Tag Archives: teaching

Tweak Your Teach: The Super Teacher Chronicles

Wow! It has been quite a while. Since beginning my new position with Valencia College and returning to school, I’ve been unable to blog. Then it occurred to me that I am still designing, still presenting, and still learning. So, why not share that with others? I may not post as often as I did in the past, but when I can, I will update the blog with any new teaching, speaking, or designing projects.

This week, I created a podcast series as part of my coursework for Distance Education: Process and Product. The series is called The Super Teacher Chronicles. I created this series to share some of the best practices and strategies I’ve been learning about as a tenure-track professor and student. The first episode is “I am a CAT person and You are Too!” CATs or Classroom Assessment Techniques are powerful tools for formative feedback and active learning. They take very little time to implement and can help you improve teaching and instruction.

Check out the cast below!

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A Vision of the Future for Teachers and Leaders

If you are a faithful Tweak Your Slides reader, you know that one of my favorite people is Pamela Slim, guru, author, and TED speaker. Slim advises those who want to “escape cubicle nation”and those who wish to connect the disparate threads of experience to help create a cohesive and impacting body of work, and helps them find a way to take success and their future into their own hand. Upon first studying works like Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, it seems that Slim’s focus is on experienced workers, those who have been in the workforce for years and are looking for a way to put their experience to different use or who want to pursue their “side hustles.” But, today’s TED Talk shows us that Pam’s mission to change her clients’, readers’, and the world’s vision of success extends to the group she sees as the most important in helping us recover economically–our youth. In her TEDxPhoenix talk, Slim shares several stories of young people who show strength, perseverance, and bravery in the face of a tumultuous world. These young people presented through the framework of Slim’s powerful storytelling can remind teachers and leaders of what our true role is in educating others: we are guides, encouragers, mentors who help others unlock hidden potential that can and will change the world.

Pain is Power

Among these remarkable folks is Amanda Wang, a graphic designer who brings awareness to bipolar disorder by sharing her journey to train for the Golden Gloves with audiences; Amanda uses her pain, her “weaknesses” to empower herself and empower others. In a world with constantly shifting ideas, ideologies, power structures, work modes, etc. the ability to harness pain into power is remarkably important.

A Free Mind Creates Economic Freedom

Another impacting story Slim shares is the story of Willie Jackson, who left a traditional corporate career to help others jumpstart their creative endeavors through building WordPress sites. For Willie, the traditional work mode and traditional definition of success were not enough to make him happy. His willingness to use his talents to help others freed him.

We need to stop telling our young people to spend 40 years creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides that have no meaning.

Beauty is a Universal Constant

Slim then shares the story of Avery, a young Navajo man, who traverses two worlds–the world of his native culture and the world surrounding it in Phoenix, Arizona. Avery uses art to communicate his perspective and the perspectives of other natives in a unique way. He gives voice to experiences most of us would otherwise know nothing about, and empowers others to share their experiences. For Slim, Avery is representative of the potential future of contemporary native people. He will grow to be a leader and guide to future generations, including her children.

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As teachers and leaders, it’s up to us to keep this idea as an important focus. Yes, generations have different concerns, different values, different interests, but I think we fall into the “what’s wrong with young people today?” way of thinking far too often and far too quickly. If we see potential in every one of our students, they will live up to that potential. I will be leaving my current position and subject matter with corporate education to return to a learning-centered college in the Fall (the same one I left almost six years ago). I brought with me the principles of learner-centered education, and I learned more than I can say about teaching, leadership, and design as a course director of Professional Communication and Presentation. I will return to Valencia College with these new skills, always keeping in mind that my role is to guide, inspire, and motivate the young people who will continue changing our world for the better.

