Contact person: Lynne Boele, Bulding 1, Room 105, Ocala Campus
Student-Faculty Forum on Learning - Student Survey Results by Lynne Boele
Let’s Get Physic-Al by Susan Cable
REACT: What Is It? by Vi Surmons
A Little Benighted Music by Ron Cooper
FAMEby Robin Seymour
Professional Development Activity Reviews
BEBOC (Big EyeBall On Campus) by Dave Hartley
Diary of a Visitation Marathon by Joe Zimmerman
Summer Fantasy Workshop: a “Reality” Hit by Lynne Boele
The Magic Carpet - What a Ride! by Sheila Evans
Interview with John Simpson by Joe Zimmerman
Student-Faculty Forum on Learning
Student Survey Results
by Lynne Boele, Teaching/Learning Institute
Last spring, on Groundhog Day, a group of more than 60 students, faculty, and administrators met to discuss issues of classroom learning, student success, orientation and advisement. The event, a.k.a. the Bagel Break (so-called for refreshments served during the activity), was hosted by Student Activities, Enrollment Services, and the Teaching/Learning Institute. In addition to questions fielded by a panel of students and faculty, the forum also invited written responses from students in the form of a brief survey.
After the forum, to gain a larger sampling, several faculty members surveyed their classes on student perceptions of learning, beneficial teaching strategies, and satisfaction with college services. Students wrote narrative comments in response to the six questions in the survey, which for some of the questions have been organized into categories indicated below. Following is a summary of the results from 179 student surveys, with numbers of student responses indicated in parentheses:
What kinds of assignments are most useful in helping you to learn?
Reading and questions assignments (44); research papers (41); group assignments (31); discussion (31); hands-on (29); study/review sheets (29); visuals (10). Receiving single digit responses for most useful assignments were testing/quizzes, projects, individual assignments, lecturing, outside the classroom activity, and teaching others.
Which teaching strategies seem to be most beneficial (e.g. lecture, groups, hands-on activities, student partners, research, etc.)?
Hands-on (122); lecture (75); group activities (63); student partners (39); research (35); audio-visual (11). Strategies receiving single-digit mention were class discussion, study sheets, classes with a variety of activities, student teaching, and homework. The varying responses indicate perhaps the diversity of learning styles; they also reveal that students don’t think much of homework, which received one vote!
Besides receiving a grade, how do you know you’re learning?
“If I retain it and use it” (42); “when my course skills improve (i.e. reading, painting, math)” (30); “Having a better understanding” (22); “When I can use the information I’ve learned in daily conversation” (22); “If I can relate it to everyday experiences” (21); “When I can teach others” (10). It’s interesting that three of the top five categories have to do with application of learning (“retain it and use it...use the information in daily conversation...relate it to everyday experiences”). Among other interesting comments: “If time flies during class” stands out.
Do you schedule yourself for classes or consult a counselor (or instructor)?
A surprising 107 students answered, “myself.” Next in frequency was “counselor and myself” (45), followed by “counselor” (26), and “instructor” (1).
What are some things instructors could do to help you succeed?
More communication/discussion between instructor and student (35); developing close relationship with students (i.e. conferences, open-door policy) (30); “make their own tests and review sheets” (22); vary teaching techniques (20); communicate on student’s level (17). Other responses included being flexible, having accurate syllabus and following it, basing grades on more than just test scores, being more challenging, and making class “more interesting” (gave no specific suggestions).
Is CFCC meeting your expectations? Explain.
Yes – 137; No – 12; Moderately – 27
Positive supporting statements include the following:
“I never felt so self-satisfied before, and I’m finally confident that I’m moving in a positive direction.”…“Instructors seem to want you to succeed.”…“In difficult classes the instructor is trying to keep up with the universities and not lower the bar.”…“My writing has greatly improved.“…“I enjoy the small classes, individual attention, and understanding faculty.“…“I’ve had instructors give me their home phone numbers and e-mail.”…“Wish it were a four year school.”… “Good atmosphere for learning.”… “Happy that you offer a wide variety of classes at different times. I also like the online classes.”
Critical comments, indicating a perceived need for changes include:
“More online classes.” “Wish the grading system was different (i.e. 2.5-3.5 instead of 2.0, 3.0).”… “Need more emphasis on levels of knowledge, less on letter grades.”… “Teaching staff is excellent, however administration leaves a lot to be desired. They lack communication skills...students get blamed for administration foul-ups.”… “Students are used as scapegoats.”… “Instructors need more supervision.”… “Need more resources available in the library and the search programs on the computers are very confusing.”… “Bad counseling, not enough classes (times and choices) and the ignorance/prejudices of certain teachers.”… “No Saturday classes.”… “Staff needs some serious development.”… “Falls short in the counseling department.”… “CFCC makes you take a lot of courses that do not prepare you for your particular job (i.e. Elementary Education). And most interesting and, perhaps, most misinformed of all: “Not all teachers are here to reach. Most are here for the money.” [!!]
While the negative comments sting, they also point to areas for improvement. And, considering the overall positive response to the questions, the college does seem to be meeting expectations for the majority of the students.
The student surveys summarized here are on file in the TLC for those interested in reviewing them. This year, probably in early spring, another student-faculty forum will meet. The planning groups involved invite your participation and welcome new questions to explore with students. Directions encourages responses to this survey
Thoughts to ponder...
"Scholarly teaching is what every one of us should be engaged in every day that we are in a classroom, in our office with students, tutoring, lecturing, conducting discussions, all the roles we play pedagogically. Our work as teachers should meet the highest scholarly standards of groundedness, of openness, of clarity, and complexity. But it is only when we step back and reflect systematically on the teaching we have done, and that systematic analysis and reflection leads to a recounting of what we’ve done, in a form that can be publicly reviewed and built upon by our peers, that we have moved from scholarly teaching to a scholarship of teaching.”
~ Lee Shulman, President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Let’s Get Physic-Al
by Susan Cable, Science
Word problems! They are the bane of many math students. Traditional physics texts concentrate almost entirely on developing the skills necessary to be able to solve word problems. However, much of the recent research in physics education shows that students who can work wonders solving these problems often do not fully grasp the underlying concepts. I find that students enter my physics classroom with many misconceptions about some very basic physics concepts. As many times as we discuss these ideas, when push comes to shove and the students are left on their own to decipher the answers to concept-type questions, invariably many fall back into old habits and give incorrect answers. What’s a teacher to do?
In scouting the recent research for new methods to use in the algebra-based physics courses PHY1053-1054 General Physics I and II, I found that most designs that concentrated on concepts definitely lacked in the area of developing problem solving skills. This would not do for our students, who are mainly concentrated in the pre-professional health related fields. Then I came across an entirely new approach that stresses underlying concepts and yet does not skimp on problem solving.
