“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” ~ Stephen King

So, the Grand Poobah and I were yacking in our office today and started discussing our own personal goals of being a professor. This came about as we were comparing notes on how many students have seriously struggled this semester due to the continuing issues with the pandemic, stress, job loss, loneliness, anxiety, depression and the list goes on. When he asked me: “Why do you teach? What are your goals for what you do?” I really started thinking about this and within a couple of minutes, I had the answer. Not because I was being flip, but because these ‘unwritten’ goals have guided me throughout my 27 year career as a college instructor.

If you look up the word ‘goal’ in a dictionary (remember when these weren’t online but tomes that weighed more than a medium sized dog? 😳) here’s what you get: ‘The object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.’ (Oxford Languages) What do I want to accomplish with my students? What is my desire for them? Why do I put in the effort I do for them?

First, as simple as it sounds, I want my students to learn. You would think this is a no-brainer but not necessarily. Learning isn’t memorization or meeting stringent deadlines or making sure a text is highlighted or being able to bullshit your way through an essay for a passing grade. Unfortunately, not every professor agrees with this. Throughout the years, I’ve heard things like “We need to teach these kids what it’s like to punch a time clock.” Or, “We need to force these kids to take responsibility…there are no handouts in life” (hmmmm). Or “These kids just need to listen to me for what they need to know.” Or my favorite “You don’t get second chances in life!” OK. And you are on your 8th spouse. Got it. And this list can go on ad nauseum.

Here’s the thing though: I don’t care if it takes a student 1 try or 4 tries to get an essay up to par; it’s that they learned from writing it. What good does it do to put an F on their paper, give it back to them, and then want them to move on in the class? What did they learn? Look, when I learned to crochet (which was a hellish month for both me and sissy to say the least 😐), it took me a thousand tries to know how to work the hook and create the chain and complete stitches. And even then, my projects sucked balls. If I would have stopped after the first try, what would that have gotten me? Nothing.

So why don’t we allow students to absorb the material, have multiple chances on their assignments if they aren’t getting it, and work with them until they do? My job is not to teach a student to ‘punch a time-clock’ in order for them to understand that deadlines are set in stone (many are working jobs or have families…they know deadlines). In fact, in this day and age, many jobs are more flexible than that anyway. My job is to make sure they leave my class with info that will help them in any path they choose.

This ties in to my 2nd goal – to do all I can to help a student be successful in my classes. I have a student who is around my age (shutty 🙄) and she came to me around 4 weeks into the semester and said she was going to drop and that she couldn’t ‘do’ the class. I started talking to her every morning before class and one day, this woman started crying. She’s had a very hard life in terms of all she’s experienced, but this is what she said to me that completely broke my heart: “All my life, since I can remember, my mom said I was a piece of shit and would never do good at anything.”

When she disclosed this to me, her eyes were full of tears and it made me sick to think of a mother being so wickedly cruel to their child. This student hadn’t turned in our first essay of the semester and I told her to write it. She said she couldn’t. I said: “Write it. I don’t care how long it is…how many errors might be in it…how you approach the topic. Just write.” She turned it in a couple of days later and I was gobsmacked! It was freaking excellent…and I don’t use that word lightly. Her ideas and understanding of the material was deeper than most students and her writing was impeccable. I posted her A and she came to me the next day and said this: “You didn’t have to give me an A.” And I replied: “Look, I don’t give anything and I certainly have never given a pity or mercy grade in my life. In my classes, you earn your grades and you earned this A.”

Then I did this: “I looked in her eyes and said: you are a smart, kind, outgoing woman who has the tools to be successful in anything you choose to pursue. You are not a piece of shit. Your mom was a sick woman who used her innocent daughter as an outlet for her own issues. That is not who you are. Now say it to me.” She cried and said she couldn’t. I said: “Look, Professor K is telling you to do this and you know how tough I am!” She smiled, looked down and said…in a soft voice: “I’m not a piece of shit. I am capable.” I told her to say it again while looking in my eyes and she did. In the last 11 weeks, her confidence, participation, and eagerness has done a 180° turn and she went from an F in my class to an A.

When she told me she was going to drop, I could have had that done in seconds. For piss sakes, if she wants to drop…drop her. No. Because that’s not my goal. My goal is for every student to feel like they accomplished something in my class…had a success they can build on…had a worthwhile experience. By the way, she calls me ‘Mama K’ in my office (even though she’s just a tad older!) and hugs me every. single. day. She, my sweetie peeps, is a success.

Another goal I have is to be relatable. I’ve been in higher education longer than some of you have been alive and I’m here to tell you this: some professors get off on this power trip of having students’ grades in their sweaty palms. They get off on ‘taking control’ and being the ‘only one right’ and ordering ‘quit talking…you need to listen to me.’ They get off on the power. So ooooooooo…you have power over 20 year olds. Big accomplishment.

If I had wanted power, I sure as hell wouldn’t have gone into teaching and if the only thing that validates my profession is the control I have over my students, I have deeper issues that need to be addressed.

