My original plan for my Eve of Departure post was to blog before I left Virginia, but I ended up getting very sick the night before the flight (and all day traveling) to Europe. So here I am now getting to this post and it is a nice reflective experience because of the last two weeks I have been able to spend with my wife and son traveling through Europe. I was able to see my Dutch family that I hadn’t visited in 14 years and introduce them to my son, who is the first of the next generation of Jardons. I’m leaving my wife and son tomorrow so they can fly back to Virginia as I head to Zurich. Part of me is exuberantly ready to start GPP, but part of me is sad to not be with my family for two weeks. I’m so excited that I was able to get this extra travel experience with my family and now the time has come for the reason we were able to come over here. A couple of days ago I traveled into Austria and this is the first time I’ve been to a country I haven’t visited before in about 8 years. International travel has been a huge part of my life since I was a child but for many years now I have focused so much on academics that travel has fallen to the background. Now suddenly my academic life has brought cultural immersion back to the forefront! I’ve never been to Switzerland or Italy, let alone any universities in the region, so I’m ready to immerse myself in the amazing cultural experience that is about to begin. So excited to learn from these places as well as the diverse group of people I am traveling with!
As the end of the semester approaches and the Global Perspectives Program is nearing, I find myself excited about all of the opportunities this program presents. I am finally able to see past all of the assignments that have bogged me down all semester, and looking ahead to GPP is getting more enticing by the minute. Being able to immerse myself in the European education system is an experience that I hope will help me make a positive impact wherever I find myself in the future!
The last GEDI, I think not!
So this may be the last GEDI blog post for the semester, but our work is far from done. I can see the parallels between 21st century education and the newest wave of (our namesake) Star Wars films. It has been nearly 40 years since the original Star Wars movie, and even though it is still an amazing story, it has been time for an update. In watching Episode VII, the recent edition to the epic saga, one can see how similar the story is to the original 1977 plot. But the newest edition to this saga allows for much more inclusion and diversity. I’ve heard people say that movies with minority and women as the main characters don’t tend to be as popular. Well, Episode VII was the highest grossing film of all time!
Just as movies can be updated to the times, the same must happen for education. The ways that teachers worked in the past do set a good a framework for what we do in education now, but we have a much more diverse population and meeting their individualized learning needs can be done. The former “one size fits all” form of education has now become outdated. We also have a whole new set of technological facilitators to learning that didn’t exist in prior teaching.
One quote that really stood out to me from Parker Palmer’s article A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited was this:
“Education in mathematics is a prime example. It was long assumed that females failed at math because their brains were structured differently than men’s. Then came a generation of pedagogues who saw the secret hidden in plain sight: Women are told early on that “girls can’t do math,” so they come to class with minds paralyzed by fear. Today, as many math educators pay attention to emotions as well as to the intellect, women succeed in math at rates similar to those of men” (p. 10).
This shows that it is time for us to update the way we see education. I’m in Counselor Education, so focus on feelings is at the essence of what we do as educators. Granted this is more specific to this field, but the whole point of being a GEDI is to learn from how other disciplines emphasize education. I am excited to see that we have a female lead in the most recent couple of Star Wars movies that have come out. The time has come for more inclusion and diversity in our culture, film, and especially education. This may be “The Last GEDI” post for this semester, but the legacy of it will continue for years to come in all that we have taken away from this class. We are the next generation of educators and therefore we have the force to make education all that it can be. Let’s continue to improve education for the 21st century and more!
Attention! Can I have your attention please!
Ok, so attention and multitasking… I am horrible when it comes to multitasking. You all know by now how I Google big words that I don’t know when I’m in class. I hardly ever just work on one thing at a time. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD, but it’s probably a pretty fitting diagnosis. I’m qualified to diagnose others with ADHD, but I don’t think I could do that for myself. Anyway, (my point exactly) multitasking… I will start on one assignment and then think about something that needs to be done on another and soon find myself bouncing between 3 or 4 different projects at once. And the worst part is that I know the inefficiency of multitasking (aka polyphasia for those who also like to google big words). I know that for each additional task added on to your workload that performance in each significantly decreases.