This modular approach was developed by a group of two-year and four-year college physics instructors with funding from the National Science Foundation. The lab is highly integrated into the course. Students begin an approach to a topic by making a written commitment to an idea based on some physics concept. (Here is where their misconceptions are laid bare!) Then they are allowed to explore the topic with lab activities. As the instructor, I am there only to guide them to correct conclusions, never to offer solutions myself. They begin to develop a model that they (supposedly) believe in more truly. The instructor facilitates class discussion, but the students are meant to come to many conclusions by themselves. Once the model, and the underlying mathematical structure, has been decided upon, students apply the equations to word problems. Many, many, many word problems! This approach is truly more learning-centered rather than teaching-centered.
This kind of drastic change in the curricular approach requires a great deal of time and effort to reorganize the curriculum and reintegrate the lab work. Thankfully, the TLI awarded me a mini-grant to do this. It allowed me to take the time to “do it right.” I am anxious to find out how the students will fare with taking both concept-type national diagnostic tests and developing problem solving skills. I will keep you posted!
REACT: What Is It?
by Vi Surmons, Communications
REACT, an acronym for Reading Across the Curriculum, is a column set up as an information system or idea forum for instructors to share concepts, strategies, names and/or descriptions of materials they use in teaching students to read and think critically. We invite you to send relevant information or a response to this column to Vi Surmons, Bldg. 4-101A, via inter-departmental mail, e-mail (email@example.com), or phone mail (854-2322, Ext. 1358).
For this first fall issue of Directions, I would just like to offer two book recommendations for your leisure-time (?) reading. (The second book is so powerful in its content that I am soliciting the names of you who would elect to discuss this subject of racial reparation as evidenced in the title of the book.)
1. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride. (The CFCC Reading Department uses this book in its Prep 2 Reading Classes.) The author makes an interesting presentation of content with chapters alternating between his own autobiography and his mother’s biography; this selection can be useful in discussions of cultural diversity as well as the other myriad social issues—such as child abuse, interracial relationships, religious prejudices—that concern present-day America. (During Summer 2000, Terms 3A and 3B, several students were so moved by the book that they passed it on to family members and friends. One student commented, “That book changed my life.”)
2. The Debt: What America Owes the Blacks by Randall Robinson. A thoughtful, provocative, insightful, educational, and philosophical work wherein the author implicitly challenges the reader to an evaluation of his (the author’s) argument as well as his or her own (the reader’s) position concerning racial reparation.
Note: If anyone wants to know the reading skills the State of Florida has determined to be essential for a college student’s academic success, be sure to look in the next REACT column, or you may call me at ext. 1358 prior to that time, and I will gladly send you a copy.
A Little Benighted Music
by Ron Cooper, Humanities & Social Sciences
We educators enjoy talking about our students. Sure, we like discussing the arcane points of our fields of study, but we love swapping stories about the classroom. And if there is anything we like talking about more than the joy our students bring us, it’s how much they annoy us. Perhaps our top gripes are how students look for the easy way out by perpetually asking “Do I need to know this for the test?” “Which is more important: the book or my notes?” Yet despite how hard we bite our tongues when asked for the fifth time that day, “Do we have to read the whole chapter?,” we know that we can’t really blame the students. Part of what we admire about them is the ability that so many of them have of juggling classes with children, several part-time jobs, failed marriages, and impatient landlords. Then there’s tuition, expensive textbooks, and murky career plans. So we don’t begrudge them too much their desperate search for algorithmically mindless and magical formulas to replace long hours of studying.
But there is no excuse for us. If there was ever a shameless pack of quick-fix mongers, we're it. You might think we faculty would be more circumspect. Education is supposed to make us experts at distinguishing Shinola from sham substances. Besides, most of us would say that we got through our undergraduate and graduate programs, not because of any gimmicks, but because of hard work, staying up all night reading and re-reading, writing and re-writing. But let a new instructional Veg-O-Matic flash by, and we lapse into credulity as easily as the city boy whose country cousins take him on a snipe hunt.1 Witness the wild success of the Mozart Effect.
The Mozart Effect craze has its roots in a modest report published in Nature in 1993. A team of researchers at the University of California at Irvine administered IQ tests to thirty-six college students immediately following listening either to Mozart, relaxation tapes, or nothing at all. (The test was one in which a sheet of paper is folded in certain ways and then cut. The subject must then determine the shape of the cut paper when it is unfolded.) The students scored eight to nine points better just after listening to Mozart than they scored just after the other two conditions. The researchers also found that the effect lasted only about ten minutes; that is, twenty minutes after listening to Mozart, the scores were the same as they were just after silence.
Frances Rauscher, the principle investigator in the project who now experiments on rats at the University of Wisconsin, has repeatedly tried to distance her work from the enthusiastic and often-outlandish claims purportedly based on her research. The loudest hawker is Don Campbell, whose The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit, published in 1997, helped him establish a cottage industry of selling his musical snake-oil in countless lectures, workshops, and infomercials. He even trademarked the phrase The Mozart Effect! Campbell’s ridiculous claims notwithstanding, the UC-Irvine experiment was extremely limited, and Rauscher et al were reserved concerning the slim conclusions that could be drawn. At best, they pointed out, the experiment indicates that some forms of music appear to have a short-term effect on IQ-style test performance.
The results tell us nothing about whether the effect is from Mozart’s music in particular, classical music in general, or whether the same or better results might follow from any sort of music. Is there a hint of elitism at work? Perhaps Mozart (the piece, by the way, was Sonata in D major for Two Pianos [K488]—far from his best work) makes you a little quicker, but maybe Howlin’ Wolf makes you really smart, and Hank Williams makes you a flat-out genius. Maybe piano music works for a little while, but banjos make you smart for a week, and maybe French horns make you stupid for the rest of your life. Besides, did the students who listened to Mozart really listen, or were they just in the room? Perhaps playing Mozart in the background increases your test performance (for a few minutes) but listening closely diminishes it.
If listening to Mozart could make you smarter, wouldn’t you think that Mozart himself must have been the smartest person who ever lived? After all, he is considered by most music scholars to be one of the two or three greatest composers of the Western world. He did indeed exhibit the traditional marks of genius, that is, extraordinary accomplishment at an early age. Several pieces that he composed at age six are still performed. He also apparently had the ability to compose entire works in his head before writing them down. So, he was a musical genius, but what else could he do? He showed no signs of mathematical, scientific, philosophical, or literary accomplishment. He was also an emotional wreck (probably manic-depressive) and almost always just a step away from debtor’s prison.
What about professional, classical musicians? Are they any smarter than average? I’m sure they’re nice folks, but they’re no smarter or dumber than the rest of us. Does this mean that there is an astronomical and illogical leap from the results of the UC-Irvine experiment to the view that infants benefit from listening to classical music? Yes. Will people continue to see a connection anyway? Of course.
It is my view that this instance of conclusion leaping is another example of what we might call “yuppie guilt.” (OK, “yuppie” is a little out of fashion now. Maybe “double income” guilt.) A few years ago we heard a lot about parents’ spending “quality time” with their children. Don’t worry that you and your spouse both work all day and see your children only an hour or two before bedtime, the thinking went. Just set aside a few special times during the week to read a book or play a game with your children, and those activities will make up for all those other hours. But researchers in childhood development, family therapy, and other fields have replied in the same way that they always have: nothing can replace the amount of time you spend with your child. Even being in the same room while your child plays alone is meaningful for him or her.
