The title of this piece specifically does not mention teaching because this topic is of global relevance. Although I will bring this back around to the classroom, let’s reflect for a moment on how flexible our lives have become in the past two months. We’re conducting all of our business online or by phone, talking with representatives of large companies who are not in actual call centers but also at home, homeschooling our kids (I, for one, did not sign up for that), cooking ALL THE TIME, and figuring out how to do it all, together, with the people in our homes who sometimes we enjoy taking a break from.

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The last three weeks have been…interesting. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would be where we are, but nonetheless, here we are. My inbox has been flooded with questions from students, questions from faculty, strategies from teaching organizations and our Center for Teaching and Learning, IT, OSU-Cascades’ Leadership, and the Provost’s office. My head has mostly been spinning trying to reconcile all of these “tips and best practices” with actually delivering an individual lecture to my students in a way that will keep them engaged and learning. The implementation of the strategies is what ultimately matters the most.

At this point in our collective “learning how to do this,” I would like to provide a platform for us to share with each other what we are doing as an OSU-Cascades faculty, to engage with and teach our students. Please share freely what you have learned during this past week of content delivery that might help someone else. What did you plan or try that bombed and what has been successful so far? What will you change and how will you do it better? What are you planning to do that you would like some feedback on?

Please share anything from a technology tip to a paradigm shift. You can click “reply” and post to the blog page, OR you can email me directly and I will compile a list this week. I will share our collective thoughts via email or something else internal for those who don’t want their comments publicly viewable. If you have a document to share I will post it to Box for the group to access. Let’s hear it!

It’s the last week of classes and perhaps you have started to reflect on how things went this term. Whether you’re a new or a seasoned instructor, there is always room for improvement. Early in my teaching career I wish I would have asked more questions of those who had already made the same mistakes I had made and had learned how to do things better. Instead, I stumbled along, figuring things out the hard way. My list of fumbles is loooooong. I was reminded about my mis-steps as I read this morning, two articles from The Teaching Professor where both a newbie and an old timer reflected on their teaching careers. I thought I would share their learnings; perhaps you will relate as I did to what they had to say:

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It’s week 6 so most of us have given at least one major assessment of our students…but have you given them an opportunity to assess YOU? If not, consider a midterm teaching evaluation. Here are some things to consider:

  1. This is a formative assessment. Midterm course evals are a fantastic way for you to glean meaningful feedback from your students on what is working, what isn’t, and what you could still do to help them learn better.
  2. This feedback can (and should) be qualitative as opposed to the mostly quantitative feedback that we receive on eSETs. If you’re like me, you probably skip right to the comments when reading your end-of-course feedback anyway.
  3. These evaluations are not part of your “official” evaluation record; an even better reason to get honest, constructive feedback from your students while you still have time to make changes.
  4. Midterm evaluations demonstrate to your students that you have their best interests in mind, that you are there to help them learn and that you are very interested in how you can do that better.
  5. Research shows that midterm evaluations actually improve end-of-term student evaluations when the feedback leads to changes in the class (McDonnell & Dodd, 2017). When we give students agency to affect change, they are more committed to their learning process.

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Why do you teach? Ponder that for a moment. Is it because you like to make your own schedule, enjoy your summers off, or loved grad school so much that you decided to never leave? While those are excellent perks of the job, hopefully in your mental meanderings, your love for students was front and center. At this point in the school year as you’re grading a 6-inch-high pile of papers, wondering if your students were listening at all, your love for them may have been only a fleeting thought. But shouldn’t our “why” be because we desire, in the depths of our soul, to guide students toward their passion? If that didn’t make your list then perhaps a little reflection is in order.

I truly believe that the academic calendar was intentionally created to provide teachers time to reflect and rejuvenate (sorry MAT and COUN faculty…you may have to do this in smaller, more intense doses)! It’s also a time for us to shift our focus and be the learner as we engage in more focused research and study, perhaps attend conferences, and connect with our colleagues over new ideas.

Make the most of this time! In my pre-internship course I take students through an exercise using the Rokeach Value Survey where they evaluate their own terminal and instrumental values, and from that, create a personal vision statement (follow the links for the assignment). They consistently report that assignment was one of the most valuable assignments they’ve ever been asked to do. Why is that? I think it’s because we rarely give ourselves the head space to really think about what we value most.

Re-visit your core values. Is most of your time being spent engaged in activities that further your own personal mission? If not, is there anything you could change about your life or about the way that you teach to help keep you on mission? Read your personal mission statement daily…or even monthly. Be reflective and self-evaluative. When you wake up, ask yourself “what is the ONE THING I will do today that will help me get to where I want to be?”

Truly, when you know your “why,” your “what” has more meaning.

Have a fantastic, reflective summer!