We can see in The Myth of the Disconnected Life the dangers of paying attention too much to the wrong things, such as focusing so much on one’s phone that you trip and fall into a fountain. It would appear that the obsession with technology is not a new phenomenon. I appreciated the story of how obsessed people were with the Kaleidascope in 19th century England. That article talks about how people were mesmerized by it. If you are interested in the origin of the word “mesmerized,” it has somewhat of a similar origin based on Franz Anton Mesmer.
One of my favorite videos for attention is this one:
So as you can see, sometimes we need to be more aware of how much attention we are paying to the events in front of us.
As I’ve been looking at these articles for the week and writing up this blog, I am reminded of where our blogging started out this semester. We started with networked learning and how technology affects education and then moved on to mindful learning. We have also covered methods of engaging the imaginations of digital learners. It would seem to me based on this week’s readings that finding a good balance among these topics is important. Technology can greatly facilitate learning, but focusing too much on technology (i.e. not being mindful of our surroundings) can lead to someone walking into a fountain! I’m in favor of taking a digital Sabbath now and then because I greatly appreciate being disconnected now and then. As much as technology is an integral part of my daily life (especially being a student), I appreciate disconnecting from time to time because I find myself noticing so much more about my surroundings. The last vacation I was able to take was a cruise, and I was amazed how many people bought the internet package and were on their phones the whole time. For as much as I multitask, I go on vacation to get away from the rest of the world!
I can see how the majority of the topics for this semester are related to attention in one way or another. Inclusive pedagogy in itself requires quite a bit of attention to detail. Taking time to recognize and be accepting of diversity does require time and energy, but it can create a learning environment well worth the extra attention. Critical pedagogy really seemed to be an adjustment to attention on the part of the student. Instead of having to sit and listen to the professor lecture for hours (hard to pay attention), students are more engaged with each other and thus able to better pay attention.
Ok, so true to my own multitasking, I was able to tie in how many of the different topics of this semester are related to attention (and add in a few tangents as well). I think the main item I’m taking away from this is that technology can be a great tool that helps us accomplish so many tasks at once, but BALANCE is still an important concept to rely on. We have to be able to take some opportunities to pay attention to ourselves, our own well being, and take a break from all that is out there for us to focus on at once. As seen in the video, trying to pay attention to too much can cause you to miss out on what may be more important.
Something that has been on my mind a bit lately was an encounter I had with a friend of mine several years ago. When I had first moved to Hawaii to do my master’s degree, we had a friend of a friend who already lived there and so he showed us around town and taught us all about what it was like to live in Hawaii. It may not have been a classroom environment, but he was a teacher to me and my wife because so much of living in a different culture was new to us. At one point the conversation became political, and he talked about a senator (I don’t even remember who it was at this point) who was doing a good job. And I remember taking that at face value that there was a senator in Hawaii who was doing good things for the state. What happened to my critical thinking skills at that time? Had I just seen an authority figure telling me information and regressed back to the banking model of education? Politics of all subjects is one we can think critically about!
Reading this week about critical pedagogy has had me thinking about the way in which knowledge is constructed and not just information for teachers to graciously bestow upon students. The “teacher” in this scenario was someone who was giving his political view (not fact) about a politician’s performance. Especially nowadays, I’m finding that who you talk to can result in very different views of how a politician is improving or deteriorating the current state of affairs. The world around us is constantly changing! (hence the “current” state of affairs) So who is to say that knowledge can be static?! This is why learning being a collaborative effort (where knowledge is constructed) instead of a one way message (banking model) is so important. How many times through your college career have you heard that education helps you use your critical thinking skills? I remember hearing that message so many times that I’m surprised how I’ve ever again had a moment in which I didn’t think critically.
