Tag Archives: college teaching

“FUR” Play Project, See the Last Night, Free

NOW

Facebook. Of all my thoughts on the subject, arts promotion and community engagement never came to mind. However…when I joined a poetry workshop managed through Facebook, it forced me to rethink what it was good for.  This single event caused me to “luckily” find great new art in my community –  I am from the Inland Empire, Inlandia, The IE, Inland SoCal – and, in the process, rediscover things I love about other people.  Which will not be easy for the next few years, so I need to find goodness to combat those awful gravitational waves emanating from Washington, DC until 2021.

“Fur” by Migdalia Cruz, did the trick. This surrealist adaptation (loosely, veeerry loosely) of “Beauty and the Beast” was a welcome cleanse for the surrealist experience of waking up November 9th 2016 in America.  Director Luis Hurtado has assembled a great cast of actors. Their use of space – this was a live reading but the voice talents of the actors obliterated that limitation – brings the audience right into the cage where most of the action takes place.  Watching three characters seeking happiness from another person, and doomed to be unsatisfied with these varying unrequited loves, mirrors the challenges in our community today. We desire, but we often ask the wrong person or object to satisfy that desire. The result is sadness in the real world.

Thank goodness for surrealism. It provides escape of limited duration. Enough to fill many purposes but one in particular. “Fur” will take you away from the dodgy exterior monolog we are being subjected to, and replaces that with honest and useful human drives – the desire to be desired. To be loved.

I loved this experience. And you can too. I will not spoil the ending but it is cathartic. Limited engagement means this show will be here again tonight (11/10/2016) at 7 PM at the Culver Center for the Arts, Riverside CA. FREE Admission! See updates at www.facebook.com/ucrlpp

Missed this but want to catch the next one? Catch Model Minority and Gold Mean Players here, 1/27 and 1/28, 2017.

THEN

Next up! You must have a next up. Otherwise, why get out of that nice bed you made?  Keep an eye out for the next installment:  March Air Field Museum.  Crawling out of planes, asking older people, “what was it like when you were a kid?”, and petting a stuffed dog at the “War Dawgs Exhibition” will be more low cost local fun.

 

#artsblock #UCRLLP #surreal #art #riverside #innovation #play #love #beauty

 

Now & Then is an occasional blog covering regional art and culture worth my time, and maybe yours too!

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Filed under art, happiness, theater or theatre, Uncategorized, writing

Will You Be a First Responder to ITT Tech Students?

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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

 

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

Using the Comma in Your Life

This is a link to an article I wrote for Inlandia Literary Journeys. Each Sunday’s Life section of the Press Enterprise features a different guest column.  This is from 3/13/2016.  Share, enjoy, and read other postings on the subject of writing here –

The Creative Pause, Larry Burns

 

 

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Filed under career, college teaching, critical thinking, UOPX, writing

How We Teach Students About Values

College campuses are getting a good deal of attention these days. In fact, we always have something to bemoan about our school systems. Why? One reason is because it is a generally shared experience. However, on close inspection, the education experience will vary for people based upon things that may not align with our values.

One of our values is enshrined in our Declaration of Independance: the “pursuit of Happiness”. The assumption is that this is our own happiness, but we often pursue the happiness of others. Sometimes this is good, such as when we help someone rise and they take us with them. Or we work under someone, help them be successful, then we get to have their job when they promote or move on.  Too often, we allow systems to impede that happiness. If we value the pursuit of happiness, we are obligated to remove as many obstacles as we can. Doing so benefits ourselves and others.

With the holidays at hand (some would argue that we have been in the holiday season since Halloween), and New Year’s nipping at its heels, it is natural and healthy to reflect on our schools. I would recommend this activity with a caveat – ignore your campus mission statement. Those will always align with your values.  Choose a bigger challenge; you are a seasoned professional and are up to the task.

I recently spoke with a student in an accelerated master’s program.  He loved his teachers and felt the peers in the class were great to work alongside.  However, when he signed up for his evening program, no one mentioned he would need to take day classes to fulfill his electives.  No small obstacle when your target market is working adults.  Now, did the college commit a lie of omission, or did the student selectively not hear that detail?  Reasonable people will disagree here.

Thank goodness we are not trying to solve THAT problem.  Instead, take this example and apply it to your school. Why? Because most of us cannot change the big things at our schools, but we can affect the little things.  How we communicate, what we communicate, and when we share all will either keep a student on track or contribute to his or her failure.   Whatever we pursue in our careers, it is usually in our interest to find ways to improve the path for others.  At the very least, we should not knowingly set traps for those who rely upon us to teach them from a place of truth.  We can do this, we can live this.

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Filed under college teaching, critical thinking, higher education, Uncategorized

Great TED Talk for Critical Thinking

I like to think of my classroom as a place for solid infotainment, to steal an idea from television news.  Students need new content to dissect and discuss constantly.  Like it or not, we live in a fast paced society, and that lifestyle has found its way into the classroom. Better to embrace it and adapt then to “fight the good fight” to the bitter end.  The fact is, students need teachers to look for many different ways to facilitate open communication and expose new college students to a wide range of ideas.

Which is why this talk comes in handy during week one.  Why People Believe Weird Things from @michaelshermer is the perfect antidote to the clock-watching and smartphone searching that begins in earnest as we start the fourth hour of class together.  It’s funny, moves from point to point with purpose, and uses so many cultural references (UFO’s, drugs, music, religion) that almost anyone can find a part to enjoy.  I particularly love the backward-masking section because in high school, we actually studied how to find all the hidden satanic messages in heavy metal 80’s rock.

The title gets people talking. Students come to understand the joke in the title…what we consider weird is usually a matter of perspective. What I think is normal; what you think is weird.  Five weeks of critical thinking will cure most of that illness.  A video that makes people laugh, makes people think, and provides dozens of discussion topics, is certainly worthy of any educator’s attention.

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Filed under belief, classroom management, college teaching, critical thinking

Let’s Get to Work

In the Introductory Course Sequence, my students and I face reality head on. We do not leave our families, our jobs, and our fears-hopes-dreams behind when we cross the threshold and enter the class environment. This is no day spa where we can forget our troubles and catch up with friends. It’s no cone of silence – our needy cell phones and responsibilities check in on us constantly.

Reality? Attending classes at night, before or after a full day of work, students tell me it feels like they’ve taken on a part-time job. For nearly every student in this situation, it is a job that only pays at the end of the project…if that project gets completed. Statistically, many don’t make it to payday. Who Doesn’t Make it? For our purposes, way too many.

Meaning? It means the environment matters. The way we construct and safeguard our class space – consider the technology we choose, to relatively sound-proof rooms, even the trashcan must be considered – creates the desired head-space so we can all think critically, write clearly, and plan effectively.

Those colleges that choose to be the best, to be the college of choice and not the college of last resort, will put a priority on productive space.  I’m saying the classroom environment is very much a work space.Let’s get to work is an apt phrase, precisely describing our space and collective attitude. A good work space seeks appropriate light (more natural=more better), places to stand and sit (and options to move seats and tables quickly) and cool air when it is hot/hot air when it is not.

Making good use of the clock counts big. Having more than enough activities and discussion topics and exercises shows respect for the work space. Students deserve engaging content.  Colleges must create and deliver on this requirement to survive.

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Filed under career, college teaching, higher education

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?

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Filed under college teaching, higher education, leadership