Dear Friends,

So much depends upon November.  The deepening chill, the afternoon darkness stretching into long nights, the scent of pumpkin spice wafting (over everything, especially if you find yourself in a Trader Joe’s), the sight of rain-flattened, brightly colored leaves on asphalt, the cornucopias and turkeys (or Tofurkies), the promise-threat of family, and the chance to celebrate that uniquely North American holiday—Thanksgiving.

One of the most important takeaways from my experience talking about Thanksgiving in the classroom from a Native Studies perspective is the importance of talking about Thanksgiving.  You don’t have to be a humanities instructor to initiate a conversation with your students about this most American of holidays.  Even in a math or chemistry classroom, you have to do deal with the scheduling disruptions of Thanksgiving week.  Why not also use this as time to reach out engage your students in a conversation about the significance of T-day?  And you don’t have to do it without resources.

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Once again, we have the pleasure of Jenna Goldsmith’s presence on our Teaching Moment blog!

This term, I am participating in a course run by the Office for Advancing Academic Equity for Student Success on the main campus called Black Minds Matter. According to their mission, the course “draws parallels between the Black Lives Matter movement and the ways that Black minds are engaged in the classroom. The course will balance a discussion of issues facing Black male students as well as offer research-based strategies for improving their success.” I am also in Erin Rook’s Monday evening book club in where we are reading Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race?, COCC’s Season of Nonviolence book selection this year. While the synergies between these meetings seem obvious now, I did not anticipate how much my participation in one group would inflect and inform my engagement in the other. Ijeoma’s book is informative, accessible, and indispensable (in my opinion) for educators at all levels: highly recommend.

Welcome back to a new term! As we get our collective feet back under us and find our rhythm, I would like to challenge each of us to think about new ways in which we can ensure our students are learning.

In our New Faculty Learning Community, we are reading the book, What the Best College Teachers Do, by Ken Bain. If you haven’t read this book, I highly encourage you to do so (our library has at least one copy in the Teaching Excellence stack). The second chapter is about how our teaching should change the way students think. Bain describes a study done in the 80’s by Halloun and Hestenes that sought to determine whether their teaching actually changed students’ long held beliefs about motion in a physics class. The results were astonishing; even the high-performing students continued to think about motion like Aristotle rather than like Newton. In essence, they interpreted what they learned about motion through the framework that they brought to the first day of class. The authors wrote, “students held firm to mistaken beliefs even when confronted with phenomena that contradicted those beliefs.” Continue reading