I don’t necessarily expect my students to love me…or to even like me. But I do want to set up an atmosphere where they know they can talk to me, share their opinions, question what I’m saying, all while knowing I won’t judge them no matter what. Have you ever had someone ask for your opinion and then chastise you for it by saying ‘that’s wrong.’ What? How can MY opinion be wrong? It can’t. And neither can yours.

This is also why I share my experiences (obviously when appropriate) about having bipolar, having been sexually abused, having been divorced 3 times (cough cough), having a ma who experienced domestic violence, etc. I want students to know I’m real. I understand. I’ll accept whatever they want to tell me. I want them to see me as an ‘ally’ in their college experience…someone working alongside of them…not against them.

This also brings me to compassion. I want my students to see I’ll cry with them…open up to them so they know they aren’t alone in their own struggles…empathize with issues they are dealing with…understand when they say “I just couldn’t do my assignment this week”, etc. I had a student come to me once regarding their late work and I told them they could make up what they had missed. Why? He had talked about a death in his family all while he was dealing with the loss of a job and family issues surrounding the funeral. He thanked me profusely for this opportunity and said he felt guilty for turning in late assignments. I said there should be no guilt whatsoever! That’s a lot on his plate and I wouldn’t have been able to focus on the topic of social structure either. C’mon. Why is it weak for professors to have compassion for what our students are going through?

Some professors have this policy: “NO LATE WORK NO MATTER WHAT.” Really? I kid you not but I knew a professor years ago that wouldn’t let a student make up an exam they missed because they had suffered a miscarriage that week. The prof said: “A deadline is a deadline. I break it for you, I break it for everyone.”

Are you fucking (sorry, ma 😲) kidding me? A fucking (ditto, ma 🤨) exam is more important than this woman losing her baby? I was gobsmacked and so disgusted by this (and yes, told the student to talk to our dean) I wanted to say this: “Look, Prof. You know what you just taught this student? That their pain doesn’t matter. Their loss doesn’t matter. Their life doesn’t matter. All that matters is a fucking (last one, ma 😬) date you arbitrarily put on a syllabus.” Yep. That taught them a lot.

Why can’t we all have compassion for our students? Understand that life gets in the way of due dates…assignments…studying. I remember O being sick and his school calling me at school to come pick him up. I shot off a quick e-mail to my students saying classes were cancelled and when I was running out the door, one of my colleagues said this: “Must be nice to just up and leave work because you have a kid.” And I responded with: “Look. My kid is forever and this is a job. My family will always come first.” If I had been a student, not much would have been turned in that week…O ended up getting pneumonia. So, if I would have missed a quiz, I would have been told ‘too bad’? Yes…by some profs.

Look, compassion is one of these things that you give back what you get. If I show compassion and empathy and true care for my students, I’m teaching them a lesson more important than understanding the 3 theoretical perspectives of sociology: that we have to take care of one another.

Other goals I have? I want to show my students how applicable the material is…how they can actually use it in their everyday lives. I want to be adaptable in terms of what students and classes need in any given semester. I want them to know it’s not my classroom…it’s theirs. It’s a student centered environment where they are the ones in the spotlight. It’s not the Professor K show.

It sounds like a cliche but actually, cliches are often based in truth: one bad professor can ruin a student’s college life. You think that woman who miscarried wanted to walk into another classroom after that? You think if I would have dropped that student she would have continued her studies still believing the words her mom heaped on her? You think if I played the power card and said “No…you cannot re-do that paper to pass” that student is going to be motivated? I love what I do. I take it seriously. And, I do it the way I do it because I care. Because I want students to walk out of my classes with not only the academics, but lessons in life, compassion, open mindedness, respect and a love for learning that can take them as far as they want to go.

Kristi xoxo

Happy Trails ~ Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So, I’m sitting in my office at school and I feel like bawling but in a good way! A few things have happened that make me feel that feeling where you’re so happy but so emotional that bawling just happens.

Ma went in for a procedure yesterday regarding her esophageal varices and the news was good! Everything is looking the way it should and this issue is definitely under control! YEA! As my peeps know, ma is my rock and has always been there for me and I don’t know what I’d do without her, though most likely it would be moving in with my son (don’t tell him that and God forbid he’s reading this right now 😳).

But for the past couple of years, sissy and I have been doing a lot for ma and it feels good to us. We like being able to ‘pay it back’ in terms of what she’s given us and all I can say is this: “T….when ma moves in with you in her ‘elderlier’ years, I’ll come by and help all I can. K?” 😎

Then, I’m completely off one of the meds (Effexor) that was causing me to have MORE issues in terms of mania than I would have had without it. As I wrote before, 2 of my meds were at odds with one another and just getting this one completely out of my system has made such a difference. Before ma went into the OR she even said to me how much more calm and centered I am! (We ended up having to wait for about 3 hours before she got in so I read her some short-stories…when I’d look up at her, she’d be so engrossed in listening that it tickled me 😍).

