Reimagining Remote Teaching Volume 22 | GCTC

Reimagining Remote Teaching Volume 22

by Dr. Kerri McKenna - February 25, 2021

According to Socrates, the foundation of education is simple: “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.” Or, in more modern times, my statement: I can explain a concept to you, but I cannot “learn” you. Only you can “learn” information.

In other words, learning is a choice every student makes.

However, this does not mean learning content is 100% the student’s responsibility. If it was, there would be absolutely no need for K-12 or Higher Education. A belief that students, and students alone, are 100% responsible is faulty logic. No one can learn in a vacuum. We need others to help us understand information, process it effectively, and apply it to real world situations. Educators provide context and create student motivation to learn.

Add on the fact that Community Colleges are also categorized as Teaching Colleges, and our responsibility in the classroom is even more important to acknowledge. It is our responsibility to be on the cutting edge of innovative teaching practices. It is our responsibility to evaluate our own teaching openly and honestly to see where we need to improve. It is our responsibility to understand the characteristics of our students. It is our responsibility to meet our students where they are and then give them the tools to reach their academic goals. It is our responsibility to show them grace and build relationships with them.

We are not in large auditoriums with TAs. We should not walk into a classroom, lecture for 75 minutes, and walk out without taking the time to know our students. We are not asked to do rigorous research. We are not asked to write continuously for publications. We are asked to be the absolute best educator we can possibly be. And, to be our best, we must elevate our own commitment and dedication to the classroom.

Simply put, we are asked to do one primary thing: we are asked to teach so our students want to learn. Coupled with this request is an unwritten expectation: we are also asked to professionally grow. Stagnation is death. It is also hypocrisy. How can we expect our students to be lifelong learners if we do not continue to learn ourselves?

I am not talking about training. I am not talking about how to learn PeopleSoft. Or how to do advising for students in our Education pathway. Those are topics we need to know, but those topics are training us on how to do something. They are one shot activities which help us understand process and procedure within the college. 

And I am not talking about conferences like College Wide Concurrent Sessions, state level conferences, or national conferences. During those, we have 50 minutes to ponder an idea. However, the research consistently shows the thoughts we think while at these conferences rarely makes it to our classrooms because we have not held space to make sure we implement and evaluate our work.

Professional development, however, is entirely different. Professional development is a continuous exploration of who we are in a classroom. Professional development requires multiple steps: identifying a topic we would like to improve upon in our classroom. Taking action to learn more about this topic. Creating a plan to implement learned information and a way to evaluate whether we have been successful; finally, evaluating your new efforts and identifying what went well and what you can do to improve your student’s experience.

I know 2020 – 2021 wasn’t the greatest year to dive into extensive professional development, yet you didn’t have the choice but to engage. You were pushed off the ledge. You had to learn how to teach differently – and many have come to realize this new approach has been a good thing (even though it was also a bit painful).

I have heard countless times that this year has forced you to become more intentional in the classroom. That you are more organized, more structured, and focused on priority content more concisely. Others have also shared they do not mind the new tech tools they have learned. Others have learned the most important thing they need to do with every student is build a relationship and a feeling that “we are all in this together”. And many have learned it is possible to build a relationship with people through a computer screen.

For those who have requested student feedback – you used that feedback to help evaluate your classroom and you adjusted for Spring Semester. And through my conversations with many of you, I know you have been deeply reflecting on your work. You made the uncomfortable choice to professionally grow.

So, as we start to wrap up 2020 – 2021 (believe it or not, but there are ONLY 10 total Mondays left – and that INCLUDES Spring Break), I am proposing a challenge. Think about a topic you want to explore and learn about in 2021 – 2022. It could be making a commitment to learning how to write tests that match learning objectives written to Bloom’s Taxonomy. It could be learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy and what that means in terms of your classes. It could be how to make lecture videos. It could be techniques to foster relationships in the classroom. Whatever you want to learn about, the sky is the limit. But make sure you make the decision to reach for the sky. Don’t sit back and let another year pass without being a life-long learner about your teaching.

Pick something small. Let me know what your topic is. I will walk the journey with you. Together we will grow as educators and meet your expectation of being your absolute best in the classroom.