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A superteacher’s perspective via What The Speak

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I’ve had teaching and superteaching on the brain for days now, and this week’s Creating Communication offerings only helped reinforce thoughts of all things pedagogy and superteaching. Alex Rister recently sat down with Bryan Kelly of What The Speak to share her insights on teaching presenting in the 21st century. If you know me, you know I am Alex’s “hype girl,” biggest fan, and superteacher bff. I am proud of her pursuit of her bliss, awesome communication, and am inspired by her work ethic and passion! As a superteacher, Alex shares with What the Speak viewers several important lessons about presenting in the 21st century:

1. Help students understand the importance of public speaking and effective communication from minute one

Whether she is teaching an introductory class or advanced class on presentation, Alex starts with why–she doesn’t throw her students into jargon and lecture. Instead, she gleans from them what matters about public speaking and engages them on a discussion how students can use these strong communication skills in every mode (online, in person, synchronous, asynchronous).

2. Understand your origins

Pamela Slim, in Body of Work, emphasizes that the first step to articulating your body of work and understanding how the diverse pieces of your life and experience fit in is to know your roots. In this podcast, Alex shares her roots with viewers and finds ways to thread her early experiences with her current passions and objectives.

3. The teachers who are memorable are the teachers who engage

Information doesn’t matter as much as inspiration. As a teacher, one of my biggest challenges and concerns is letting go of my responsibility to be the “mouthpiece for information.” Our job is not to spew information via lecture (though this is the stereotype of “teacher”); our job is to spark and facilitate learning–the student must guide and drive his or her own journey. Breaking out of the lecture model isn’t easy, but it is a necessary step in the journey towards better teaching and better presenting.

4. Great teachers ask questions and make changes

Tweaking is a way of life. It’s the practice of acknowledging challenges, pinpointing the sources of student problems, accepting your role in perpetuating problems, and then taking action that will create positive results for students. The best teachers look for the roots of a problem, find actionable solutions, put those solutions in practice, and then test those solutions against student performance.

Check out the rest of the interview here or by clicking the image above. If you haven’t check out Bryan’s podcast, you must start today; he speaks with all the top voices in presenting and communicating and brings you the insights of those who live, eat, and breathe public speaking!

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Data Display of the Day: The Flipped Classroom

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The phrase “Flipping the Classroom” has become a hot topic of discussion among my colleagues–workshops have been offered on the subject, teachers have been implementing flipped strategies in their campus and online classes, and a student even proposed this as his persuasive speech topic several months ago. So what exactly is a flipped classroom? The concept exists at the intersection between the opportunities offered by video and online modes of delivery and a much needed response to the problems with our factory model of education, one that Sir Ken Robinson asserts is killing our creative centers.

The concept was first introduced via MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), by teachers like Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, and fueled by the rise of online videos and lessons (in large part made possible by presentation software like PowerPoint). In essence, in a flipped classroom, students experience lecture on their own in video format and learn the subjects they study through experience. For schools, teachers, and students who spent countless hours in lectures, delivered those countless hours, or dealt with the ramifications of a failing school system in part driven by a lack of actual learning, the flipped classroom is an open window of opportunity.

One of my big goals for this year is to devote more time to activity in the campus course. While I do not seek to remove the impact a deep socratic discussion of course ideas has on learning, I do see the benefit of keeping instruction and the dissemination of information minimal for the sake of application. One of my big goals for this year is to add even more in class activity and application than is already present in the course. There’s no reason our campus students couldn’t study the same videos as online students as they study their course textbook. This would leave more time for application and activity-based learning and help students see the ideas they learn about in action. Today’s infographic provides a visual introduction to the concept of Flipped Classrooms. Check out this infographic and the rest from Knewton, a learning systems/learning platform company (their adaptive learning platform sounds so cool!)

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Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Challenges

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This month marks my first break from both campus and online teaching since October. This is usually a time for me to review my approach to teaching the campus and online iterations of Professional Communication and Presentation. In addition to teaching, two of my most fulfilling roles as the lead instructor for this course are instructional designer and curriculum developer. The campus version of PCP changes a bit each month because I can note new areas for growth and opportunity, can consult with campus students on what works and what doesn’t work, and I can see live whether or not a lesson resonates with the students and translates into positive results. The online course, however, requires a bit more time, objective assessment, and analysis to adapt. This usually means that during the months I am not on campus I coordinate a major reboot of the overall structure, lessons, learning materials, and assignments based on the big challenges I noted for the previous six months or so of a previous iteration.