None of us want to think years later that we could have made our children smarter if we had only tried a little harder.2 When both parents work outside the home (and it’s even tougher, I’m sure, for single parents), it’s nigh impossible to find a minute to help your first grader with homework, much less put your toddler onto the rapid road to super smarts. Wouldn’t it be great if all I had to do were just stick in a Mozart CD by the crib? I can just picture my son at fourteen, graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, just in time to hop into his little rowboat and head over to Sweden to pick up his Nobel prize in physics, and saying in his commencement address, “This is for you, Dad, who had the good sense to play Eine kleine Nachtmusik for me as I finished off my Enfamil.”
Analogous to fearful parents, I think we instructors often show signs of professorial guilt. Our confidence in our abilities and dedication as instructors do not prevent us from torturing ourselves with worry that maybe we could do something more. Maybe we overlooked a great trick. Maybe years from now I’ll be confronted by a gun-wielding former student yelling, “Why didn’t you use the Piltdown Method? I didn’t learn diddly squat from you and now my life is a flaming disaster! All because you didn’t use the Piltdown Method! Studies have shown . . .studies have shown . . .!”
There is no magic potion, no philosopher’s stone for student success. Like anything else, good grades come easier for some people than for others. An approach that works well for most invariably hinders others. Of course we should be willing to try something new, but at the same time we should apply some critical scrutiny. Mozart will not make you smart. You will not learn Spanish by playing tapes while you sleep. No one has ever been abducted by space aliens. There is no Bigfoot. Oswald killed Kennedy. All by himself.
1 Snipe hunting is a Southern ruse in which the gullible victim is taken into the woods at night and told to sit holding a croker sack. His companions disappear into the deep woods, he is told, to flush out snipes. (A snipe is a fairly uncommon, quail-like bird.) The dupe is also told to make a clucking sound that will attract the snipes into the sack. The joke is that the sucker is left in the woods to realize that he’s been had and to find his embarrassed way home.
2 Besides the Mozart Effect, there are lots of misconceptions about early development. See John Bruer’s The Myth of the First Three Years (Free Press, 1999).
by Robin Seymour, Communications
In the future, you will be hearing about FAME! You may have heard FAME had a kick-off celebration on September 27, and wondered, “What is this?”
FAME is a new interdisciplinary mentoring project sponsored by the Teaching/Learning Center. The FAME committee members are Carol Blakeman, Lynne Boele, Susan Cable, Bob DuMond, June Jones, and Robin Seymour. The name is an acronym for FAculty MEntoring.” The project matches more experienced Central Florida Community College faculty members with new faculty. The goals of FAME include promoting faculty development and growth; providing information and ideas; and introducing new faculty to the campus culture.
CFCC is undergoing a tremendous transformation because many of the “more seasoned/experienced” (notice, I didn’t say “older”) faculty members are enrolled in DROP and will be retiring. Consequently, CFCC faces an influx of new faculty. This fall alone we have seventeen newly hired full-time faculty members. During the course of their academic careers they will probably have many mentors (both official and unofficial), but the FAME mentors will be significant introductory guides. They have committed themselves to helping new faculty by providing advice, support, and counsel. Please step forward and share your knowledge, expertise, and vision with FAME
Professional Development Activity Reviews
Molecular Visualization Mini-Grant
by Richard Pendarvis, Science
Richard received a Mini-Grant last spring for the software “Molecules 3D,” a molecular modeling software, for student use in the Skills Lab. According to Richard’s grant request, “Students often have difficulty with the abstract concepts of molecular geometry [because] they do not understand how molecular structure relates to molecular shape.” Following is a report on the success of the project:
The “Molecules 3D” software purchased under the grant was installed on the Skills Lab server in late spring.
Some student work was done by the CHM 1025 classes in spring 2000 and summer A 2000. Although I have more work to do on the student problem sets, I believe the results to date are good.
Since the error rate on molecular geometry test questions has been reduced significantly, I believe that the main objective, improvement in the way students visualize molecular structures, has been achieved.
Student perceptions of the software have been good as well. A scale of 1 to 5 (5 being excellent) was used in student surveys. Students gave the software an average of 4.1 in improving their understanding of molecular structure. Poorer marks, average 2.6, on improving their understanding of molecule polarity.
Polarity is one of the weaknesses of this and most other molecular modeling programs. The only software which does an adequate job with conveying polarity is Spartan. The problems with Spartan are (a) It has a very steep learning curve, and (b) At $900 per terminal, it is way out of our budget.
I will continue to implement Molecules 3D in more classes but I have been severely limited in the time required to construct the student materials.
Thank you for making this software available at our school.
The Evolution of Psychotherapy
by Irvin Brown, Humanities and Social Science
This Anaheim, CA conference, held May 24-30 was a truly historical one. Of particular interest to me was the coming together of leaders in the field of marriage and family therapy along with those who represent different approaches to individual psychotherapy. Through workshops, lectures and interactive sessions with family therapists like Cloe Madanes, Michael White, Salvador Minuchin and Jay Haley, and cognitive behavioral therapists like Aaron Beck, David Michenbaum and Albert Ellis, I was able to meet my objective of becoming knowledgeable of current exchanges between approaches. This was of immense benefit in integrating my own background in psychology and marriage and family therapy.
I expect all of my courses to be enriched by the experience, especially my General Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy courses. I plan to order selected tapes of conference events to share with students and colleagues at CFCC. I also have extensive notes to share.
Herbert Benson’s keynote address was especially enlightening in providing an update on the power of the “relaxation response” and the role of belief and spirituality in both physical and mental health. If there was any disappointment it would have to do with my desire for more on spirituality and on working with ethically diverse populations.
by Jean McCauley, Health Occupations
I attended this course on April 13-14 in Tampa. It provided a good review of many of the areas covered in my Masters in Health Administration course although not in as much detail. Many of the skills needed to supervise students are also critical when supervising employees, so there was a lot of overlap. A good portion of the course covered “work preferences” which were very similar to learning styles and leadership styles. The packet of information provided helped in organizing material presented. This course has helped peak my interest in management issues.
Tuition Reimbursement Program
by Lee Wilkerson, Counseling
In any large organization or institution, in which a diverse group of individuals need to interact and work together, conflict becomes inevitable. However, the way that conflict is managed can make the difference between a disorganized and stressful environment and a smoothly running, effective organization in which learning can take place. The course I recently completed in Mediation through the University of Florida Counselor Education Department provided me with information about principled negotiation, the mediation process, and how these concepts can be applied in working with co-workers and students. Through numerous role-play situations covering various types of conflict scenarios, I gained practical experience in conducting mediations and resolving conflict. During the course of the term, I had the opportunity to present a workshop on negotiation to the CFCC Peer Educators and hope to be available to present similar training to various on-campus groups on request.
