Archive of ‘Guest Posts’ category

Happy Professors Series: How to Find Teachable Moments in Everyday Life

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“Have you ever stopped yourself in the middle of the day to question what you are doing? I often think about how invigorating it is to really think about why we, as social creatures, choose to live our lives the way we do. Why have you chosen to take the actions or engaged in the behaviors that you did so far today? Or, why you are doing it all in the specific way that you’ve chosen?

Stopping ourselves and asking why we move through life the way we do is exciting to me; not only because it allows for increased mindfulness, but also because it helps us hone the skills of deeper critical analysis.

I question my own choices every day. For example, when I present an opinion about our socio-political environment, I might ask myself why I feel the way I do. Easy enough. But there is more. I then question what role the media has played, or what deeper issues I am interested in, and what relation my upbringing or socialization has with my own outlook on life. I’ll ask why I hold certain value systems or norms and social expectations. I use this type of questioning with my students all the time.

I have bright students, but I still constantly ask them why it is that they arrived at a certain conclusion or analytical framework. Not because they weren’t clear enough in their presentation of their argument, but because questioning gives way to learning. So many times, instructors (and human beings in general) take “good” answers for granted. We applaud them, agree or disagree, and move on. Perhaps even regurgitating what we have heard at another point in time. But stopping there makes us miss out on a critical opportunity.

A much deeper level of learning emerges when you stop and pry a bit more.  Do not take your sense of reality or your opinions for granted. Ask questions, like what schema or social lens are you using to view “reality” the way you do? Why is it that you chose to focus on certain aspects of the situation, rather than others? What does this say about your relationship with your larger social group, as well as your inner cognitive functions?

Perhaps more importantly, what assumptions are you making, even at an unconscious level, to move through the issue the way you do? You see, we often operate by a mindset that is on autopilot. What do I mean by this? We quickly put bits of pieces about our world or environment together so that we effectively and efficiently get about our day. This is usually done by our minds, without our realization.

Let’s take gender roles as an example. I teach sociology and social psychology, so I often deal with teaching and learning about gender and gender roles. Very often we hear words –aggressive, dainty, mechanic or nurse—and form a gendered opinion. What this tells me is that we take femininity and masculinity for granted. However, these are social constructions that we impose on people, based on their sex—their physiology. From the moment a baby is born, we constantly reinforce the duality of gender through blue or pink. Colors, whose symbolism we have come to attach to gender.

Similarly, I teach courses on the social construction of place. This might make my point a bit clearer—we often take the labels of places or boundaries for granted and simply feel that we are somewhere very real, but what is place, but the social construction of space? What makes this city different than the next?

These moments of reflection can sometimes feel like we are spiraling down a rabbit hole, and becoming more confused, but it also allows us to step outside of our implicit biases and assumptions and critically look at why we come to view the world the way we do. Bringing this out in others has led to deeper conversations and deeper connections. Additionally, it has led to clearer understanding of our social constructions and our social expectations. By deconstructing our world, our reality and our assumptions, we are left with bits and pieces that we can put together in new, innovative ways.

If we look to all our daily actions this way, we will soon realize that all of life is a teachable moment—not just those confined within classroom boundaries.”

~Dani, Sociology Instructor, Ph.D.

Happy Professors Series: Helping Students Gain Courage

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“I started my career in education as an English teacher in Japan. The experience was life changing for me. I previously had little desire to pursue a career in education, however my experience teaching – and learning from – my elementary and junior high school students has steered me toward my current profession. The thing which I most enjoy about teaching is seeing how a classroom setting gives students the courage to come out of their shells and express their opinions and feelings. I believe my most positive experience thus far has been seeing my students move from having a paralyzing fear of the English language to courageously tackling speech competitions.”

~ Allan, College Instructor and Instructional Designer

Happy Professors Series: 35 Years of Teaching, Traveling, and Pursuing Passions

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“I never planned to be a teacher. In fact, my mother (a teacher) steered me away from the profession. In college, my interest survey said I should be a catholic nun/teacher. I thought the survey was screwy – I wasn’t catholic and had no plans to be a teacher. After I finished my masters program I was asked to teach an accounting class at the local community college.  I knew almost immediately that I found my calling and never looked back.

Teaching is rewarding and SO MUCH FUN!  I’ve been teaching for 35 years – 34 years in the classroom and now all online. I love my time with the students and I love the flexibility teaching has given me to pursue my other passions – traveling and grandchildren.”

