Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…

Watch this Video : http://youtu.be/8H48vMYu1J0

Hillsong United – Oceans (Where my feet may fail)

” Spirit Lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Whenever you would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

in the presence of the Savior

I will call upon your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in your embrace

For I am yours and you are mine”

This past Sunday I was introduced to this praise and worship song. I remember thinking back to lifeguard training. We would tread water for 20 minutes straight with our hands above the water in-order to get our lifeguard certification. We started with 5 minutes, then we trained for 10 minutes. Eventually, we mastered 20 minutes. This skill was required and needed for life saving purposes. If I was drowning, I would want a lifeguard that could tread for as long as needed.

This reflective process has taught me that we set standards, we prepare our students for what we know they will need, and we implement strategies to help them succeed. But in reality, we can only prepare them for so much. So much more learning must take place through life experiences and outside of class assessment.

At this time in the semester, I see many of the students treading water with their head just above water. I challenge my students to cherish these moments. Let God use these moments to prepare them for the road of life ahead. To one day be the leader that is teaching others. My hope is that these moments they share at this university will help them to dig deeper in their faith. My hope is that God will take the moments and use them to draw closer to him.

My challenge to myself is the same. I am in my own journey of “treading water” and I know God is going to lead me to a deeper place in my faith. He is going to stretch my abilities and give me the ‘required skills needed’ to make a difference.***


Podcast Update

I have been tracking the progress of the students viewing the podcast prior to class. Six out of 16 students are viewing the chapter podcast prior to or after class.  In addition, the same 6 are completing all assignments whereas the other 10 are just not. Conclusions: if students do not turn in assignments, they are also not likely to read, listen to the podcasts, or come prepared to class.

In order to increase in-class participation, I started posting the discussion questions from the podcast/reading materials the day prior to class and individually assigning them to a question. Most everyone in class shows up with the answer for their question. This has helped in-class discussion and has given the more introverted students time to prepare to speak in-front of other students. It has also facilitated deeper discussion when the student are prepared to talk about the topics.

Although this process has not been perfect or easy, the process has provided opportunities for students to be responsible and mature learners. These opportunities are crucial for developing critical thinking in higher education.

In summary, I will continue to provide opportunities that facilitate in-class discussion and develops critical thinking opportunities. Today it may involve a podcast, tomorrow it may involve video conferencing or some other type of teaching method.

-LM

Personal refection

 

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Reflecting on this past semester, I have concluded that I am very critical of myself.

I hold myself and my students to a high standard.

Although this might be frustrating at times, at the end of the day, critiquing myself is what has allowed me to make progress. Having others critique me is also helpful.

This year I am apart of a Teaching and Learning group. Part of this process is getting other faculty to observe a class, and then talk about areas of improvement.

So far in this process, I have gained confidence in my teaching methods. I have learned what other people do in their class, and I have had the opportunity to ask the “tough” questions. My peer group is comprised of three co-workers that I admire for one reason or another. They all have different teaching styles, they all have different strengths and weaknesses, and they all have different on-going issues.

This process has been a lifesaver as a newer faculty. It has allowed me to conceptualize my experience in a different way. Drawing from all the experiences of my teaching and learning group, I have been able to learn and grow from getting to know them.

I plan to continue to critique and improve myself as a professor: to learn from others who have more experience or different experiences than myself; to be secure enough in my teaching to not be wavered by one experience, but sensitive enough to know when to change; to be kind to myself throughout the process; and to be reflective enough to enjoy the journey.

I am thankful God has lead me to this profession. I will do my due diligence to be a good steward of the resources and responsibility that has been given to me.

lm

Collegiality

// Collegiality:

the cooperative relationship of colleagues

One of the best lessons I have learned through this reflection process is to learn from others. Other professors in my department and outside of my department have extended wisdom, and support at times when I needed it.

I used to think that I encountered “unique” issues and situations. I have learned through this reflection experience that we can learn a lot from talking to each other.

It is not weakness to seek others for advice… it is wise to seek those who have the experience and knowledge.