In analyzing the course this time around, I noted several challenges, opportunities, and action items. Alex Rister and I are firmly in the research and development phase. As she noted yesterday on Creating Communication, we’ve found a few amazing sources to draw from including Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. In this post, I’ll cover the big challenges this course faces now. Next, I’ll cover how I’m working to turn those challenges into opportunities, and finally share how the course will adapt and change over the next two months.

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Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication

As Alex discussed in her public speaking online series, teaching a presentation and communication class online is a real challenge. Everything we teach students is based on developing, designing, and delivering a presentation to a live audience. From audience analysis and slide design to “naked” delivery, the need for a live audience engaging with a presenter is ever present. Furthermore, students learn better when given an opportunity to present in the way they will likely do so in their everyday professional lives. However, we’ve been tasked with teaching this course online, despite the body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of synchronicity in online learner success (Source). So, it will be important in the next two months to bring in more instances of synchronicity. Currently, the PCP team uses iChat/Aim, Skype, and GoTo Meeting to add a synchronous element to the course, but we have not found the solution to helping students present synchronously to their classmates/teachers or to a physical audience.

Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process

The biggest reason for the last reboot was to help alleviate a serious deficiency that we’ve managed to work on successfully in the face to face iteration of the course–students do not understand either the importance of or the need for engaging in a presentation process. While we talk about Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem and structure the course so that students develop a portion (outline, slides, rehearsal) of their major project, an Ignite presentation, each week, many students still wait until the last minute to develop that piece and are often confused when their PCP instructor asks them to revise their outline and then implement that revision in the storyboard/design for the slides. Helping students understand how each piece fits together and also building in opportunities for them to take their time before submitting official drafts of their work is our second challenge in the reboot.

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This visualization of the presentation process by design firm Idea Transplant has been and will become an even stronger cornerstone of the course.

Challenge #3: Streamlining content

Perhaps it’s my background as a learner (I devour as much information as I can about a subject and love when there’s something new to learn and explore about a subject), but I can definitely recognize that both on campus and online I share too much information, which just leaves students feeling overwhelmed. Yes, it’s all great information, but if any of it is redundant, too complex, or repetitive, what’s the point in including it? So, our third challenge will be to reduce the number of lessons and assets to the most important and needed learning materials.

Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs

PCP began as a course offered only to music business and entertainment bachelor of science students. In the past five years, the course has expanded to other programs–computer animation, game art, game development, internet marketing, music production, media communications, and software development. While the course’s current structure, develop, design, and deliver, a persuasive speech is definitely general enough to encompass all of these programs, our students’ needs have changed. Whereas some students present informative and persuasive presentations on a regular basis to audiences, some students will only ever have to present their body of work to a potential employee or client. This leaves them wondering just how this skill will help them in the future. So, how do we communicate to students just how important and necessary strong professional presentation skills are? That’s our fourth challenge.

Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

Professionalism is important at my school, but it’s even more important in a class with the title Professional Communication and Presentation. Currently, the campus class devotes a week or so of in class time to the concept of a professional persona and communicating professional brand via a visual resume. However, this was removed in the last reboot of the online class to help streamline the approach and give students more time on the Ignite presentation. This means that our online students spend very little time if any truly exploring and practicing what it means to be a professional communicator. Our final challenge will be to refocus persuasion and presentation towards building professionalism.

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The Teaching Portfolio: Stretching those Design and Cognition Muscles

Recently, my department was tasked with a goal that left a few of us filled with a bit of anxiety (as it does most teachers when asked to take on this task)–our goal for the new year is to create or revise an online teaching portfolio. While most teachers are expected to have a completed portfolio they can call up at a moment’s notice, that portfolio is generally in print form and lacks the interactivity that is possible with today’s technology. So, I was excited to tackle this project and expand my already existing mini-portfolio to a full-fledged site with samples, student work, videos, images, and lesson plans. Here is the first draft of my site. It’s technically “live” though not being fully promoted as it is not complete.

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Note: I removed the curriculum section from the published site as it is not yet complete.

