like they can do whatever they are working towards in life, I want everyone to feel like they can not only do what I did, but to start envisioning how they can do even better. I encourage you to take the leap and strive for what you want to accomplish in life, the victory is oh so sweet when you accomplish what you have set out to do.

Two Prof’s in a Pod: How to Up Your EduCon Game Podcast

Beth and I are at it again with our podcast, Two Prof’s in a Pod.  A podcast that focuses on teaching, learning, and other stuff. For this episode, we recorded in Portland, Oregon at the POD (Professional and Organizational Developers) Network Conference. We focused on how you can up your educon game before, during, and after a conference. Hope you enjoy. =>)

#EndCCStigma

Do you know that April is community college month? You do now! I heart community colleges. As a former student, I started at a community college and I am currently a Professor at the community college I started at, Glendale Community College, AZ. Unfortunately, there is a community college stigma that bugs me to no end. Community Colleges are not lesser than, they are a stepping stone and there is a quality education at a community college.

     I teamed up with Steve Robinson to get this message across. Steve Robinson is the President of Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. He started an online movement known as #EndCCStigma, to address the issue of the stigma associated with community colleges. He created a podcast project to get his message out to more people. I am one of the people he interviewed for the project because of my passion and support for community colleges. Here is the teaser that was released on Sound Cloud. My voice is the first voice you hear in the soundbite.

     The podcast interviews have been released for the entire month of April. My interview #EndCCStigma Podcast Episode #1 is the first episode, and my interview starts around 16:20.

I am proud of my involvement in this project. I am an advocate for the community college because it is the place where I got my start and it is the main contributor to my success. I am also proud of the fact that I am now connected to another professional in higher education at a campus out of the state.

New Two Prof’s in a Pod Episode

      If you have been following me, you know that I am a co-host for a podcast called Two Prof’s in a Pod. Beth Eyres is my colleague and co-host. Our podcast is all about teaching, learning, and other stuff. We recently had a one-year anniversary party!

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We also launched Season 2 Episode 8  and it is called: Top 10 Ways to Wrap Up and Wind Down. Hope you enjoy!