Creating a Constructivist Curriculum and Classroom to Promote a Learner Centered Environment
by Jana Bernhardt, Counseling
This spring semester I completed a curriculum and instruction course as part of my doctoral studies at University of South Florida. Initially expecting the traditional “ho hum” approach to analyzing and developing higher education curriculum, I was pleasantly surprised by the content of the course and the information I have gained from it.
Dr. Arthur Shapiro, who developed the constructivist curriculum model and uses it extensively with both his undergraduate and graduate education students at the University of South Florida, taught the course.
The constructivist approach to curriculum development and classroom instruction is an approach that is congruent with the current instructional philosophy of creating a learning-centered community college. A significant part of the course was devoted to studying this curricular model and developing ways it could be implemented at our respective institutions.
The constructivist curricular model has design foundations rooted in several psychological and educational theories. The major theoretical foundation of this model is rooted in Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. This theory provides many useful insights into creating a culture for a constructivist curriculum and classroom.
The constructivist curriculum and classroom has several objectives:
These objectives are achieved in several ways.
- to meet emotional and safety needs of students;
- to meet social needs of students;
- to meet esteem needs of students;
- to meet cognitive needs of students.
Other Design Factors
An interesting strategy related to the motivational domain includes the use of small group assignments to respond to the following questions adapted from the Great Books Curriculum model regarding each reading the class is assigned.
These reading review assignments can be utilized at the beginning of the class period and can be limited to 15-20 minute discussion/review sessions that can lead into an instructor lecture.
Students are organized into groups and then asked to discuss/respond to:
As the groups attack the task, several motivational elements emerge. One norm is designed to increase the number of roles operating within the group. Each group member should have an assigned role or task upon a rotating basis: Group discussion facilitator, note taker, spokesperson. Another element that emerges is that students ACTUALLY DO THE ASSIGNED READING BEFORE COMING TO CLASS. Not to do so invites censure from other group members.
- What are the major points, assumptions, and beliefs? (of assigned reading)
- Are these points valid?
- How can we apply these to today’s circumstances? Do these relate to the world we live in today?
This individual and group analytical discussion provides students with the opportunity to interact, explore ideas, develop analysis and critical thinking skills, communication skills and interpersonal skills along with cognitive skills. Students become more actively involved in the learning process and take personal responsibility for their learning outcomes. This in turn helps to promote greater learning results on various levels and carry out the philosophy of creating a learner-centered learning environment which is problem-centered, discovery-based, experiential and is focused on both content and process.
by Sharilynn Horhota, Business
During the spring term, I took the course, Engineering Acoustics and Noise Control (EML 6934) at the University of Florida. Overall, I found the course an asset to my graduate education. Both theoretical and practical aspects of acoustics were discussed.
Since I had worked in acoustics for three years prior to moving to Florida, the course provided the opportunity to investigate the engineering principals governing the many acoustical tests I had performed. The course consisted of lectures, tests, a project and a final exam. The project required the design of an acoustical enclosure for a compressor to reduce the noise emitted to a specific level – an excellent learning experience!
My professor for this course, Dr. Niezrecki, was so impressive that I asked him if I could pursue a thesis with him. Thank you for providing the opportunity through the tuition reimbursement program to turn my graduate studies around!
College Teaching & Learning Conference
by Connie Tice, Communications
When I started to review this conference program, my first thought was: “Oh, no, it is going to be all technology and nothing will apply to speech.” Well, a great deal of the conference did focus on technology and how colleges are starting to encourage distance learning and development of instructional web pages and some of this technology has possible applications to speech. Several of the seminars have stimulated my thinking in regard to developing at least a web page for students in my speech classes.
Ruby Evans from Santa Fe Community College presented “Beyond Chalk and Talk in the Traditional Classroom.” Even though her seminar focused on a statistics course, I could see how having a web page for students to check assignments, the course syllabus, and hints for developing specific types of speeches could apply to my courses. My plan for the academic year of 2000-2001 is to develop a web page for the SPC2600 courses I will teach. Look out tech world, here I come!
Another seminar that caused me to “rethink” some of my teaching was presented by Gabe Keri from the University of Saint Francis, Indiana, entitled “Students’ Perceptions of Instructors’ Teaching Styles vs. Instructors’ Actual Instructional Styles.” This seminar focused on the question, do we as college teachers teach from our own learning styles or do we consider the student? Research presented during this seminar indicates that most students are now visual learners. This appears to me to mean that more visual presentations during lectures could facilitate more learning – PowerPoint presentations came to mind, or the development of a web page.
In addition to the seminars, the opportunity to spontaneously exchange ideas with colleagues from other states and countries was wonderful. Of course, the opportunity to actually get to talk with CFCC people was an added perk.
A personal and positive note concerning this conference: I am no longer terrified of technology – still a little frightened, but no longer terrified.
American Accounting Association Meeting
by Vern Allen, Business
On August 13-16, the AAA Distinguished International Visiting Professor Committee adopted the basic model utilized by CFCC to host Dr. Thomas Groot of the Netherlands at the annual meeting in Philadelphia. CFCC’s strategy of encouraging participation by surrounding schools and universities promoted the diversity of people and places sought by both the AAA and the international professors.
Particularly noteworthy sessions:
- “Great Ideas for Teaching: Sharing What Works” Accounting professors experience similar challenges whether at a major research university or a community college. Topics discussed varied from classroom assessment to techniques to web-based accounting courses.
- “Academic Performance of 2-Year Students in Upper Division AccountingPrograms” This focused on members of a panel comprised of university and 2-year college faculty exchanging their insights. Overall, 2-year students enjoy a success ratio comparable to native students. A well-oiled articulation process certainly enhances the probability of success.
Fall Semester Hours
8:00 – 4:30
Tuesday, 8:00 – 6:00
(Big EyeBall On Campus)
What the Eyeball Did This Summer
by Dave Hartley, Fine Arts
During the dress rehearsal for PROPOSALS last spring, one of my students had a seizure and collapsed onstage. It is good to report that he is now fine and on his way to USF Theatre Department this fall. Best news of all is that during this emergency situation, Security was on the spot with an ACCIDENT REPORT FORM for me before the ambulance left, AND someone from Security was on the phone early the next morning wondering why the form wasn’t in. Some folks win the efficiency award every time.
School has been suspended for the next two years while we all try to fill out the latest form required by Student Activities. They want all students who have any knowledge of your program, their middle names, and grandparents social security numbers. What is education compared to this kind of data collection?
Lynne Boele is the latest to acquire the PNR position…Paid Not to Retire.
While on campus this summer, I paid a tribute visit to the new entrance of Building One. As I started to approach this long-term construction project (are you old enough to remember when they started this…back when elevators were raised by ropes and mules and needed operators) I was again disappointed. The elevator was finished, and the doors now are accessible, but the stairway was being replaced. Isn’t it nice to have some consistent, dependable things in our lives, besides airport construction and I-75 repair?