~ Connie
Department Chair and Accounting Instructor

A Historian’s Perspective: Where Have All the Classes Gone?

DSC_5912If you’re a teacher in elementary, middle, high school, or college, you may notice that the importance of certain classes often evolves with time.

And while change is often important, we may not always be aware of the potentially negative consequences that follow.

A few years ago, one of the schools I worked at was going to do away with required public speaking courses. I honestly didn’t understand why.

I may be biased, but I believe public speaking is one of the absolute best courses you can take at any age; it’s a class where you learn by doing, growing, and facing a fear that will help you over and over again throughout your life as you take on challenges, prepare for job interviews, ask for promotions, and even give wedding toasts. I can’t think of another class that prepares you better for becoming a confident, well-spoken leader in life, business, or any other career field.

Having said that, I’d like to share a new perspective.

As someone who isn’t familiar with what goes on behind the scenes in classes like Western Civilization, World Mythology, and other humanities and history courses, I was able to adopt an interesting new point of view from professor and author, Chris Berg.

It may not be the usual Happy Professor piece, but I believe it’s incredibly enlightening, so I hope you enjoy the kickoff to our Historian’s Perspective series!

Happy reading, everyone.

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In May 2012, an article appeared in the news magazine Perspectives in History, a publication of the American Historical Association, titled “The End of History Education in Elementary Schools?” where authors Bruce VanSledright, Kimberly Reddy, and Brie Walsh revealed that history, as a school subject, had nearly vanished from the curriculum.

The teaching of history had all but ended in most elementary schools across the country, according to survey research cited by VanSledright and colleagues.

Other school subjects are also slowly fading from the core curriculum and, in turn, the public eye, in spite of parents often vocalizing how important these subjects are to understanding the world around them and navigating the complexities of twenty-first-century life.

When did history and so many other important subjects become incompatible with this new vision of public education?

Why would a once formidable subject revered as the foundation of public school education in the United States since the late-nineteenth century be resigned to the fringes of the curriculum as an outcast, or worse, labeled irrelevant?

The fascination with STEM-related curricular objectives has come at a heavy cost—precipitous drops in student achievement and the marginalization of history and other school subjects.  The reinfusion of history and of the humanities in general, one can argue, is a necessary first step to restore equilibrium to public education.

Christopher Berg is a professor of history specializing in pre-modern World history and a historian of education interested in the historical development and dialogue surrounding history and social studies education since the late-nineteenth century.  The author of Small Island, Big History, a book examining British history through the lens of “empire” and “imperialism,” he is also a contributing author for Ancient History Encyclopedia, the global leader in ancient history content online and Historical Quest, a digital World history magazine based in Athens, Greece.

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For more information on the piece and research above, see below:

For a deeper discussion of these events, see Hazel Hertzberg’s Social Studies Reform, 1890-1980, Ronald Evans’ The Social Studies Wars: What Should We Teach the Children? and David Warren Saxe’s Social Studies in Schools: A History of the Early Years.  A book that offers a penetrating analysis of this debate within elementary schools is Anne-Lise Halvorsen’s A History of Elementary Social Studies: Romance and Reality.

The critics of progressive reform included several factions over and above the history academy and the best discussion on this is in Herbert Kliebard’s classic The Struggle for the American Curriculum, 1893-1958.

Hertzberg, Social Studies Reform, 1890-1980, xi.

To read more about this debate and its effects on history education, see Christopher Berg and Theodore Christou’s article, “History and the Public Good: American Historical Association Presidential Addresses and Initiatives and the Evolving Understanding of History Education” in the journal Curriculum History (in press).

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/dec/03/pisa-results-country-best-reading-maths-science

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-10-smartest-countries-based-on-math-and-science-2015-5

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-02-16/ranking-countries-by-the-worst-students

Happy Professors Series: Be the Change

DSC_5036“When I think of why I teach, my sentiments match Gandhi’s quote: “If you want to see a change, be the change.”

I do want to inspire my students to be lifelong, passionate learners and leaders for the purpose of changing our world to be a more humanitarian and loving place for all!  If I can reach and teach just one student to align with this passion and purpose, I have changed the world.”

~ Shari
Associate Instructor, TA trainer, and community volunteer

Happy Professors Series: Teaching Online, Breaking the Mold, and Leading By Example

DSC_3868 copy“I’ve honestly been thinking a lot about why I teach online at so many schools, and why I like it.  I’m in a unique situation because I’m also a military spouse, but the main reasons are that I like to challenge myself, and I need to set a good example and show my daughter that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

Lastly, I want to be able to pursue the college teaching career I started. There are so many smart and educated women (think JD’s, PhD’s, licensed counselors) who are army wives, and aren’t able to build a career when they’re moving every 2 years. I just refuse to do that, so I found a job that could accommodate me that’s in my line of expertise. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to keep building my career regardless of circumstance.”