This past week I was approached by a student about a moral/ethical question. I gave her advice, but I could see that it was difficult for her to take the advice because of her current life experiences (don’t worry it wasn’t anything bad or life threatening… it was minor and won’t really make a difference one way or another).  But, the best thing about this encounter is that I saw myself in her. I saw that sometimes I ask advice from more experienced faculty, and sometimes I have a hard time understanding that advice.

I grew a lot from this encounter. It showed me that I can learn a lot from others if I just take the time to understand that my colleagues have that advice to offer. I understand that I am in my own growth process as a professor and that it may be at a different place than other people. AND that’s okay…

I can see myself maturing as a person and as a professional. I don’t do things the same way I did my first year of teaching. In five years, I probably won’t teach the same way I am teaching now. There is nothing wrong with what I am doing now but I hope to learn and to grow.

I am grateful that I am surrounded by co-workers that work together. I hope to continue to grow from using a collaborative approach to evaluate my actions a professor. I plan to be that peer or mentor support to future faculty.

We are stronger when we work together and when we learn from each other.

lm

 

Discipleship in Christian Education

makingdisciples

Disciple:

a:  one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another
b:  one of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ’s followers according to the Gospel accounts
c:  a convinced adherent of a school or individual


Student’s see professors through a very narrow perspective;  life experiences thus far. They can only compare you to their previous experiences, and they are at the mercy of their current situation. Their perspective influences how they interact with you ,and how they expect you to interact with them.

For instance, at the beginning of the semester I always have a few students that cannot understand why I won’t take late work. They fuss and complain, not getting them any closer to me accepting their late work. By the end of the semester, I don’t have any students kicking and screaming about late work because this is the new ‘norm’ in their perspective.

I think it is important for me to understand and consider why students behave the way they do. They behave this way because, at some point, this behavior got them what they wanted and it was reinforced.  This brings me to my next reflection….

Recently, I had a student that sent me a text to landline message. This type of message occurs when the student decides to send a text message to my office phone rather than calling my office phone.

I was checking my voicemail one day this week and this is what it said in a robot computer voice…

“Hey Dr. McRee. This is (student’s name). I am sorry I missed class. I slept straight through my alarm. I was wondering what all I missed today.”

At first glance, this looks like the student is really trying to get the information from class. However….. After I emailed her back telling her to come to my office to go over what she missed, she did not come to my office. I plan to explain to her in detail that I appreciate her reaching out, but that her efforts were minimal. Technology cannot replace your personal work ethic and follow through.

Am I a bad professor for telling her this? Has no one ever told her this? A number of questions run through my head. I ask fellow professors and they agree that she could improve her professional interaction.

Which brings up another question… How do we as professors help shape our students in ways that are not grade related?

I was at an ETBU leadership workshop ( Breakfast with Fred ) earlier this semester and this was one of the proposed questions. So, I asked my students if they think that I help them develop in the ways listed below. These 10 items were published in a journal article as the “Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace”

  1. Integrity
  2. Communication
  3. Courtesy
  4. Responsibility
  5. Interpersonal skills
  6. Positive attitude
  7. Professionalism
  8. Flexibility
  9. Teamwork skills
  10. Work ethic

I personally could only pick out three that I could actually attach a grade to the “soft skill”. BUT, to my surprise… My students justified how I was able to teach them all the 10 skills without always assigning a grade to each of them. We had an honest conversation and it was interesting to see their perspective. I was shocked and told them I was very flattered… I told them that many times I don’t feel like I am able to breakthrough with some of these skills because of the dynamics of grading in higher education. I ensured them that these skills are needed in the real world, but that sometimes I am unsure of how successful I am at implementing them in the classroom.

So, as I reflect back on the TEXT to LANDLINE situation, I can see clearly that this is an opportunity to disciple this student. Interactions such as these do not always lead to a quantified grade, but they do shape the future leaders & graduates of ETBU.