The opportunity to re-name roads and buildings on campus to bring us unity is too good to miss. Would naming all the buildings the same thing do that? “Just turn left at the PATRIOT building, and go to the PATRIOT building.” I feel more unified already….
A few beginning suggestions to help win that dinner at Bella Luna:
Benedict Arnold Institute of Criminal Justice
The Mad Anthony Wayne Nursing Center
Boston Tea Party Cafeteria
Molly Pitcher Girl’s softball field
Paul Revere school of Equine Science
Cherry Tree Day Care Center (Would
these kids lie to you?)
The Mel Gibson /Francis Marion Drive
Ben Franklin Senior Institute
Lafayette Language Lab
Alexander Hamilton Parking Lot next to the Foundation (little money joke there)
There have got to be more…c’mon history folks, send me some more!
Bunker Hill speed bump
“Wee the People” restrooms
Minutemen Department for Student Attentiveness
The possibilities are endless both for ourselves and our posterity….
Go by and cheer on the activities of the ladies in the Payroll Department. I do. They put out the only form at CFCC that I really want to see…my paycheck.
Administrators times 3 months of summer equals 10,000 new forms and procedures, and 180 new committees. Thank goodness they go on vacation too.
The VP “Kool and the Gang” group was impressive. Now, if we can get THAT kind of movement from administrators during the school year…
Following the sexual harassment and diversity sessions I now refer to my neutered male cat as a “gender challenged feline American.” CFCC...where learning never ends.
I was out walking in my neighborhood this morning when I saw the sign proclaiming HEAVY PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC. OK, OK, I’ll work on my diet…
How’s that again?
Sign in auditorium lobby: “This lobby is for the sole use of patrons of the arts and invited guests.” Beneath it, courtesy of counseling, another banner proclaiming “Yo! Welcome Students.” Maybe we are sending mixed messages?
Loved the great lunch at the Celebration during preschool. I figured we’d be having “Chick” Filet.
Lunch Bunch: Favorite Topic
Join us in the TLC for Lunch–n–Fun with:
Oct. 25 – Steve Smith
Nov. 20 – Glenn Heflin
Dec. 01 – Ron Cooper
Diary of a Visitation Marathon
by Joe Zimmerman, Communications
Friday 9/15 Receive e-mail from TLC. Subject: “Classroom Visitations.” Maybe this would be a good idea. Maybe I am not the best instructor in the universe as I often think. Maybe I could actually improve my teaching by visiting some classes. The e-mail is from Sandy Pell. She is the one who likes bad puns. She challenges faculty to sign up to visit classes. “Michelle Wirt has signed up for seven classes!” Sandy writes. Yes. But Michelle will have to settle for the silver medal. I decide to go for the gold.
Monday 9/17 Building 19. I say hello to Bob DuMond. Before class, he takes me to the Tissue Culture Proliferation Lab. He shows me magnified spores on a leaf through a microscope. I see rows of baby food jars on shelves. Bob takes one in his hand and looks gently at the tender plants inside. “These will go to the greenhouse soon,” Bob assures them.
We walk into a classroom with a dozen white drafting tables for desks. I take a seat in the back. Note to self: ask Bob where he buys his shirts. Today Bob is explaining the major nutrients of fertilizer: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. He uses PowerPoint on a TV monitor attached to the ceiling. He passes out empty fertilizer bags and explains the three big numbers on the front. My bag says 6-6-6. I learn that this is a ‘balanced” fertilizer. I learn this is a “complete” fertilizer. I learn there is 6 percent of the three nutrients in the bag. Bob is excited. This is important stuff. Plants need the right nutrients to grow. Bob knows the background of each horticulture student—some study turf, some study master gardening. Others will start greenhouses or run lawn services. He applies the lecture to their individual needs. They add their knowledge to the lecture, and ask questions. Bob likes this. The class takes a break and I thank Bob for letting me visit. Note to self: Fertilize lawn this weekend.
I finish teaching my classes. Which class should I visit next? I look at the green list. I see Harold Jaye’s name and wonder if he is as funny in class as he is in faculty meetings. “Industrial Revolution”—that sounds interesting. I walk under the plaza trees and into Building 8. This hallway is a freezer. I say “Hello” to Harold and take a seat in the back. Harold passes out essays. “Most of you did a good job on these,” he says. Now I am listening to the structure of the French government during the French Revolution. “These people were truly dedicated to the idea of a just society.” He pronounces the French words in French. “Never underestimate the power of idealism,” he advises the class. He discusses Napoleon. The students busy themselves taking notes. Dr. Jaye is extremely knowledgeable. He is also extremely funny. Even when he is not trying to be funny, he’s funny. Even when he thinks he’s being funny, but he’s not—that’s funny, too. Note to self: Be more knowledgeable and funny.
Tuesday 9/18 After coffee in my office, I drive to Building 19 to observe a nursing class. I wait around outside Sally Thompson’s class. As the tired students dribble in, I look at all the pictures in the hallway. There are many inspiring posters about nursing. “A nurse is there at birth, a nurse is there at death.” I think about quitting teaching and becoming a nurse. As I wait, I look at the green list again. Sally’s topic for the day is “testicular self-exam.” Hmmm.
Two heartbeats later I am sitting in the back of Jan Livingston’s class. I feel safe. I am looking at the backs of twenty five or thirty people who are all twenty-five or thirty years old. A student is giving a presentation on the proper way to give a baby a sponge bath. “Babies that still have a umbilical stump or still healing from a circumcision should not be immersed in water,” she says. She uses a doll that is very lifelike. It’s a new baby color. Its head flops. Its arms dangle. “Bath time is a special time for mother and child,” says the student. “It’s an important time that you can bond with your baby so make sure you take the phone off the hook and turn off the television.” The student carefully caresses the baby with the sponge. “Make sure you wipe the neck. It can get crusty under the chin.” The student is finished bathing the baby. She puts the baby in a white hooded towel. He looks like a little boxer. Note to self: Call urologist about vasectomy.
The future nurses clap and Jan takes over. The students respect Jan. Today she is discussing Gestational Age Assessment. This is important stuff; if a baby is SGA (small for gestational age) the baby might not be healthy. If it is LGA (large for gestational age) there might be a problem, too. So many bad things can happen to babies. But Jan is happy and confident. She is holding one of the babies under her elbow as she directs the class through the assessment form used at Munroe on the overhead. Now she is pointing to the baby’s feet. Now she is flipping its ear. Now she is cautioning the students about soft tissue swelling and pointing to the back of the baby’s head. She asks questions. She expects intelligent answers. She knows how to coax a precise answer out of a vague one. She asks questions that refer back to previous material. Note to self: Be more happy and confident. Don’t forget to call urologist.