I had to ask and answer a few questions in developing this project: what is a teaching portfolio? Why do teachers need a teaching portfolio? What purpose does it serve new and experience teachers? What makes a good teaching portfolio?

What is a teaching portfolio?

While a resume or curriculum vitae is a part of a strong portfolio, it is not a replacement. Unlike a cv, a teaching portfolio focuses on communicating a teacher’s pedagogical vision, his or her range of expertise and experience, his or her teaching methods, the level of the teacher’s effectiveness at facilitating learning, and methods for assessing and improving teaching.

“While dissertation abstracts and research summaries document your expertise in research, the teaching portfolio documents your expertise in teaching.” (Source)

Why does a teacher need a teaching portfolio?

Teaching is a profession that requires lifelong practice, learning, and evolution. A teaching portfolio not only allows viewers to see how your approach has grown through experience, trial and error, and the use of metrics, but it also gives you as a teacher the opportunity to objectively consider how your experience and approach have aided you in achieving your goal–facilitating learning. The Teaching Center at Washington University in St. Louis gives a few more reasons for the use of portfolios:

A Teaching Portfolio is a useful tool that can help you (Source):

  • develop, clarify, and reflect on your teaching philosophy, methods, and approaches
  • present teaching credentials for hiring and promotion in an academic position
  • document professional development in teaching
  • identify areas for improvement
  • prepare for the interview process

So, a strong portfolio can help you land a job, a promotion, or related position within academia. It can also help you focus on the same kind of self-reflection and analysis you ask your students to engage in every day!

“Portfolios have much to offer the teaching profession,” writes Dr. Kenneth Wolf, of the University of Colorado. “When teachers carefully examine their own practices, those practices are likely to improve. The examples of accomplished practice that portfolios provide also can be studied and adapted for use in other classrooms.”  (Source)

What makes for a good teaching portfolio?

First of all, a teaching portfolio should be summative and selective, not broad and comprehensive. Instead of cramming every detail of one’s educational career into a portfolio, a teacher should instead selectively choose material that supports the main and universal component of a strong portfolio–a clear teaching philosophy. A teaching philosophy is in this case the big idea; it communicates who a teacher is as a professional and why he or she does what you does. The rest of the content fluctuates depending on a source, but in general, a strong teaching portfolio includes the following in addition to a philosophy:

  • Goals as an educator
  • Tracing of one’s development as an educator
  • Lesson plans and instructional methods
  • Methods of assessing student work and success
  • Course materials (syllabi, activities, assignments)
  • Student work examples
  • Evaluations from students, colleagues, and supervisors
  • Evidence of professional development
  • Video/photographic evidence of teaching

George David Clark of The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses three tips for a successful portfolio in his 2012 article on the subject. According to Clark, in developing a portfolio, a teacher should focus on organizing to minimize. By providing the target audience with a clear organizational structure and cutting content that doesn’t support that structure, a teacher can ensure that one clear message regarding theory and approach to instruction is being communicated. In addition, a strong teaching portfolio should clearly chart a teacher’s development and maturation as a professional.  Clark states that the “format of a teaching portfolio allows job seekers to connect the dots and even briefly describe the thought process that led them to try new things in the classroom.” Teachers can use the linear structure of a portfolio to help their audience understand where they’ve been and where they are going as educators. Finally, Clark suggests focusing on the student as a measurement of success. Something he suggested that I’d like to adapt is making reference to letters of recommendation students have written on behalf of a teacher that led to that student earning a position at a school or with a company. I’d love to get a sense from past students of how they use the skills they learned in class. These could be integrated while still maintaing the students’ privacy in an online portfolio.