I go back to the doc tomorrow and he’s going to start weaning me off my 2nd med (Prozac) which should be an easier process. The withdrawals from Effexor can be bad unless you’re carefully weaned. I had forgotten to take it a couple of times during the last few years (I wasn’t diligent in filling my script 😬) and after just 2 days without it, I was a crying/yelling/manically depressed mess. My sissy experienced the same thing when she was taking it and missed a couple of doses. Prozac should be easier on me and then I’ll start the mood stabilizer that is indicated for bipolar! I can’t wait to continue on this road because my hope is so high with controlling this fucking (sorry, ma 🙄) illness.

Also, my Mally is doing so much better! She is coming when I call her about 80% of the time and is interacting more with Eddie and I when we’re all inside. She’s responding more to treats and knows some commands: night night (to get her in her crate to sleep in at night), walk (she loves these but if I don’t get the leash on her before she goes out, she won’t let me put it on her…and that little shit can slip by me quickly!), c’mon, and treat! A couple of nights ago, I walked both her and Eddie together and besides Ed almost pulling my arm out of it’s socket, it went really well. I’m so pleased with Mally’s progress!

Finally, I am so so happy to be back on campus and for some reason, feel much more relaxed and loose. I think it’s because I missed it so much and also because of the last year and a half online. Putting all of my classes out there virtually made me go through the materials so thoroughly and I kept searching for more and more ways to encourage engagement. I’ve always been prepared but just feel like I have more in my storehouse of info. Today, 2 girls walked me to my office and one of this said this: “I love your class! It’s the only one I’m actually learning something in!” The other student agreed.

Now, am I bragging? Well…a bit…🤭…but actually, that’s the way it should be. I want my students to come out of each class feeling it was worth their while and these comments made me see it is so far. But the best thing is this: I get something from my students everyday as well…and that makes me happy!

So…I’m feeling emotional. A good emotional. When you have a mental illness, things don’t always line up like this and when they do, it needs to be savored. I’m always going to have good weeks…bad weeks…mediocre weeks…tough weeks…depressed weeks…manic weeks…and just plain shitty weeks. But, this week is a winner…and I’m lovin’ it!

Kristi xoxo

“You take a deep breath and you walk through the doors…” ~ Taylor Swift (Fifteen)

So, OH MY GOSH…it feels so so so so so so so good to be back in my classroom! Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! 🥰

We’re in the 4th week of the semester now and I have 6 online and 3 on-campus classes. For the first couple of weeks in the classroom, the mood was a bit subdued. Not a lot of excitement about being back since it had been so long and a lot of students got used to the convenience and routine of online learning. But this week? It’s a 180! We have the spark back…the mojo…the groove (I’m a 70’s girl…what can I say 🙄)!

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that teaching is my passion (probably more than a million) but these past 18 months really made me see it anew. I like teaching online and have been doing it since 1999. I took a series of online classes myself in the early 2000’s and earned my Master Online Teaching Certificate from the U of I. Impressive…right (that should get me a date 😐)? So, not only am I educated in the pedagogy of this type of teaching, I’ve experienced it as a student too. This makes me look at my classes and ask myself: would I like this? If the answer is a NO (!), I re-vamp until I would.

Hubby 3 liked being my Guinea Pig; after I would get my classes created, I get him in a student view and tell him to click all around and tell me what he didn’t understand. Invariably he’d find something that wasn’t clear and I’d change it. It really helped me out and I think I have it down pat now.

I feel like I can still build relationships with students online…that’s part of what you need to learn to teach this way effectively. It’s little things like always using their name in every comment, etc. you make…offering a couple extra credit points where they have to e-mail you an answer to a question like “Where would you live if you could live anywhere and why?” They have to expand on their answer and then I always respond. It gives us a chance to talk more one on one about things we’re interested in. I make videos every week so they know a ‘real’ person is out there and I try to create discussions/activities that are meaningful.

BUT in my opinion, no matter how well online classes are structured to be interactive and worthwhile, they are just not the same as my face to face. Period. To me, nothing can take place of seeing faces…expressions…calling on students who I can tell are getting it…asking students what they don’t understand…and having students walk me to my office everyday after class. I love this ‘real’ interaction and it’s happening this semester in all 3 of my campus courses. It makes me feel like I am making connections and without those, you don’t give the student much motivation to listen and learn from you.

I also think the academics are different for both types of classes, and online learning can either be an easy way to ‘slide’ through a class, or a challenging way to get as much as you can out of the class; the amount of individual effort is crucial in terms of what students actually get out of the class. In fact, I truly believe that many of my online students learn more than the ones I have on-campus because they are so driven to get all they can from them.

Dedicated and eager students absorb everything and learn how to actively work with the material given and learn more than just the topics: they learn independent research, time management, computer literacy, how to express themselves only in writing (which I think is a GREAT skill to master), etc.