Wednesday 9/20 After coffee, I cross in front of the tall columns of the Fine Arts Auditorium. In the breezeway are students smoking cigarettes. I find room 104. I tiptoe through the back door. I am now in Robin Seymour’s College Prep Reading class. Twenty-five young students are looking over an exam. They are tired but attentive. Robin’s voice rings through the room. Her voice is compassionate and assured. She walks around like an actor in a Shakespeare play, dramatically lifting her arms and announcing the correct answers. She then quietly explains why the wrong answers are wrong. She wants her students to read well. She expects them to work hard. Note to self; use dramatic gestures. Expect more from every student. I thank Robin for letting me observe her class.
I wander up the stairs and down the hallway. There are student paintings on the wall. I am on my way to observe a painting class. Jack Thursby. The man. The artist. I walk into the studio. Inside a dozen students are standing at their easels. One strokes. One stares. Another ponders. They are concentrating too much on their canvases to notice me. One is washing a brush at the sink. The room smells like turpentine. There are spotlights on the ceiling. There are lockers on the wall. There is creativity in the air. Jack is helping a student. Jack’s eyes are clear and deep. His beard is silver and well kept. His head shines. Jack wears a long, white smock splashed with oil paint. He quietly helps one of the students with her sky. “Let’s try this shade,” he says. The words come from his mouth like soft wind on autumn leaves. The student watches intently. She is in her fifties. She has one hand on her hip. My eyes wander around the room. I see a human skeleton taking a nap on a wide shelf. “That’s Charlie,” Jack says with a smile. There are other things on the wall: a horse skull, a turtle shell, various animal vertebrae, feathers. Jack is now with a young student whose hair is as black as a crow. He has a stud in his eyebrow. Jack likes the negative space in his painting. On the wall is a colorful poster that tells How To Be An Artist: “Stay loose… Learn to watch snails… Swing as high as you can on a swingset… Invite someone dangerous to tea… Take lots of naps... Give money away... Open up… Dive in.” I look around the room. I see the students working intently. I smell the oil tubes. My eyes get misty. I want to be an artist. I want to be a painter. I want to invite someone dangerous to tea. Note to self: Be patient and encouraging. Speak softly.
Thursday 9/21 After my morning classes I decide to drive out to Citrus County. That’s a long way. But I seek the answer to these questions: Is Lynne Boele as positive and energetic in the classroom as she is during those General Faculty Meetings? Am I ahead of Michelle Wirt in the visitation race? Paddock Mall disappears in my rear view mirror. My stomach grumbles. This marathon is making me hungry. I pull into Maui Teriyaki for a chicken bowl. This will only take a minute…Rice, carrots, cauliflower. Yum. Yum…. Where has the time gone? I open the door to my car. I pause. I’m sure Lynne is as positive and energetic in class. I’m confident I am leading the race. I drive back to the main campus.
I lost my green list and need to go to Building 1 for another copy. I walk through the new entrance and beside the new elevator. I turn the corner. Such a wide hallway. Such pretty fish. I see Bob Dumond staring into a computer as I enter the TLC. He sees me and asks if I have any questions about nitrogen, phosphorous or potassium. He tells me he followed up his class on Monday by taking his students outside today to figure out how many pounds of fertilizer to put on different areas of grass. Note to self: Ask Bob wear he buys his ties. I walk past the information desk on my way out. A professional looking middle aged woman is coming through the door. She asks me where she can find the Teaching Learning Center. “Go down this wide hallway until you smell the warm scent of eucalyptus,” I tell her. “Then turn left.”
I teach my classes. I need to visit more. I look at my green list. I could probably go to Ron Cooper’s class. He is discussing Sexual Morality. He must know a lot about this subject. Maybe I should go to Jean McCauley’s class for a massage. Maybe I could learn how to upgrade my computer in Sally Douglass’ class. I could visit Steve Smith’s class. He teaches calculus. That sounds hard. I must have math anxiety.
I walk past a family of tall cabbage palms. I swish through wet grass. I wander into the Cosmetology building. The optimistic odor of people getting groomed fills the air. Delores Hunt says hello with a big smile. In a wide classroom, twenty well styled heads are discussing hair. The class has assembled to share their research of older textbooks and slide shows on cosmetology. Delores runs an energetic discussion after each one. Lots of students participate. She is their leader. I learn that the purpose of hair is “protection” and “adornment.” One student discusses the book Beautiful Business. “We stylists must learn to look like success, feel like success and behave like success.” Delores already knows this. Everything about her says success. “No matter how good our styling skills, we must always pay attention to people skills,” Delores says. “We are a service industry, and there are many service industries. The difference is that ours requires the human touch.” Note to self: be nicer to your hair dresser. Delores discusses the difference between advertising and marketing. She asks a few students how they will market their salons when they are finished with their class work: “To the elderly,” says one. “To families,” says another. “My salon is going to be multicultural,” says the one in a teal smock. I excuse myself from the group. Note to self: Look in the mirror more often. Look successful. Come back for a haircut soon. Be human.
Friday 9/22 My marathon is almost over. I drink lots of water. I try not to sweat. Bob DuMond calls me on the phone. He tells me about his online horticulture classes. I wonder if he is wearing a cool shirt and tie. I type in the password and take a look. So many colorful pictures. So many plants. So many Latin phrases I bookmark the course. I pledge to learn them all later. I walk over to Building 2 to visit a physics class. I flunked physics in high school. Maybe I am going to make up for my past. Maybe I am going to learn what “light” really is. Maybe I just want to see Susan Cable in action. Inside the lab, Susan is looking at her grade book in front of the class. The lab has eight tables with groups of students surrounding each one. The students are quiet and reflective. Susan welcomes me with a smile. A scientist smile. It is a happy smile, but it also says ‘I know something you don’t.’ Susan, you know lots of things I don’t. We walk around to see what the groups are doing. I greet a few familiar faces at the first table. “We are playing with large ball bearings,” one young man says. I’m not exactly sure how to answer this so I drift to the next table. The students are looking at a long strip of paper with small dents down the middle. “This is where the ball hit when it slid off the table each time,” I’m told. “Why are you doing this?” I ask. “We are trying to find a relationship between horizontal and vertical velocity,” one tells me. “As it relates to gravity,” Susan chimes in with her scientist smile. I try to look like I know what all this means. I try to put a scientist smile on my face. No one buys it. I wander around the lab. I look at all the glass cases. They are filled with cool physics instruments—dials, meters, generators. The students are still trying to figure out the lab assignment. Susan drifts from table to table. She helps them just enough to keep them thinking. “What are you planning to study?” I ask the students at the next table. Most are in pre-health professions. One is in engineering. Another is studying sports medicine. Class is over. Note to self: you deserved the F in high school physics. Note to Self: e-mail all these instructors and tell them what a positive experience I had in their classes. E-mail TLC and thank them for getting this whole project together.
I drive home Friday afternoon. I have 6-6-6 fertilizer in the trunk. I am humming the national anthem. I smile. I won the gold medal.
Summer Fantasy Workshop:
A “Reality” Hit
by Lynne Boele, Teaching/Learning Institute
This past summer a group of 17 faculty, full-timers and adjuncts, seized upon the invitation to spend three and a half days developing a project of their choice to enhance student learning. The TLC provided assistance for these customized workshops in the form of equipment, software, tutorial classes and individualized instruction. Participants were further pampered with breakfast, lunches, and a stipend in a relaxed “summer theme” environment. In addition to the obvious benefits to instruction, faculty enjoyed the collegiality of learning new techniques, sharing and swapping ideas with their peers.