You know I have to add a few design-based dos to this list…

  • Do create an easy to navigate site for your online portfolio
    • This is, I feel, the area I need the most work in–the way the information is in my head is not the way others might understand it.
  • Don’t use a template; remix existing design but make it your own
    • There’s nothing worse than an unoriginal teacher (ever have to teach someone else’s class–I don’t mean substitute necessarily here, but use someone else’s materials to reach something! So difficult!)….
    • …except for a teacher who steals. Be inspired by what you see more experienced web folks doing, but iterate that inspiration.
  • Use relevant visual support
    • While a print resume is by nature text-driven, you have the entire “mystery box” that is the web to draw from. Don’t rely on text only to communicate your message. Recall that text alone helps your audience retain far less information than text and image together (Source).
  • Make it interactive
    • Create a dynamic portfolio with text, audio, and visual to maximize your message.
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April Goal Win: The Liberal Studies Round Table

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The process of proposing, organizing, and launching the Liberal Studies round table initiative has been a learning experience and a real privilege. In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to collaborate with amazing English department folks, including the very talented “Team Unicorn”, a group of composition teachers who’ve embraced the cinematic approach to creating slides. Check out one example of a deck used in this group’s English composition online course:

I am pleased to say that the English department worked for the past month to plan and organize our session, and we were ready for our debut today. The presentations went smoothly and we had an awesome turn out. The first hour was devoted to a series of presentations on the topic of teaching personas (defining persona, applying persona to a collaborative online team of teachers, and using the student’s experience to mold the teacher’s persona). The rest of the workshop was devoted to discussion. I’d like to see stronger discussion in the future, and this I think is where my presence would have been best used.

I chose not to present in this workshop (except for providing our attendees with an agenda of the session). I think at this point, people expect me to present, but I wanted to give the floor to some of the English folks who don’t often get heard but have incredible ideas. Instead, I functioned as facilitator. One of my tasks was to create a basic set of slides to serve as welcome, transition, and closing visuals. As you can see, my obsession with The Noun Project continues:

Our welcome slide sets the tone for the session--connect, discover, collaborate.

Our welcome slide sets the tone for the session–connect, discover, collaborate.

Our agenda moved from a presentation on the concept of personas to specific examples/applications.

Our agenda moved from a presentation on the concept of personas to specific examples/applications.

Overall, I found the discussion of personas to be interesting and I know Alex and I gleaned some insights about how we can further work to create a positive relationship with our students. What’s your opinion on teacher personas online? Is it something you think about as an educator? What is your teaching persona?

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A Superteacher’s Views on the Learning Divide

This 11th year of teaching has been one of contemplation and reflection on the craft of teaching. Today, I thought a bit about the apparent divide between a teacher’s perspective on learning and a student’s perspective on learning. I believe a starting point to correcting this situation is teachers and students communicating. Here is how I managed to reconcile the two over the course of my educational journey as student and teacher:

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A real teacher’s only job is to serve and help her students. At our core, we want all of you to succeed, to reach beyond the miasma of the average, the just good enough, to true mastery. Mastery to me means more than just scoring well on tests (tests suck. Seriously); mastery is reaching a level of immersion and understanding that leads to true passion, perhaps even the ecstatic bliss of knowing one’s purpose in life. I know this because I’ve experienced it myself with teaching. I resisted for a bit, always remembering my humanities and AP language teacher Dr. Earls, who taught me that learning is the thin veil between human and troglodyte. But yes, teaching is what fuels me, what keeps me motivated to be more. It’s this drive that should fuel your love of learning, but for so long learning has been a chore on a checklist, whose mark is the letter grade, a number on a sterile scale.

So, we come to an impasse. You believe learning is about getting a grade. I believe learning is about earning a grade. You believe your fate is in my hands. I believe only you can determine the course of your own education–you are entirely responsible for the choices you make.

I learned this as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. My first semester, a complete failure, is the one I’ll remember most because it forced me to live with the consequences of the choices I’d made. I reveled in my newfound freedom. I was away from home, living the awkward teenager’s dream of dorm rooms, dining hall food, and 6-dollar football games. I wasted my time sleeping, watching TV, going to the movies, and generally not going to class. I also wasn’t smart enough to save my money to purchase the class notes that semester. I’d chosen to take a particularly challenging course, AST 2037: Search for Life in the Universe because I loved science fiction (naturally), and assumed it would be an easy pass. I was wrong. The class threw so much math and physics at me that I was instantly lost, but instead of helping myself to learn, I gave up. So, after weeks of not attending my classes I earned the lowest grades of my life–a D+ in astronomy, two C+ in biology and to my utter shame, theater appreciation, and a B in art history. I knew instantly my scholarship was gone. I was downgraded from a Florida Academic Scholar to a Merit Scholar, putting more of the financial burden of school on me.