On the other hand, I’ve had students who simply slide by in them…that’s always going to happen for whatever reason (but to be fair, that happens on campus too). Not reading the info I provide…not watching the videos I make or upload…looking up answers for quizzes instead of studying all of the material first…putting the bare minimum into discussions where it’s obvious that a couple of things from the topic were googled and stitched together. I hate this! I don’t want students to walk out of (or in this case, log off of 💻) my classes without them knowing everything they possibly can about the material. And with psychology and sociology, it’s not just info to learn…it’s info to use! That’s important to me and why I teach what I teach.

Lord knows I am a pro at psychology even without a textbook. For fuck sakes (sorry, ma 🤨) I’ve had a fucking (I couldn’t resist) mental illness for as long as I can remember…literally. I’ve experienced a whole plethora of things that have gone into my psyche and I don’t think even Freud would want to dig around in there…it’s probably a gooey mess.

But learning all about psychology means learning all about why our minds work the way they work. Why we think like we do…dream like we do…remember like we do…perceive like we do. EVERYTHING we’ve ever experienced is stuck in that glob of cells somewhere and it affects us in one way or another.

And then sociology means learning about how our society affects us and what issues are important for all of us to understand. Hopefully, my students come out being much more aware and educated about racism, gender issues, ageism, the structure of society and how we all fit into it, class issues, cultural differences, etc. Right now we’re studying socialization in my Intro classes and my students are learning how their environment has affected them since the day they were born. We talk about how we develop our self image…our sense of self as it pertains to others…how our personalities were developed in the context of our environments…how the media affects us…the power our family had on our development, etc. This is stuff that’s important to know!

(By the way, just in case you can’t tell, I love to teach what I teach!)

Anyhoot, after being away from actual student ‘bodies’ for so long, just being back and being able to talk to them in person is awesome. The last few months of school being closed was really tough for me and the other teachers and profs I know. It was a long time to have to work from home, and a very long time not being in the actual environment that you were meant to be in. Like a fish out of water, so to speak! 🐟🐠🐡🦈🐬

So, my sweetie pie students…I’m so happy to be back to see half of your beautiful, and I assume smiling, faces again. I’ve missed you all so much and truly got lonely for you. If you’ve had me before, welcome back! Seeing you again was wonderful! If you’re new…YEA! I can’t wait to know you better and see you grow!

Have a great school year everyone!

Kristi xoxo

“No student is bad. They only need a good teacher.” ~ Rahul Nair

unnamed (1)

So, I was chatting with someone the other day and they said this:  “Those who can’t do, teach.”  OK.  I’m going to wait until you educators pull your jaws up off the floor and are able to blink again.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Waiting.  Ready?  I’m going to sum up what my first reaction was to this:  What the fuck (sorry, ma…but you helped put me through college…aren’t you a bit pissed too?)?!  Are you kidding me?  Really?

First of all, how totally ridiculous is that phrase?  I can’t even.  I’m mean seriously…I refuse to type it again since it pisses me off so much.  Let me get this straight:  if I CAN’T do something, I CAN teach it.  Hmmmmm…so…if I CAN’T speak German (which I’d like to be able to since it was the native language of my great-grandparents 😳), I CAN still jolly well teach it?  Okey dokey!  Well…let’s see…I can’t look at the periodic table and not think it should be re-arranged differently because it’s just not aesthetically pleasing, understand an electrical circuit (just ask my brother in law 😵), comprehend anything at all about astronomy, see algebraic equations and not want to poke myself in the eye with a hot stick since they simply look like gobbedly-gook to me and it stresses me out even more than I ususally am just peering at them, peruse biological concepts and wonder how I have kept myself alive this long since I understand nothing about bodily functions, read about a physics law and marvel at the fact I can ride a freaking bike when I have absolutely no clue in God’s world how I’m doing it, and the list goes on.  BUT, I can certainly TEACH about biology and electricity and algebra.  Right?  Good to know.  Blech.

quote-those-who-can-t-teach-pass-laws-about-how-to-evaluate-teachers-diane-ravitch-71-28-65

OK.  Maybe you’re rolling your eyes (don’t do that, grasshoppers…according to ma they’ll stick that way and you’ll be looking at ceilings for the rest of your lives 🙄) and saying to yourself:  “The quote doesn’t mean that!  It means that if you CAN’T be successful in the field, THEN you teach.”

OH!  Much better!  🙄  Heh??  Why can’t people understand that the great majority of educators WANTED to teach?  That it was our primary objective?  That teaching is a discipline?  That we studied the particular field we teach AND learned how to teach it?