My goals moving forward are to change the perspective of my students early on. To consider where they are, understand why they are the way that they are, and provide support for them to get to the behavior they need. To take situations on a student-by-student basis, and see what they need from me to mature. It is important to disciple our students… even if it means giving them feedback in ways not related to their grades.

LM

Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive Perceptions of the Top 10 Soft Skills Needed in Today’s Workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465. doi:10.1177/1080569912460400

Approval Addiction & Who’s Approval to Seek

 

Quote Eleanor Roosevelt

I recently gave some advice to a student about her first job. She was concerned that she was not doing a good job. I asked her why and she said it was because her students were unhappy. She said they wanted her to be easier, and lower her standards.

My advice: You are not there to make friends. You are there to help them develop and change. You do not need their approval. You need to do a job. The kids may not like you but they are still developing their appreciation of hard work, integrity, and knowledge. You don’t need to be mean… you just need to have good leadership skills, treat them with respect, communicate when needed, and encourage as much as you can. If they can not rise to your expectations, It is not you. You are called to get the “best out of them”… not settle for mediocre behavior.

After I got done giving this advice, I realized that I need to take my own advice. The only approval I need is God’s. He is equipping me and challenging me to be the teacher he would have me to be. I need to seek God’s approval on my life… and that is it. If I am doing all the things he would have me to do, I am satisfied.


Podcast Update: Today we had another flipped class room. Prior to coming to class I had 6 students out of 19 access the podcast. The same 6 also turned in all their work that was due today.

I am finding more and more that good students do what you ask them. They excel with the effort they give, because the effort prepares them for class discussion and the test. I will continue to monitor this number as this class takes the test next week. I am interested to see if more students listen to the podcast as it gets closer to the test, or if the grades will be better with the students that listen to the podcast.

LM

The Next Seven Years

Last spring break I read a book that changed my perspective about students, and myself. It is called “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcom Gladwell.

outliers1

We are all an element of our circumstances. Our lives are shaped by the advantages and disadvantages we encounter.

It seems as if we can look back on our past and point out the bad decisions or all the things that maybe didn’t go to our advantage. I see students making bad decisions weekly and sometimes daily. These decisions lead to sometimes lifelong heartache and struggle.

I want to encourage you today to make the sacrifices needed today so that you can have the opportunities tomorrow.

I want to share a little bit of my journey as a ETBU student to a current ETBU Assistant Professor.

When I reflect on my life story, I can’t help but notice how many situations allowed me to have an advantage. For example, I was 1 of only 8 people that were allowed to take dual credit college courses at my high school. We were the first group in the history of the high school to have access to this opportunity. When I came to college, I had 12 college credit hours completed. This allowed me to graduate early. Since I knew I could graduate early, I realized I could take courses over the summer and graduate even earlier. I graduated from ETBU in 5 semesters or 2.5 years.  I then got a Graduate Teaching assistant position and moved into an apartment across from UNT. A year into my Master’s, I got the opportunity to be a House Director at one of the Sorority houses. I was then able to stay somewhere rent free, get paid to live/work, and still keep my job teaching at UNT. I was able to pay for most of my Masters  & PhD degree out of pocket. During my PhD program at Texas Woman’s University, I had 2-3 other part-time adjunct teaching jobs at other universities (in addition to being a Graduate Teaching Assistant at TWU).  I successfully defended my dissertation in Aug. 2012.

So I went from… freshman year at ETBU as a student in Aug. 2004… to Assistant Professor (ABD) at ETBU in Aug. 2011. I was motivated. God gave me the desire to work hard and to take advantage of every opportunity.

I do not apologize for being young. I have worked hard to get here. I still have a lot of work to do.. God is still shaping me.

When reading the book “Outliers,” I noticed how our good and bad decisions take a toll on the direction of our life. It is easy for me to write the paragraph above and leave out all the failures I encountered along that 7 year journey. But the important thing is… I got where I wanted to go. I didn’t stop or give up when I encountered those difficulties.

