Category Archives: leadership

All You do to Me is [TED] Talk, Talk

Not to brag, but I teach at three colleges. It’s a cold hard fact of the college professor lifestyle.  One is a traditional community college where I teach in the classroom.  Another is a non-profit liberal arts college operating mostly online.  My third and longest employer was a publicly traded for profit college that went into the hands of private for-profit investors in 2016.  I teach here in person and online.

I appreciate my varied teaching history for the simple reason that it provides ample evidence and example to test my beliefs as they relate to higher education.  Further, as I believe higher education’s delivery methods and purpose is experiencing rapid change, it may be best to keep many eggs in my basket.  Historically (a good critical thinking lens to employ), I know at least one will falter and one will flourish.  I take the same approach to financial investment – buy what you know but diversify as much as is reasonable.

I’m preparing for a July class at University of Phoenix (UOP), which means it’s time to dust off the syllabus and see what to cut and what to revise.  Certainly, more about spotting fake news is appropriate.

Related to that, I have been reading and re-reading this: the [ill] logic of climate denial and still crafting details to make it a classroom exercise rather than a lecture.  I’ve found the really important thinking parts of the class need to be discussed. I can test terminology knowledge and MLA formatting with little effort.  It’s the big points, mostly that your thinking is at the very least a “shared” phenomenon, I want them to analyze.

Each college schedules under a different philosophy. However, each of those philosophies embrace TED Talks!  UOP holds all undergraduate classes once per week, at night, for four hours, over five consecutive weeks. With twenty hours of class time to fill, my behavior is like a shark’s. I am in constant motion, seeking the signs of new content and relevant activities and useful discussion topics.  I just bought a thesaurus, thanks for asking.

This TED Talk video, linked below, is wonderful on many levels. I find it best to introduce at the end of week one (analysis of the state of our own thinking) or the start of week two (exploring ways of asking questions to uncover knowledge…aka the Socratic method…named for Dave Socrates).

First, it breaks the ice.  Giving people a video demonstrating how silly “other people’s” ideas are generates some laughs.

Second, it aligns with the learning outcomes of the course and the pace of the textbook reading.

Third, it let’s me introduce my personal biography and history with critical thinking.  The section on backward masking transported me to junior high, the early 80’s. I completed 4th-12th grade at an evangelical Christian school. I grew up learning the facts about the Bible and America that are on full display today at the highest levels of our government.  Backward masking was introduced as the means by which secular society influences behavior.  We mostly just found it funny, at times a bit scary.

I learned then that if you want someone to believe like you do, you must teach them. It rarely happens organically.  Yes, I do believe the best higher education is non-organic.  I might someday come to the conclusion that the best higher education is delivered by non-humans. I might even concede that it may be best to circumnavigate the person entirely, and just teach AI inspired devices directly.  But that’s a blog for another day.

Living as a human my entire life, the last decade paddling around in higher education, shaped my belief that teaching via processes like “childhood” and “school” generate behaviors and values we desire most consistently.  The everyday observations by a child regarding adult behavior, and the standardized lesson planning in education shape our beliefs, often to the detriment of other types of critical thinking evidence.

Media often gets the credit.  Media however, is the wall of your echo chamber, bouncing back what you’ve already put into the universe.  When it reaches your ear again, it sounds like confirmation. But it’s not…

It’s like this video I show in my critical thinking class.  When we are told what is “there”, lo and behold, we usually “see” it. And that is where critical thinking begins in earnest!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, leadership, metrics, training, Uncategorized, UOPX

The Horror & Freedom of Empty Space

If you find yourself in downtown Riverside, be sure to drop by the second floor of Riverside Library’s Main Branch – it’s right next door to The Historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.  And since this flash is space and place based, it occupies the future home of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry – let’s hope a battle does not flare up over the omitted Oxford Comma here…what fun we have with words about space, over time.