Actually, this begs even more questions:  When did people lose so much respect for educators (I mean, hello?!!  Who the hell taught them how to read?)?  When did we start to demand so much more from teachers while losing appreciation for them at the same time?  When did teachers become the scapegoats for so many of society’s ills?  And, when we talk about educational issues in general, why is it that faculty are judged first, when in fact they are following the dictates of an administration who may never have taught themselves?  Does that really make sense, peeps?  Me don’t think so.  🤨

Anyhoot, besides providing fodder for a rambling intro, when that quote was said to me, it started me thinking of other ‘myths’ regarding teachers.  And believe you me, there’s a lot of ’em.  (Side note:  I’ve never really gotten the phrase ‘believe you me’.  It doesn’t make sense but I like using it anyway…it just sounds catchy to me).

summer underpaid teachers
Photo Credit

So y’all know that us educators have it made; I mean look…we get our summers off!  Right?  If you believe that, I have some great ocean side property in Iowa to sell you for a buck an acre (put your checkbook away ma…I was just making a point 🙄).  Unlike for all the other people in the world that actually ‘work’ and not teach, this has been a very relaxing summer for me.  I taught 3 summer classes because I need the income and because I want students to have every opportunity possible to get their needed credit hours.  I shoved 16 weeks of work into 8 for each class and that made for hours and hours of grading every week; and since I taught them online (which is not my first choice but necessary this summer and also because summer students traditionally like online 😎), I was making tons of videos and helping students with not only their academic work but with some technology issues as well.

Then, I always use the summer to get ready for fall (us educators never live in the ‘semester’ we’re teaching…instead, we are always teaching one semester while preparing for the next).  That means I’m prepping 8 classes (so many because we have an open faculty position we can’t fill because of Covid and interviewing issues, etc.) to be online and for every single one of these develop 16 weeks of fresh, engaging, interactive material.  That’s 128 weeks of work to get ready with me researching every topic/issue/concept I teach in 2 different disciplines and then going through loads and loads of info so my students learn as much as they possibly can.  Being in front of the computer with scads of books, articles, sites, videos, etc. to wade through for 6-7 hours a day made for a relaxing summer ‘off’.  Huh?

13wbp5

“But Kristi, you get paid the big bucks as a professor!”  No, my sweetie peeps, I don’t.  Yes, I make good money and am truly blessed by what I do.  And I mean that…I get paid for doing what I love and for being with my sweetie students who I absolutely adore.  But, I’m not going to get ‘rich’ (which doesn’t matter to me one iota since so many wealthy men are lining up to marry me anyway 🤓 ) and struggle with money at times.  I know so so so many people live paycheck to paycheck and that I’m very lucky I always have enough to pay what I need too with some left over.  However, I think people hear the word professor (or even teacher) and think RICH.  Nuh uh.  (So, if you’re a nice rich, single guy and you like teachers…just sayin’).  🤨  In fact, according to Visual Capitalist, out of 50 college degrees, education is ranked #49 in terms of salary.  49!

Another gem?  A good teacher can teach anyone.  Bullshit.  Any questions?

585541849cc7078a917d6acfbd7209a1

C’mon now.  Students have to want to learn…be motivated to learn…put their own work into the process…and the list goes on.  Teachers aren’t the only part of the equation in the educational process.  Trust me.  And it’s getting harder.  Students have a repository of knowledge in the palm of their hand.  They don’t need to know how to look through indexes, read dozens of articles and books, take notes, type out papers multiple times on a typewriter until it’s just right, etc.  Now, they can just say:  “Hey Google…what are the 3 theoretical perspectives of Sociology?”  (VERY important to know, peeps…you might be on Jeopardy someday 🙄).  So, we are now trying to teach students how to learn…how to think for themselves outside of what ‘wikipedia’ says…how to analyze information…how to be media literate…how to show that the info we present is applicable in real life…and how to find a love of reading and learning simply for the sake of it.  That’s tough to do.  Trust me.

toon-2020
Glasbergen Cartoon Service

“Well, you might say…at least teaching is ‘easy’.  I mean, you’re pretty much just talking to students and all.”  Hubby 3 (sigh…shutty the mouthy…), a maintenance technician, thought this for a time…bless his motorcycle lovin’ heart.  But then he was asked to teach a 6 hour class about crane inspection (I can’t think of anything I’d least like to sit through…except maybe ma telling one more story about a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who might have something but doesn’t know for sure 🙄).  I tried to give him some teaching tips (of course, what did I know…I’d only been doing it for a couple of decades 😳), but he said it would be a cinch…he knew his stuff.  Oooookkkkkaaaaayyyyy!

After his class, he plodded up the driveway and looked exhausted.  The first thing he did upon walking in the door was to grab me, hug me, and say “How the hell do you do this everyday?  It was a nightmare!”  (Actually his language was much more graphic then this…but it might shock the knickers off of ma).  I asked what happened and he said:  “People weren’t listening and were talking and were asking stupid questions I had already answered and whining for a break and mumbling about why was I the one teaching this crap and I’d say something 3 times and they still wouldn’t get it and my PowerPoints were illegible because I made them too wordy and then they’d want a bathroom break and then their phone would go off and I’d have to start my sentence over and then one fell asleep and started snoring and then a couple of the guys started laughing while a couple others were arguing about unions and I just wanted to get in a factory and be out of that God forsaken room.”  I didn’t use punctuation in that sentence because Hubby didn’t when he said it.  It was just one long complaint.  And after this little adventure in academia?  He never ever ever said I didn’t work hard.  Ever.