Projects developed to stimulate student learning and interest included the following:
--Our survey says…
- A QuickBooks Practice Set designed by Vern Allen to teach students how to implement and practice this accounting program;
- Implementation of a “modular approach” to the algebra-based General Physics course in which students practice science by developing and evaluating their own models (CFCC has been designated a test site for this program with Susan Cable selected from amongst college physics professors nationwide to study this approach);
- Development by Bob DuMond of a web page, accessible through the CFCC home page, of the 50 most popular plants for Central Florida landscapes, which includes pictures and descriptions of each, website to be maintained by the horticultural students;
- A series of PowerPoint lessons illustrating the history of law enforcement created by Art Chete for a new course to be offered this fall, entitled Theory and Practice in Law Enforcement;
- Multimedia materials developed by Pat Fleming, including video segments on health benefits and equipment available through the new Wellness Center, to be used in the Wellness classes and for student orientation;
- A Health Occupations Web Page created by Linda Smith and John Gosford with links to individual program pages such as Practical Nursing and EMS, which feature events, course syllabi, assignments, and links to professional journals, internet resources, and LINCC;
- Enhancement of image editing skills by Lori Spring Kielty including practice with Adobe PhotoShop and DreamWeaver for her multimedia and on-line courses
- Organization of PowerPoint, video, and transparency materials into unified lessons for the Physical Therapist Assistant classes by Dee Kornetti;
- More PowerPoint lessons for Biology and the Human Experience by Jim Mahood, integrating diagrams, animations, transparencies, and video clips;
- Coordination of materials by Amy Mangan into PowerPoint lessons including video clips, buttons for classical music and other animation techniques to make the World History II course more dynamic and interactive for students;
- Organization and development of transparencies and slides for lectures series on sacred geometry and spirituality by Scott Olsen;
- PowerPoint slides for VARK (Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, Kinesthetic) learning style presentation to classes and faculty groups by Robin Seymour;
- Incorporation of video clips and other materials into PowerPoint lessons for Head and Neck Anatomy by Deanna Stentiford;
- Development of PowerPoint presentation by Dee Underwood for recruiting student groups to the new Hospitality and Tourism degree program;
- Exploration of issues relating to the Interdisciplinary Studies course by Michele Wirt, including plans for a future interdisciplinary conference, strategies to recruit new students to the course and methods to promote active learning;
- Creation of an on-line supplement for traditional classroom courses by Joe Zimmerman, including web page with links to lecture outlines, PowerPoint lessons, bulletin board discussion topics, and other features to encourage student preparation for class.
With projects completed and minds bursting with potential applications, all participants were asked to evaluate aspects of the workshop, such as usefulness, overall quality, strengths and suggestions for improvements. The workshop received all-around high ratings from the participants, whose biggest request was to schedule more opportunities. Here is a sampling of the survey:
What were the strengths of the workshop?
What could be improved/added?
- Time to work on project with resource personnel nearby as needed
- Sharing and camaraderie with fantastic people
- Patience of the facilitators
- Individual workshops to upgrade existing skills and develop new skills
- Good food!
- Lots of interaction and one-on-one personal attention
- Some type of accountability, such as a self-rating form to evaluate whether the outcome of the project met the goal set
- More sharing time prior to presentations
- Participants could focus more specifically on individual goals prior to the workshop
- Offer the workshop twice a year!
The Magic Carpet - What a Ride!
by Sheila Evans, Librarian
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, in the Building of 3, there was a decree read for a Large New Project. The last Large New Project in the Building of 3 happened 8 or 9 eons ago. People who were in the forest then still remember that Project and will only shake their heads sadly when it is retold around the twilight campfires. It is called “The Last Time” and it is a story best forgotten, they say. No one challenges their wisdom. So, when the newest Large New Project was decreed, there was much distress and gnashing of teeth. Every little thing in the Building of 3 was going to move--back and forth, hither and yon, rocking from side to side. All for the beautiful new Blueberry carpet. That was the plan. And after the Summer Solstice, or a little before, the moving began.
The gnomes, fairies, wizards, lumberjacks and leprechauns who inhabited the ground floor of the Building of 3 continued to serve all weary travelers who ventured through the portals or made plaintive distress calls. As they worked ceaselessly, the moves continued. Heaps came and heaps went. Old flooring vanished and new flooring appeared. Chaos reigned but finally, after two full lunar cycles, Order asserted itself once more. As Peace began to fall, however, there was heard a low whimpering from high above. Everyone listened. Oh no, the princesses on the second floor were in distress! This was a job for Gnome One.
Carefully, Gnome One climbed the steep stairs and peered around the columns desperately hoping to see the favorite three sitting sweetly on their velvet cushions, playing with their books, like they always do - but alas! The princesses were walking, marching, stomping back and forth. Frowns on their faces, scowls on their brows. It was serious.
“What’s wrong?” ventured Gnome One.
“What’s wrong?” howled the Hysterical Princess. “Everything, that’s all! The Great Morelock and his Clan have declared all things in the Building of 3 must be moved. ALL things means our lovely, beautiful books. How can we move our beautiful books? THEY DON’T LIKE TO BE MOVED,” she screamed. “They like to be read, and placed on beach blankets and kept in satchels.”
“Oh, we have so many,” wailed the Mathematical Princess. “I’ve counted them, like I always do. Today we have 64,792 books, and they weigh nearly a full pound apiece. How can we ever move 30 tons of wood pulp?”
The Logical Princess chirped, “We can’t put them all in one place, and yet they must stay in order together. If we put them all in one corner, they will crash through the ceiling. Staying together and moving apart. Such a complicated puzzle,” she lamented.
The sounds of tragedy. The sounds of confusion. The sounds of the three princesses. Gnome One retreated in haste to inform the others. It was decision time, time for heroism and time for magic. And so the alarms went out. Come soon and bring help! We are in dire straits! Hurry, come quickly, the princesses are sobbing!
Within seconds, a great white steed with two dashing riders was seen in the distance. The steed was charging from the direction of the Magic Circle. No inhabitant of the Building of 3 had ever ventured beyond the Magic Circle and few had ever even seen it, but all had heard tales of the great castle builders and dragon slayers who lived on the far side. Was it possible these two distinctive knights in shining whites were from the legendary world where dwelt the Building of 10? Everyone waited and within milliseconds, the two riders arrived, jumped from their steed and with casual grace, introduced themselves. They were Sir A and Sir J. Their home was beyond the Magic Circle.