I think this week’s topic builds so well from last week’s focus on inclusive pedagogy. Instead of education taking place only one direction, from teacher to student, learning can go both ways and even sideways. Just as my friend (a teacher to me in that scenario) had information to pass along to me, his views came from the context of his culture. He and I differed in socioeconomic status, age, race, where we grew up, etc. This created a situation in which learning could go both ways because of the diversity between us. Now imagine how much diversity exists in a class of over 40 students from multiple countries! And this diversity happens in every educational environment, yet it is left stagnant in the traditional banking model of education.
This is part of what I love about being in the counseling field is that learning never ends. As a counselor educator, my students can learn from my experiences, but I can also learn from what they have to offer. By modeling that experience, they can remain open minded to learn from the diverse clients that they will see in their time counseling. Being culturally aware can involve being open to the varying experiences of others. This parallels how critical pedagogy involves multiple directions of learning as opposed to the one way direction of the banking model of education. Hopefully we as educators can remain open to learning from our students just as much as we teach them. And students can be open to multiple perspectives, unlike the experience I shared above. But hopefully by me reflecting on this, it allows me to better embrace diversity and a critical pedagogy in the future.
What it means to be a GEDI
So I think the time has come to use the GEDI metaphor in more depth. When it comes to diversity, accepting people from all cultural backgrounds, this is clearly a GEDI (Jedi) trait. We can see Anakin specifying how unconditional acceptance in the form of compassion is essential.
Diversity is a major part of the GEDI light sabers. Our allies could be blue, green, even purple! The dark side… always red! Now that’s not very inclusive is it!?
We can also see that once Darth Vader emerges, the influence of How Diversity Makes Us Smarter was apparently no longer affecting him. His ability to consider alternatives appears to have left him. By this point, the entire galaxy is no longer a safe space and social justice has become a concept of the past.
So if we can embrace the spirit of being a GEDI, then accepting and learning from diversity (even though it may come with its challenges) allows us to grow and help our students to be “smarter.” Seeing the world in absolutes (black and white, all or nothing, etc.) leads down dangerous paths. Everyone that you encounter has something to offer in terms of diversity of race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, upbringing, etc. It leads to a lot of aspects of culture to be aware of, but by showing inclusivity to diversity, we can all grow as a result.
Last semester in PFP class, I shared some of my personal encounters with diversity, and I am still open to anyone reading about how my journey of becoming a counselor has come with its challenges but an amazing amount of awareness, my story.
My personal teaching evolution
So in thinking about this week’s post, I wasn’t exactly sure what to write about. I asked myself, “How do I know what my authentic teaching self is because I am just starting my career as a counselor educator.” But after going through the assigned readings for the week, I felt myself associating with a lot of the faculty experiences and suggestions. I had to remind myself that my teaching experience began over 15 years ago. I started helping my karate instructors lead classes when I was only about 12 or 13. A few years later, I was one of the senior instructors at that karate studio. Teaching karate classes was such a special experience to me that was engaging both mentally and physically. But since that time, my teaching experiences have varied drastically!
The next stage of my teaching came years later when I worked as a math tutor at the community college I was attending. That was quite the learning experience also as I had to hone not only my math skills but how to help people individually instead of in groups. The physical nature of my karate instruction was no longer necessary when teaching a student algebra. Eventually, several years of tutoring experience provided my supervisors with enough confidence in me that I could teach developmental algebra classes. It took some adjustments to my teaching style, but it was the same material I had been tutoring people on for a few years.
The biggest challenge to my authentic teaching self came last semester when I co-taught my first counseling class. Up until that point, I thought I was pretty comfortable in the teaching role, but that role completely shifted with a counseling class. Not only was I not the only teacher at the front of the room (a first for me), but I was no longer meant to be in an expert role. Teaching math, I was the one with knowledge to impart on the student and algebra usually involves very specific right and wrong answers. Teaching counseling classes, we encourage the master’s students to not think about counseling as right or wrong because there are so many ways to counsel that are just “different.” Teaching math, my own personal experiences weren’t relevant to the topic, but in counseling, sharing my own personal and professional experiences was encouraged. Another random aspect that I never much thought about was where to put my hands while teaching now. I always had a marker in my hand before and used the board regularly. Now where do I put my hands?!