Out of all of these gems, this is my favorite quote about teachers:  “Most damaging to student achievement: teachers are interchangeable widgets.” ~ Joni Johnson

B005JU5JEI_BadTeacher_UXSY1._V145020191_SX1080_
My Lord…it’s like looking into a mirror.

OK.  I don’t know who the hell this person is, and to be honest, I don’t want to know.  But to make a blanket statement about a group of people that you apply to every individual means you weren’t listening in sociology class when stereotyping and prejudice were being discussed.  Just sayin’.

Yes.  There are good professors and bad professors.  Good teachers and bad teachers.  But by the same token, there are good chefs and bad chefs…good docs and bad docs…good accountants and bad accountants…and the list goes on.  Why is it that educators are singled out as a group and if one is bad, the whole lot of them are?  I don’t get that at all.

Finally, us educators are told that we need to be flexible, accommodating, understanding, work to develop a one on one relationship with each student, not provide so much homework, lessen demands and expectations, challenge our students, apply every concept to real life, know everything there is to know about our subject matter, allow for more individuation in learning, have passion, be inspirational, keep things lighthearted so learning is fun, bring our own personal stories into the class, etc.  Whew.

Now, take a look-see at those expectations again.  And then tell me…honestly…how many people in ANY profession can do any of those things every single day?  Not only is it impossible, but so many are counter to one another!  It’s sorta tricky to challenge our students while lessening our demands on them.  In other words, profs…all educators…are held to a higher standard in terms of their ‘job’ and everything is supposed to be ‘wonderful’ in the classroom regardless of day, topic, etc.  I’m here to tell you, peeps…lecturing about domestic violence does not make for a lighthearted class.  Trust me.

When O was a medium sized guy, I was asked to be a guest speaker at the schools career day, and the PTA President (cough cough…shrew…cough cough) said I would only get a few minutes since kids know what teachers do anyway.  So…I made the following list to talk about that I called:  “What Does Professor K do all Day?” (I love rhymes…):

  • Prepare lectures, PowerPoints/videos/handouts
  • Prepare both master and working syllabi each semester
  • Prepare records/data for program reviews and course reviews
  • Develop online classes
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Prepare exams ensuring they are reliable and valid
  • Calculate midterm and final semester grades
  • Meet with students often for extra help and guidance
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Integrate new learning and technology into classes every semester
  • Be evaluated by dean and then prepare a self-evaluation every year
  • Advise students on majors and courses
  • Counsel students on careers and job opportunities in the field
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking jobs
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking scholarships
  • Write letters of recommendation for students seeking entrance into a university
  • Present community workshops as part of the colleges Speaker’s Bureau
  • Participate in college and departmental meetings
  • Grade Grade Grade
  • Serve on college committees
  • Serve on search committees for new faculty members
  • Serve on tenure committees
  • Earn continuing education hours to maintain my professional designation
  • Grade Grade Grade

I think that pretty much covers it.  And, since my time on campus is spent being with my sweetiepie students, I spend hours and hours working at home as well.

Look, I’m not saying that teaching is the hardest job in the world.  It’s not.  Really.  However, teaching is a field that is losing respect and teachers are being scrutinized more and more as students’ work and test scores decline.  Educators have ‘bosses’ too and there is only so much ‘freedom’ we have to do what we think is right.  Professors have to do what our admin tells us to do.  Elementary – High School teachers have to follow the dictates of the district…teach so kids can pass the standardized tests…operate under whatever funding is available.  And we all have to keep our mouths shutty when we, as EDUCATORS, realize that what NON-EDUCATORS (who are often on school boards, etc.) direct is often wrong.  How frustrating that is.

Anyhoot, I love what I do.  And I’m good at what I do.  As are millions of educators out there.  Give us a break, guys.  Cut us some slack.  We are not at fault for the world’s ills and the ‘buck’ does not stop at the teacher in terms of education.  Parents, communities, and the students themselves have to be added to the equation (which is hard for me to do…remember, I suck balls at math 😳) for what makes successful education in any society.  And, if you see one of your old teachers out and about, say ‘howdy’ and give them a little hug (masked, of course 😷) and tell them how much you learned from them.  It will make their day.  Truly.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

“Schools for Fools” ~ Jamie Kennedy

So, in a perfect world I’d write to each and everyone of you, but since that’s almost 3000 and counting, I figured this would save me from carpel tunnel syndrome.  Here goes:

To My Amazing Students:

First, I don’t use that word lightly and you also know I am brutally honest so there you go.  You are all freaking marvelous to me.