I worked for the next four years with single-minded purpose, never taking a summer off, taking on several concentrations to finally graduate with honors. I never blamed my teachers for my failures, nor did I hold them responsible for what grade I earned–if I earned a C on a paper, it was because of me. If I’d not taken advantage of the time given to me to work on an assignment and turned in what I knew was sub par work, I took the ding to the grade and added it to my list of “do not ever do this agains.”

So, it’s difficult for me to see it any other way, to feel that I should apply rules only in certain instances or occasions, to subjugate the worth of someone’s education by not holding them accountable to the standards everyone is expected to meet and exceed. To me, doing so would cheapen your education, making it worth less, making it less impacting on your immediate community and the larger human community. Yes, I want you to succeed, and I will do anything within my power to help you–within the scope of my responsibilities.  I am a guide, facilitator, evaluator, and cheerleader; I am not the learner, the one who must embark on a journey with a new set of tools, face a series of challenges, and return to the world with a new boon–mastery. You are the learner, the hero on your own journey.  I commit myself to ensuring you learn, to clarifying ideas, providing you with guidance and constructive critique, to constantly updating and polishing my craft to better serve your learning needs. I only ask that you embrace the call to adventure and make your world better through learning.

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Tweak Your Teach: The Teaching Portfolio

I am excited to continue working on Tweak Your Teach and the rest of my blog in the new year. I’ve just updated the site to include a teaching porfolio section that I will be adding to and growing over the next few weeks. What exactly is a teaching portfolio and what is its purpose?

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According to Rutgers University’s Center for Teaching Advancement & Assessment Research, a teaching portfolio is a “flexible document” that details a teacher’s “teaching responsibilities, philosophy, goals and accomplishments.” This traditionally print document contains the breadth and scope of an educator’s experience and includes three major areas:

1. Teaching Responsibilities (What I do)

2. Teaching Philosophy and Statement of Competency (Why I do it)

3. Evidence of Effective Teaching (Proof that I do what I say)

A strong portfolio is dynamic–it changes constantly and includes both specific goals and measurable data indicating those goals have been met. More than proof of concept, a dynamic teaching portfolio shows an educator what he or she has accomplished and what he or she still needs to grow. There are several excellent print guides as well as examples available. One of the most highly recommended is The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions.

However, several  comprehensive guides to the portfolio process that don’t cost a penny come from reputable educational institutions like Rutgers. Two of my favorites are A Guide to the Teaching Portfolio by the University of New Hampshire and the very comprehensive and useful guide from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at El Paso.

As I begin this process, I have many great examples to draw from, but find the approach to the standard portfolio to be a bit stale. I am working on ways to make it more dynamic and interactive, drawing from my design skills to further enhance how usable this is as a tool  for me and for others. I’ve added a few preliminary elements to the portfolio section, the most recent of which is my teaching philosophy. I’ve truncated this down from two pages to one, but would definitely like to add specific goals to the end. This draft focuses on my self-definition as a “super-teacher.” I began using this term several years ago when I saw a stark difference between those who teach because they cannot do something in their field and those who teach because teaching IS their field. Those are the super-teachers, at least the ones who call teaching their bliss and work towards the betterment of education for all. Check it out in the new teaching portfolio section under “About Me.”

Are you a teacher? What’s your philosophy on teaching? What do you draw inspiration from?

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Superteaching: A decade in review, a decade in progress

As part of professional development for the English department, my colleagues and I have been tasked with revamping our CVs, creating a teaching portfolio, or developing a professional online presence. As I’ve worked on creating a portfolio and have a website, I, of course, began revamping the CV right away and am currently working on ways to maintain the traditional purpose and format but still make the document more rich than just 11 pages of fluff. The process of creating an extensive body of work has led to a bit of retrospection.