First image to appear when I googled “sage on stage:”
So after all these changes, I was shocked that my “authentic teaching self” for math and karate classes actually made finding my “authentic teaching self” for counseling classes more difficult. For karate classes, I was clearly the higher rank over my students, and respect for those of higher rank was extremely important. Teaching math, I was the one at the front of the room who had the knowledge the students needed. Now all of the sudden, I’m NOT supposed to be the one “sage on stage!” We want to treat master’s counseling students as colleagues and give them the autonomy to develop their own unique professional identity. And now suddenly issues of privilege in the classroom were on the forefront instead of being an afterthought as before. All of these changes in my environment made for a much more difficult transition than I expected, and my views on pedagogy have forever been expanded.
Picture from VT counselor education webpage (different type of learning):
Fortunately, there have been some consistencies in my teaching that were touched on in the readings this week. I’ve found that in each of these situations, good communication skills has been the cornerstone of teaching. I’ve also valued being genuine, even though different parts of myself tend to emerge in each setting. I acknowledge wholeheartedly that people taking algebra classes probably only do it because it is required, while counseling students usually feel a call to the profession as I did. There is no need to pretend about either of those realities. But the overarching theme that I am taking away from my experiences and this week’s readings is that my “authentic teaching self” is always evolving and must be adapted to the teaching situation. As hard as these transitions have been, I hope that it has provided me with greater awareness when approaching a class and the abilities to reach out to students’ individual needs.
I have been stricken with a migraine this weekend, so looking at a computer screen has not been an easy task. But in the spirit of this weeks topic, I decided to use my imagination to still post a blog. I am having my lovely wife type for me while I dictate. How often will we as teachers have to use creativity and imagination to meet our student’s leaning needs? Next time a challenge come you way what is something you will creatively do to figure out an answer ?
Pain in the Ass-essment
Assessment to me has a different meaning probably than to most of the people in the class. In counseling, assessment can take much of a different interpretation. Counselors tend to assess for mental health concerns such as diagnosis, suicidal thoughts, etc. Thinking of grades equaling assessment takes some reframing, but it makes sense because we have to assess performance somehow!
Dr. Nelson was talking in class about how grades are varying, originally designed for objects and later people. I’ve been amazed to see how different the same class can be from one semester to another, one professor to another, and especially one university to another. One class that comes to mind is a class about Counseling Theories that I have taken several times in various forms and actually co-taught last semester. I’ve found the lack of consistency to be somewhat frustrating in the past because I thought that there are certain standards in place that keep classes consistent from one place to another. However, I’m starting to question that after looking at some of these readings and videos this week. Maybe it is better that each class is a bit different. Learning shouldn’t be about forming everyone around one way of taking in information but instead tailoring learning to each individual. The grades may turn out different from one class to another based on students’ various strengths, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing. The variability from one class to another that I was thinking was a limitation, I am now seeing as a strength.
I’ve always thought of this from the framework that standards are to keep professors from missing what is important to be taught in the Counseling Theories class. But now I have changed my thinking that having too strict of standards and/or assessments for this class would take away from the intrinsic motivation that each of the professors was able to instill in the students. After seeing the videos from Dan Pink, I recognize that a class like this is a mental challenge, not just a mechanical task in which students just follow the rules. The “rules” of counseling are not straightforward because interacting with people is never the same from one instance to another. So for that matter, why should counseling classes be the exact same from one school to another? Counseling requires cognitive skills that Dan Pink refers to actually makes rewards work backwards. People perform worse when an increased reward is offered (i.e. a grade). For that matter, making grades the reward (in theory) should actually reduce performance. So what I’ve noticed about the professors from these classes, was that grades were just sort of a byproduct of doing the work for class. It wasn’t about how well students performed on tests but that they engaged with each other and the learning process. As the Dan Pink video specifies, what is important for motivating people for these types of tasks are: Autonomy, Mastery, and purpose. Learning to be a counselor requires a lot of autonomy, striving for mastery in the field, and a sense of purpose seems to practically always bring people to work in the mental health field. You know we don’t do it for the money! So a lack of consistency from class to class was something that frustrated me in the past, but to quote a few other people’s blogs, “Aha!” I have found a whole new appreciation for the variety because just like in counseling, the work has to be tailored to the clients (or students in this instance). Creating an environment where learning comes first (by allowing greater reliance on autonomy, mastery, and purpose) and grades come as an afterthought allows students to develop into counseling professionals.