I’ll never forget the first day I walked into my classroom at Hutchinson Community College in KS.  I had just had my son 6 months before and needed to get out of the house once in a while so I wouldn’t lose my mind.  I knew that was happening when I would continue watching “Barney” long after my son was asleep.  Anyhoot, I got a job teaching a psychology class a couple of nights a week, even though I didn’t have my Masters degree yet, and I was a wreck.  Back then, in the olden days (1994), we had what were called ‘paper rosters’ (ask your grandparents and quit rolling your eyes) and when I tried to take attendance that night, my hands were shaking so badly I couldn’t read the names.  So, I took a deep breath, braced myself against the overhead (google it…there still might be a couple around), and dug in.  I know I did terrible…what the hell did I know about lecturing?  I was used to teaching 5th graders how to write a paragraph.  I was young and scared and after doing so bad in high school, never thought I’d be in front of a college class as the instructor.  Lucky for me, my students were extremely patient and kind that first semester, and had mercy on me for the evals.  I was so thrilled when I got hired again and again for more classes.

18519507_10158665370275082_7669739309193944420_n
Eating lunch out with 2 of my students because we just had so much more to talk about!!  They are an amazing couple!!

Every semester was better as I gained confidence in myself (and didn’t have leaky boobs because my boy was still breast-feeding), and I even started doing this very new-fangled thing called “Distance Learning” where I was ‘beamed’ to other locations and kids were in those classrooms too.  I had to keep track of my ‘real’ students in the studio, monitor 4 other classrooms, and deliver a lecture.  OMG…I felt just like Dianne Sawyer (if only I would have had her blonde hair).  The technology was amazing!  I was actually on TV!  Wow! 🙄

There were so many awesome experiences there, and I realized how much I adored teaching college!  I had a lot of students take me for more than one class (suckers!) and I realized how easy it was to build relationships with them.  But there were some sad times too.  Once, a student went into labor in the middle of my class.  We were so excited for her and called security etc.  It was her 4th baby and we all had bets on the gender.  She is a wonderful woman, and as you know, I like nicknames and called her Knickerbocker Bear!  Sadly, I got a call that night from her hubby, and he tearfully told the baby had suffered distress and was still born.  I was so devastated for her.  When she returned to class a couple of weeks later, we all rallied around her and cried.  I realized then that a class can be a family too.

13062274_10156804969805082_9091811536014234582_n
My student and I clicked from the beginning…I was so sad to see her graduate!  How selfish is that?

I also had my first totally blind student.  She hated me in the beginning because I had no clue how to deal with her lack of sight.  The internet (invented by Al Gore) was in it’s infancy and I just couldn’t ‘search’ to see what strategies I could use.  I did everything wrong and she let me know!  Finally, I asked her to help me learn how to interact with a blind person appropriately and she did!  She let me get close to her seeing eye dog and we became great friends after she took a couple of my classes.  She taught me more than I ever taught her, and her understanding of how people aren’t rude, but ignorant at times, turned her attitude around too.  When I left Hutchinson, she was the last person I visited.

Hubby and I decided to come back home after our 3 year stint in Kansas (where he had been transferred) and after I got my M.S.  I had graduated community college from where I teach at now, and when I applied, I was so so excited.  I was back on my old stomping ground.

It’s been 24 years, and I can honestly say I’ve never, ever, not wanted to be with y’all every day that I am.  No matter what’s going on in my life, you are my bright spots.  My sunshine.  Once, when I told Hubby 3 (yes, I know, they are hard to keep track of, just try) I wished I could have had more kids, he said:  “Honey…you have hundreds of kids.  Thousands!” and he was right (at least about that).  That’s what I think about all of you.  Yes, you are my students first, but you are more than that.  Much more.  You are ‘people’ struggling with so much and to be a part of that side of your life, makes me a more compassionate, understanding prof who learns what you need and how to present it best.

288118_495027130512133_1762728789_o
My student and I who ran a 10k together while my son, his friend, watched!  It was so hot and hilly, but we did it by encouraging each other the entire way!

In my classes, as you know (quit skimming this…for goodness sakes, read it all) we talk about really shitty things (I can cuss here…it’s my blog, so there).  Domestic violence, rape, child abuse, sexual abuse, divorce, alchoholism, mental illness, war, death, suicide, and the list goes on.  It’s such a joy 🙄.  But it’s necessary for the classes I teach.  I tackle the hard stuff because that’s what can happen in the world.  And here’s the thing:  I’ve never taught a class on any of these issues without having a handful of you e-mail me to tell me your story.  I know you can’t see my tears, but knowing what you’ve been through, how you’ve found the strength to go on, and how so many of you want to use these experiences to help others overwhelms me.  I’m humbled by you.