Or maybe it does not and will not. A few votes could wreck all that…

A vote (scroll to bottom to see how everyone voted, and where to send your comments) by two Riverside City Council members brought us to this day.  Fresh faced new member Chuck Conder took a gander and then took a “no way” vote.  Recently re-elected Jim Perry followed suite.  When I came across this display while enjoying story time with dozens of other parents and kids, I found the emptiness a suitable image for the state of things.

free your mind exhibit

It begs the question:  Is something empty really empty?  For instance, as the “new home” for the Library waits for one more “yes” vote from the city council, what sits in that empty lot?  What is it about an empty pedestal that sparks a thought?  Who is to say what belongs in the space?  And how much is too much?  What is the correct price tag?  Would your answer be at all contingent upon economic status, race, age, or interest?  Of course it would.  Each of us would probably put something different on that stand.  And we all would have solid reasons for doing so.  And frustration when anything but our vision appears before our eyes.

But that’s the horror of the empty space. While you study it, it studies you back.  Matches you glare for glare, each moment you try to keep the space a void, it’s power over you only grows stronger.  That empty space will follow you everywhere you go.  It will only relent when you replace it with something else.

On Tuesday Oct 3rd, the debate renews at Riverside City Council (links to agenda).  I will be there voicing my support for the $40 million investment in a community service that touches nearly every citizen in the city.  This is one of the few resources that categorically and apolitically support education and learning.  Let’s see if a city of 300,000 can muster the support.  I’m really not sure it can.

 

Some minutia for those who follow Riverside news –

 

For Riversiders -here is where to send messages of support for the new library

https://riversideca.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=563820&GUID=FB317AEC-6E8C-4441-B133-7AA035184589&Search=

council agenda 10-3

Then click “eComment” link near middle of screen. Next, SCROLL TO #31 (MAIN LIBRARY), select “SUPPORT” and add comments.

Here is the link to your own councilperson

http://www.riversideca.gov/council/

And here is what that page looks like. Each one has a link to email and phone.

riverside city council list

Here is how city council voted earlier this month. You can talk to any or all of them, not just “your guy” 😊

 

Mike Gardner – Yes – Mike responds fast. He corrected me on a mistake I made – he talks to people who agree and who disagree with him.

Andy Melendrez – Abstain. Rumor has it his property nearby is over 500 feet away, so he can vote on this if he wants. I tried to confirm this fact with his office. No response. My last four messages to his office went unanswered – two on measure Z and my two on this issue – so good luck. Side note, this is my councilperson and yours if you live in Ward 2.

Mike Soubirous – Yes. Another person who responds, even when you disagree with him.

Chuck Conder – No.  Appears to be a pretty strong no.

Chris MacArthur – Yes.

Jim Perry – No. But, he did respond within minutes of my message to him asking to reconsider. He says he is working on a solution.

Steve Adams – Newly appointed. Was the previous councilmember here as well. Hope he votes yes but I am not confident on that.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under economic development, higher education, leadership, literacy, things to do in riverside, Uncategorized, writing

Will You Be a First Responder to ITT Tech Students?

151030_0000

Teaching and college administration has been my calling for well over a decade. From 2005-2009, I fulfilled that passion at ITT Technical Institute. When I read the news today, that they were no more, my first thought was, “Good! This is long overdue.” It was quickly followed by, “What will happen to all those students?” I am going to put aside the analysis of all the bad things done under the banner of higher education while the colors of ITT Tech flew high upon the helm.  I am not going to think about the fortunes gained and lost by shareholders, employees, and taxpayers.  Today, I want to talk about that secondary concern…the students.

Now that the school is closed, where will these students finish their education?  As outlined, some will seek loan forgiveness, some will drop out, the rest will seek a new college. My hope is that most of them will find another college. My fear is that many that wish to finish somewhere else, will find that there is no room at the inn.  State and private schools have record numbers of applications and not enough seats to accept them.  A similar scenario for different reasons awaits them if they remain in the market driven college realm. Those systems have experienced significant slowdowns, with several meeting the same fate as ITT Tech, or operating as a much smaller college.

If you are like me, you look at that data and ask yourself – “What can I do about this?” My brief answer, in two parts:

  1. I will prepare myself to meet more students who have had a negative education experience, or hear more negative than positive these days regarding college overall. It is more than school closures – it is noticeable safety issues, degrees with few marketable skills, high debt, the list is truly without end. When I hear these issues in class, I will actively listen and not try to defend. I will facilitate understanding.
  2. I will support local movements that seek to meet with students and provide options to them. Even though these students are not “mine”, I am pledging my willingness to educate any one of these affected students. I will do so formally through my University, but also ask other education leaders in the region what can be done. I think about the RED teams that a city will dispatch to court an employer or secure a regulation that will facilitate solid job creation and economic development.