With chivalric swagger they prepared to enter the Building of 3 when suddenly an enormous bird with beady eyes swooped down in front of them, blocking their path. Sir A and Sir J smiled with secret understanding. The bird screeched “Stackmover at the Swamp” Stackmover at the Swamp” and flew off. Sir A and Sir J announced to all “We are leaving, but we shall return. Don’t despair. The problem is solved.” The gnomes, fairies, wizards, lumberjacks, leprechauns and princesses were despondent, but as the Great Morelock has said time after time “This Project will get done, eventually.” They must have faith. And so they did.
Before nightfall, Sir A and Sir J returned from the Land of the ‘Gators with a monstrous metal machine named the Stackmover. All they needed now was luck and six of the strongest, bravest men in the kingdom. The call was sent. “Yo Marvin, Curtis, Richard, John, Jim and Bill. Library. The Building of 3. Now.” The valiant knights arrived with pleasant smiles of determination. After downing a few Dunkin Donuts they pledged on their honor to move every single library book, twice, and to be finished in eleven days. In the world of LibraryLand, this feat had often been attempted but never accomplished. The inhabitants of the Building of 3 looked on in awe and closed the portals to the public.
The Stackmover was magical and large and had chains on it. After saying a few secret words, Sir A and Sir J assembled it like a cage around the bookshelves. Another few secret words were spoken and they sounded like, “Got it A?” “Yeah, on your side J” and the bookshelves levitated with hydraulics. The knights gently rolled each bookshelf around the room. The little Penn men laid Blueberry carpet in every nook and cranny. The books chuckled. They decided not to slide backwards off the shelves and flatten any of the knights, although everyone knew they could. They decided not to fall forward and create a domino effect and crash thousands of books to the floor. They decided to stand tall and never collapse in a pile. All such disasters had happened before in LibraryLand. But the books failed to do any of these things and that is because they understood. When surrounded by shining knights, a magical Stackmover and all good intentions, its very hard to be cross.
For eleven days the books moved like ballet dancers in figure eights across the carpet. They moved into the sunshine or into the shadows but they stayed together. The brave knights were cheered on with chants of “Way to go, guys!” Finally with skill, relief and weariness, it was done. The Large New Project was finished on time. The impossible had happened and the Great Morelock was right once again. The old was out, the new was in. The supremely successful valiant knights mounted their steed and rode into the sunset on a Sunday evening and promised to return again, if needed, in 6 or 7 eons. The elated princesses returned to their velvet cushions on the beautiful Blueberry carpet and played with their books. The inhabitants of the Building of 3 reopened the portals and continue to serve weary travelers. And if you don’t believe my tale of heroism and success, just come on by. The Blueberry carpet is looking good, smelling sweetly and in every corner, even under all 65,000 books. It’s magical.
Sheila Evans – Librarian, Wife, Grandmom and Princess
Interview with John Simpson
by Joe Zimmerman, Communications
The grizzled, bespectacled face of John Simpson has been a familiar one to instructors and students on this campus for many years. John teaches English in the Communications Department. Born in Mississippi, he received his B.A. from the University of Southern Mississippi and his M.A. from the University of Arkansas.
Happy to be here.
I’d like to talk to you about teaching college prep. Is there a certain approach you use, a philosophy you go by, to teach these students?
I use the same philosophy in college prep as I do in all my classes, really. I consider what has to be taught, what standards have to be met, and what kind of students are coming through the door.
It always surprises me how many beginning CFCC students need to take a college prep math or English course.
It’s between 40 and 50 percent, whish is standard for most community colleges.
Is the college prep student…different?
Well, generally speaking, the college prep student has not learned the behaviors that produce the behaviors that produce college work.
So do you teach that? I mean, you teach college prep writing—correct grammar, sentence and paragraph form. But do you also have to somehow teach college prep…behavior?
Yes. There’s no doubt about it. If you have the attitude “I have prepared my lesson plan but somebody sent me the wrong students”…if you stay with that attitude, the class is going to have an awful lot of failures. You have to consider the nature of the students.
So how do you teach them to succeed at the college level?
I try to show that student small levels of success. The long run is what you look forward to rather than any one particular negative grade on an assignment… You have a particular negative grade on an assignment...You have to have some compassion, but at the same time I don't honor bad behavior. If they’re absent a lot, I stick to my guidelines—I drop them. If they continue to be late, I get on their case. Show them they can make decisions that help them.
I’ve seen you teach class. You walk around the room, keep everybody involved. You’re a leader, a stand-up comic, a preacher, a motivator …
I’m a dictator. [laughs] In college prep classes, you have to combine your knowledge of the subject with making them believe they can eventually succeed…at least in small portions….For some of these students—when you consider their personal lives--they have the odds against them…
Well, sometimes a student can’t make it because their car breaks down and they don’t have transportation. Sometimes the students are parents and need to stay home with a sick child. Some of them work full time. For some of them English is a second or third language. Others were very poor students in high school.
I taught a few college prep classes in the past, and I remember them being very draining. I just got exhausted. How do you maintain your energy level?
How do you stay… up?
Triage. Who is salvageable and who isn’t. You have to be realistic and concentrate energy on the people who put forth effort. I won’t say I single out say eight students in a class—I try for all of them—but what happens is—well it’s a race against time.
Will they learn the behaviors that will help them finish college or will they make so many mistakes in so many classes that one day, they’re just gone. The older student coming back has the best success rate. It’s triage. Whom do you salvage.
Is finishing college really the goal? Suppose they get through your class but never finish college. Wouldn’t they at least know a little more about the language? Isn’t that a positive thing?
Well… Not really… Sure they’ll get something from the course itself…but not in any substantive form. Learning how to avoid writing fragments won’t help them much in life if they don’t get through college. When they have success in my class, and other college prep classes, and this leads them to turning a corner, succeeding in upper level courses—that’s more satisfactory.
These courses generally have high attrition. Many of these students won’t succeed. Does that get to you?
The reward of the college prep teacher is...well…sometimes seeing the underdog beating the odds.
How would you sum up your core philosophy of teaching?
[Muses] We are responsible for the success of the student in a contractual way. What that means is this: I’ll make a contract to do the best job I can delivering the information to the students. They make a contract to return my instruction in a way that shows me that they are actually learning. I do think we are in part responsible for the student’s grade.
And doing the best job means trying lots of different methods?
Definitely. I sometimes think that—and I’ve been teaching for thirty years—I sometimes think that we get frozen in the college experience we had, and judge what should be and what shouldn’t be according to that—and that’s a mistake, because, paradoxically, students are always the same but they are also forever changing.
O.K. John, if you hadn’t chosen teaching 30 years ago, what profession do you think you’d be in right now?
I almost became a salesman. Long ago I got an offer from a wholesale medical company…selling pills to doctors.[laughs]. I even took a train to Memphis and said I would sign up for the job.
Just as I was deciding to do that, my former department chair at the University of Mississippi’s called me and said “You are coming back aren’t you?” I had already taught my three years as a graduate student and thought my time was up. He said he really needed me and asked me to come back for one more year. I said yes. And that kept me in education.
I’m sure many of your students are glad you stayed in teaching. Thanks, John.
Don’t forget – the deadline for the next issue of Directions is Monday, Nov. 6