But at the same time, I was lying to you.  I was letting y’all share, and I was still the consummate professional (look up that word and quit rolling your eyes at my vocabulary) that wanted to be seen as your ‘guru’, like I saw my profs as being mine.  I’m not worthy of that though.  None of us are.  So when I had a breakdown 3 years ago, I stopped lying (to me and you) and started sharing with you about my having a mental illness and things I’ve experienced in my life.  I had too.  I was actually teaching summer school during this time, and we were in the tail end of the semester.  There were days I’d get up at 4 in the morning (yes, life starts before 7…you’ll find out when you have kids)  and would have to force myself to shower and dress and then drive to teach you.  Some days I didn’t think I’d get through the couple of hours we had together, and some days I’d have to take a break.  I was embarrassed and ashamed but you all took me by the hand, gave me an incredible amount of support, and showed me that the love I feel for you goes both ways.  In so many aspects, you were part of my salvation.

10363955_10154124726995082_8691975107848878302_n
Yes, my student is as gorgeous as this pic shows, with a heart to match!

Then my nephew was killed on a Navy ship.  Only 1 colleague acknowledged the pain and grief I was feeling.  One.  But not you.  EVERY day y’all would ask me if I had heard anything about him since things were so confusing with missing sailors, and once I learned his body had been found, I was devastated.  When I came to school the next day, you started hugging me and comforting me as I cried.  Sobbed.  Because you were the only support (outside of my ma and son) I had.  When older folk say that you ‘young people’ are self-centered, I say bullshit (don’t say that in front of your own ma…it’s not respectful).  You are the opposite.   You did so much for me, and I see you do so much for others as well.

I had a student threaten me, and like anything on a campus, word leaked out.  When I wasn’t taken seriously and was ‘victim blamed’ for him threatening to rape and kill me, so many of you said how you lost respect for the institution as a result.  I had dozens of you want to protest and do a walk-out to show your support of me.  I told you not too and that I was OK (you knew I was lying, my perceptive sweeties) because it was my battle (that I lost) to fight, not yours.  Just knowing you felt so strongly and so protective of me helped diminish the blow that treatment dealt me after so many years.  YOU are the reason I came back day after day.  I still don’t feel totally comfy there anymore.  Not totally safe.  I know that people will turn on you in seconds regardless of what you’ve done.  But not you…not at all.  And you kept my faith in people.  Literally.  Thank you for that.

97402524_1585487618269561_205898232499273728_n
My student who is graduating tonight!  I truly love her like a daughter and am so proud of her!

OMG….we’ve had so many fun times too!  Donut days!  Saying ‘anyhoot’ to make you smile.  Having students say “In the name of all that is holy” in a high pitched voice to preface my comments!  Teasing students who laugh the hardest.  Laughing so hard in class we can’t continue until we get control again.  Talking about weird stuff like serial killers where we feel guilty for being so interested.  Having you come to my office and eat lunch while helping me pick out a dress for a wedding (not mine 🙄).  Bringing candy to school around Halloween and Easter so we can get all chocolaty and sticky before the next class.  Rolling our eyes at each other as we pass in the halls.  Being in clubs together and having bake sales where we eat more than we sell.  Giving high fives to each other after a super great comment or grade.  Watching funny video clips at the end of class to get you on your way in a better mood than when when you came in.  My wonderful jokes I tell so well (shutty…and remember my best one about the nuns?).  And the list goes on and on and on.  There hasn’t been a day I haven’t smile with you or laughed with you…no matter what!

And now I’ve been teaching so long (yes, I’m still 40…I started teaching college when I was 12 and quit doing the math 😜), that I get to see your engagements on FB, your wedding pics, your precious babies, and all the amazing degrees and jobs and things you’re accomplishing!  It’s so fun for me!  And in the spring and summer?  I get so many wedding invitations I can’t go to them all, but I love love love buying you something!  Following your lives and still interacting with you is a joy…whether I had you 20 years ago or 1.  Truly!

So, on this graduation day for my current students, I wanted to tell you all this:  thank you for letting me be a part of your lives.  It’s been not only a pleasure, but a privilege as well.  Whenever I get feeling blue about the state of the world, I think of all of you: the amazing, talented, intelligent people who are working to make changes, and then my hope in humanity is rekindled.  You all have so many gifts, and don’t let anyone tell you different.  You are loved.  You are appreciated.  You are important.  You matter.  Professor K says so.  And remember, I don’t lie.

Kristi  xoxo

P.S.  I have permission from each student to use their pic…just sayin’! 😀

 

RelatoCorto

Blog Fiction

techclanz

technology for innovators

K9 University

K9 University

Avisha Rasminda

Hi, I'm Avisha Rasminda. Twenty years old.

quenchingthelongthirst

Transitioning to converting my thoughts into blogs than talking to myself about them

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Thinking and Searching

Zaden Zane

A blog about wildlife, nature, the wonders of Britain (and the world), bike-riding, life in London... and my crazy life in general.

You Lil Dickens

Words To Think On

How to feel better

Another year, a decade or a lifetime - sooth your body eternally

rethinkingscripture.wordpress.com/

Facing The Challenges of Mental Health

shelleypsych

AQA Psychology Linear course

Silent Songs of Sonsnow

"I have enough time to rest, but I don't have a minute to waste". Come and catch me with your wise words and we will have some fun with our words of wisdom.