A Superteacher in reflective mode...where am I going? Where have I been? (Source: JD Hancock)

A Superteacher in reflective mode…where am I going? Where have I been? (Source: JD Hancock)

January marks the end of my tenth year of teaching at the college level. I began as a green composition instructor at the University of Central Florida. My first and only UCF class was overwhelming, nerve-wracking, exciting and ultimately rewarding, but I still wasn’t sold on this as my career. I resisted the common “Oh, are you going to teach with that?” question that often came after I stated my major was English. In my mind, there had to be something else I could do with this degree. I was both right and completely wrong.

Source: gumuz via Flickr

Source: gumuz via Flickr

I entered the world of editing, copywriting, and marketing eager to prove myself, to dive into my favorite activities: consulting, editing, revising, and proofing others’ work. I applied for every job I saw on Monster and Career Builder; I bought a suit, a red pen, and waited…and waited….finally, I realized no one would hire me! Why not? Not awesome enough at English? No. No experience with professional writing outside of academia? Yup. That was it. So, to gain some experience, I worked as marketing writer and editor for my step-father’s A/V rental company and did freelance work for a local design firm, Lapiz Design.

To make ends meet, I also picked up an instructional assistant/writing center consultant position with Valencia College (Valencia Community College at the time). A short time later, I was offered the opportunity to teach English composition. Being the completely broke and desperate post-grad, I took the class, thinking it would serve as a good source of income until my editing ship came in. What I didn’t realize right away (but learned by the end of that summer semester) was that this would be my calling, that the hours I spent creating transparencies of poems, hunting down vinyl recordings of Dylan Thomas, and coming up with ways to engage beyond the assigned textbook for my course, would lay down roots that are now so ingrained in who and what I am that I cannot imagine my life without teaching.

Source: Mr. T in DC

Source: Mr. T in DC via Flickr

I was offered a full-time contract at a smaller campus of Valencia College. My acceptance would mean five wonderful years at the Winter Park Campus of VC. It was here that I really found my way, a mentor in my department chair, and learned important lessons about classroom teaching, curriculum development, and community and college involvement. It was here that I also began a love affair with the community college (RIP) model. I absolutely thrived in an environment committed to learner-based methodologies and initiatives. I also learned the impact faculty, staff, and students can have on the quality of education the entire community receives.

After five years and a poor judgment call, I was adjuncting, teaching 7 classes per semester with little room for growth at a small campus, so I accepted a position at Full Sail University, where I’ve had the pleasure of further expanding my skills as teacher, presenter, course developer, and now presentation designer. Regardless of challenges (teaching for a for-profit university is at times a sharper learning curve than at a community college), I would not trade the most amazing opportunity of my professional career so far, teaching Professional Communication and Presentation. I have developed a love for new subjects, public speaking and presentation design, that infuse every aspect of my professional and personal life. I have become a crusader for beautiful slides and dynamic delivery.

The last ten years have yielded a body of work I am proud of, and a constantly re-stoked fire for learning and responsible, sustainable education that I cannot wait to share with others. In the past decade, I’ve:

  • Taught 5,500 students
  • Taught 20 different courses or versions of courses
  • Developed 11 different courses either independently or in collaboration with amazing teachers
  • Have attended 30 final project presentations
  • Authored and delivered 17 presentations
  • Sponsored three student organizations
  • Have been inspired by amazing teachers, among them, Christin Upshaw, Sophia Buggs, and Alex Rister
  • Have been mentored by two incredible humans, Kim Murray and Chris Borglum
  • Immersed myself in three new subjects, the most current being my absolute bliss and joy

The first ten years have been fruitful and productive, but I have a few more goals to accomplish in the coming decade. Among them:

  • Truly bring my blog up to speed
  • Work on the balance between mastery and failure in the online environment
  • Continue to seek out opportunities that are learner-centered
  • Earn an Ed.D. in teaching and curriculum or educational leadership
  • Move into instructional design and administration

So, final words/thoughts on my first ten years: I’ve only just found my groove. I am stoked for more!

Source: pwbaker via Flickr

Source: pwbaker via Flickr

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