I choose these two actions because they are within my area of control. I proudly work as an associate professor at University of Phoenix. I have been active in causes supporting business and education for two decades in and around Riverside, CA.

One thing I teach first year students is that they need to assess their skills and abilities, then apply them to the problem at hand. I can imagine no better service to students than to follow my own advice and work tirelessly until I make a positive difference in their lives and help them reach their career and academic goals.

What will you do? #ITTTechstudents

Note – Bruce Baron and the San Bernardino Community College District are already doing great work, see the article here

 

Leave a comment

Filed under classroom management, college teaching, employment, higher education, leadership, training, Uncategorized

The Big Why

I teach freshman because I believe the first few classes in college set the tone and level of academic rigor for both the student and the thousands of people working in the college. I want to be someone that makes a difference in the lives of others. Their successful completion of their academic goals IS my purpose and why I wake up (almost) every day excited about what I will learn if I ask the right question.

Teachers, and I use the term broadly since teaching does not only happen in a four walled classroom, must keep why at the top of their vocabulary list. As we teach, we share our beliefs, opinions, upbringing and biases with our students. Accepting this is a good practice to incorporate into our mentoring and teaching opportunities.  We are products of our environment and our environment is not always neat and pretty. And that is great. Nature has purpose and order, but that purpose and order comes from a place that can be chaotic and dirty and hard to grasp without a larger focus. Our mission and our students’ goals provide that larger focus.

Don Quixote and Sancho with Cervantes watching

Don Quixote and Sancho with Cervantes watching

While building the foundations of an effective writing practice, I drill home the value of answering why.  Why are you writing this paper? Why are you taking this class? Why should your reader pay attention to the points you make? In my experience, fulfilling the why is more important than your actual point of view or argument. In writing, justification (the why) is what matters. You can say anything. But if you don’t bother to state why you believe something or how you developed a conclusion, you are wasting everyone’s time with your words.

In the academic or the personal lives we lead, helping those around us know the why of our decisions can build a movement people can support. Knowing why the chicken crossed the road is more important than knowing the type of chicken or GPS coordinates of the road.  College is about developing minds to incorporate a wide variety of opinions and facts and experiences. Those who work with students to create a positive First Year Experience do better when they take the time to know the why of their work. Isn’t that why we chose to be right here, right now, in the first place?

Leave a comment

Filed under college teaching, higher education, leadership

Look Down! You are Standing on Someone’s Shoulders

219

I’m in heavy training mode these last two weeks thanks to my full time faculty position with University of Phoenix. I get the pleasure of working with first year students to support their career and academic success. What I am learning is too large to put into a list…but I have dozens of PowerPoints and Word documents at my disposal!

What is clear, from all of these resources and the excellent Wiki page the faculty and staff have put together, is a structure that has been built over decades – and I get to stand on it and say – LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!  Hopefully I will do more than that. My hope is that I will be able to add a wall, or a floor, or even a curtain to a window of this amazing and ever changing structure.

What I see all to often in my professional career are folks who just never look down. Perhaps it is fear, perhaps it is hubris, perhaps just bad training or not enough hugs as a kid, these people forget their history and think they need to destroy or radically alter the city-scape they inherit in order to “leave their mark”.

In short, those people are wrong. We all know these people. We also know that they typically do not last. Their lack of vision and limited growth potential make them poorly equipped to do much useful for an organization. The employees we need to hire, train, value and care about are the ones that know they stand in greatness only because of the greatness of those who came before them. And they understand the obligation to continue that good work.

It is better to be part of something larger that will last for decades. Anyone can bring down those around them to stand tall for a minute, but the quicksand they spread all too far and wide will eventually bring them down as well. In parables from business, religion, history, or politics, our systems work best when built by caring hands who intend to grow what is in front of them and conserve it for the ones who will do the work when they are gone.

Leave a comment

Filed under career, higher education, leadership, management, training

Say Thank You

Say Thank You.

Leave a comment

Filed under career, employment, higher education, leadership, management