I think back to my undergrad experience, and the main motivator was grades. By the time I graduated, I had the system pegged! I did the work, earned the grade, and moved onto the next class. Granted there was a sense of purpose that I wanted to work in the mental health field, but “purpose” is not what looks good on a college transcript. But that system I had in undergrad didn’t really work once I hit graduate school. Doing the work was just part of the experience I came for, and memorizing facts to regurgitate on a test no longer worked. I’m not sure how other fields of graduate study work, but my experience of graduate education was that I was motivated primarily by autonomy, mastery, and purpose to learn from my professors and peers in order to make a difference in the counseling field. Grades slipped gently into the background and came more as a byproduct of learning than as the motivator for pursuing education. I hope to use my experience to be one of those professors that brings out that intrinsic motivation in students, as many have done for me so far.
So that is my Aha moment for the week! 😉
I Google big words
Ok, so I’m going to try to bridge (hopefully not the collapsed Tacoma Narrows Bridge that we saw an image of in class) networked learning and mindfulness for this coming week’s post theme. I found technology to be such an interesting part of class this week. I was noticing in class how the computer was helping me to better understand discussions in class. In seeing that the topic for the week is mindfulness in teaching and learning, I first googled the definition of mindfulness in case I wanted to use it for this post. Being that mindfulness focuses on the present moment, I am debating if having google is keeping me present or distracting me from class. I was able to look up several words to better understand class conversations: ubiquitous, diatribe, what years millennials were born in, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge obviously. I used to hear words in class that I didn’t understand, and I would have to be a little confused in the moment and look it up later. Now that I can look up that information in the moment, it may be a small distraction, but it can actually keep me more present in the conversation. Remaining present in the moment can be such a huge part of education because being distracted and looking up information unrelated to class hinders education, as has been discussed in detail thus far.
While watching the second Michael Wesch video in class, I decided to google what the definition for learning actually is: “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.” I found it fascinating that “being taught” is the last on that list while “experience” comes first. How much do we actually experience if we just move through life mindlessly? The answer according to Ellen Langer (Langer_Mindful_Learning+intro+and+chap+one (1)) is not much for Little Red Riding Hood. Mindfulness itself is a necessary part of learning so that we can experience life! When I think about each of these forms of learning, experience seems to be the most first hand. When I think of study, I imagine someone reading a book and not fully experiencing. “Being taught” (phrased in the passive voice) may remove that even farther as the activity falls on the teacher and the student is just the recipient. Both Michael Wesch and Ken Robinson speak about how teachers must fully engage students’ individuality, so “being taught” to me just doesn’t sound as engaging as we hope learning to be.
It would seem that similar to the curiosity that children have to learn and explore things (again concepts touched on my Michael Wesch and Ken Robinson), my curiosity to find information is something that can be helpful for learning. Instead of stifling my curiosity to learn by just focusing on the conversation at hand, I was able to explore some concepts that I was curious about. One of the myths of learning that Ellen Langer distinguished was that paying attention meant focusing on one thing at a time. I will agree that this is a myth because by my ability to seek out more information (thank you google!) mid-conversation, I learned something new. So after all of this debate and engaging in the week’s learning materials, my appraisal of my “distraction” during class is that googling unknown words actually helped me stay on topic and learn better. What do you think?