~Erika
Online Instructor

Happy Professors Series: Thoughts on the Future of Online Teaching and Learning

DSC_5856“My first introduction to ‘distance learning’ was an Art History course I took in college. The format was straightforward. There were no classes, much less a virtual course classroom to login to, and you took a proctored midterm and final exam at the school library. A research paper was required and it was submitted via email. That was in the early 2000s and, much like Apple and Google technology, much has changed in the short time since.

The latest advancement in online learning management systems is Canvas. In Canvas, I can insert movies, link videos from YouTube, upload audible comments as feedback, and view Turnitin scores for plagiarism. The whole experience is geared to make online learning more engaging and meaningful for learners and instructors alike. As a former online student, I can attest to the dramatic changes in online learning and how it has facilitated a meteoric rise in enrollments in higher education. The schools recognize the importance and value online learning now offers and many campuses contain an independent ‘eLearning’ department.

I hope that students in the 21st century come to see this venue as a viable alternative to traditional college education, as online learning challenges traditional brick-and-mortar schools for supremacy. Online learning, as one social commentator recently observed, is the wave of the future. While that might be true, I argue that online learning is a force to be reckoned with in the here and now.”

Chris
Online Instructor
christopherberg.org

Happy Professors Series: Helping Others, California Travels, and Twenty-Something Opportunities

IMG_2163“I’ve been teaching part-time since my early twenties, and it really gave me the opportunity and the inspiration to explore other interests, like fashion, acting, traveling, getting an EdD, and starting a website. My favorite part about being an adjunct instructor has always been getting to know different students each semester, and hearing that I truly helped some of them improve their communication and public speaking skills. It’s an amazing feeling at the end of the semester to know that I played a role in helping someone get ahead in life.

I also love the flexibility of my job. I can take summers off when I want, and I’m able to travel to California on a regular basis and meet with friends for coffee in the middle of the day when I’m back at home.

I couldn’t ask for a better way to explore my twenties, while help others find their own potential.”

~Jesusa
Communication instructor, EdD student, entrepreneur

Happy Professors Series: My 20-Year Journey Engaging Students and Teachers with Technology

IMG_0150“I started out my career as a high school history teacher in the mid-1990’s. I loved teaching and trying new things – particularly the new technology tools we had available to us. They were pretty limited – word processing, PowerPoint, slowwwww Internet, and CD-ROM-based digital encyclopedias. Even though the tools were pretty rudimentary, I was inspired by the potential for enhancing teaching and learning with technology.

Over time, I was able to successfully pitch a new position – technology integration specialist. In this job my primary responsibility was to help teachers determine how they might use technologies in their teaching. It was a challenge, however, since these technologies were so new. I found it difficult to help teachers connect these new tools with their existing practice. This experience led me to want to work with preservice teachers – folks that were studying to become teachers. I entered graduate school and earned my doctorate in instructional technology.

For the last 15 years, I’ve worked with both novice and experienced teachers to determine how technology tools and resources can help to support, enhance, and extend teaching and learning. I really enjoy empowering my students to mindfully explore and evaluate technology so that they can determine whether and how they might incorporate technology in their teaching. I love that the tools and resources change and evolve each semester – providing constant variety and updating in my courses. I also love finding ways to engage my students in a constructively critical way as technologies become both more pervasive and divisive in our society.”

Mark, Ph.D.
Professor
Luminaris.link

Happy Professors Series: Helping Others, California Travels, and Twenty-Something Opportunities

DSC_5913“I’ve been teaching part-time since my early twenties, and it really gave me the opportunity and the inspiration to explore other interests, like fashion, acting, traveling, getting an EdD, and starting a website. My favorite part about being an adjunct instructor has always been getting to know different students each semester, and hearing that I truly helped some of them improve their communication and public speaking skills. It’s an amazing feeling at the end of the semester to know that I played a role in helping someone get ahead in life.

I also love the flexibility of my job. I can take summers off when I want, and I’m able to travel to California on a regular basis and meet with friends for coffee in the middle of the day when I’m back at home.

I couldn’t ask for a better way to explore my twenties, while help others find their own potential.”

~Jesusa
Communication instructor, EdD student, entrepreneur

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