So when you encounter your next “failure” or “difficulty”… remember that this is a journey… not a sprint… not a race won by only one path…

I don’t know exactly where I will be or what I will be doing in the next 7 years. But I hope I look back on this time in my life and can see how God was shaping me for what is ahead.

LM

Podcast Progress

My reflection of my podcast experience with my students thus far has been a positive one.

Photo Credit: Colleen AF Venable via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Colleen AF Venable via Compfight cc

It is important to note that the Podcasts in my class are not meant to replace the in-class learning experience. It is meant to enhance it. The idea of a “Flipped” classroom is that the students are more prepared to ask questions, and discuss the topic.

 Students will need time to adjust to the new classroom expectations. Some students expressed frustration that they had an assignment outside of class.  I addressed this perception with my students… However, the students that are frustrated about listening to the podcast are also the ones not reading the textbook, or turning in other assignments.

So thus far, I can say that the podcast has enhanced the learning experience for students that are wanting… and willing to learn. It hinders those students that are already underperforming. I do not believe it is the podcast that is facilitating this behavior, rather the initial LOW-achieving behavior that is working against the purpose of the podcast.

I will keep introducing one podcast with each test. On the next podcast, I plan to quiz them on the material at the beginning of class. This will help me gauge how many students are listening to the podcast prior to coming to class. My goal is to get all of my students to listen to the 30 minute podcast prior to coming to class so we can have more meaningful & interactive discussion.

I will keep everyone posted on the progress.

Critical Incident Questionnaire

As part of this “reflective process”, I chose to introduce podcast lectures in to my classroom. I am only covering one chapter per test via podcast and the rest are delivered traditionally in class. I need to also clarify that the “podcast” is really a SCREENR.com videocast. The students will watch the powerpoints while I lecture over them. After the podacst is posted, the next two classes ( 90 minutes each) are highly interactive. Students are expected to come to class having already read the chapter and listened to the lecture. This is technically called a “flipped classroom”, and is supposed to promote learning on a more interactive level. ( see more about this topic here: http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/)

I wanted to get their feedback of the class as a whole & specifically the podcast lecture at midterm. The feedback I received was mostly helpful. I was able to understand the perception of students, and I was also able to clarify some of the misconceptions about the class. In summary, I feel like this was a good exercise. It helped me understand my student’s behavior, and I am more aware of their preferences. I believe clarifying the misconceptions of the class will really help moving forward.

I have categorized the feedback in to three different categories; Don’t like but can’t change, Things I can change, but I need your help; Things they like & don’t need to change.

  1. Don’t Like But Can’t Change
Student Feedback My Reaction & Reflection
Did not have time to listen to 30 min podcast The podcast is 30 minutes and lecture is generally 90 minutes. Find time to listen to lecture just like you would for any other homework assignment.
This is an undergraduate course not a graduate one. This is a misconception I corrected. I had mentioned that we use the same book in undergraduate & graduate. However, the graduate course covers twice the material on a much deeper level. I reassured them I am teaching on a undergraduate level.
Don’t like that attendance as a grade. I grade attendance to prepare you to be a professional. You must show up to work on time and your “absences” matter on the job. You don’t come to work, you don’t get paid.
A) How quiet everyone is and unwilling to talk.b) Don’t like having to tell personal stories or give examples about the topics we are learning.c) Talking one by one when we are assigned questions to answer in front of the group.d) Some students give answers that are not on topic I noticed that several students expressed a discomfort with the interactive part of class. I told the students that I will continue to call on students for answers and interaction. I explained that part of being a professional is being able to express one’s self in a group of people.  I also mentioned that it devalues the group learning experience when classmates do not talk on topic, or have not read before coming to class so they can’t talk on topic.

 

 

2. Things I can change, but I need your help

Student Feedback My Reaction & Reflection
Sometimes questions in class are confusing. Raise your hand if it is confusing & ask for clarification. I could type up questions and post them on the overhead or on blackboard ahead of time.
Discussion Board assignments not preparing me for the test. This is a misconception I was able to clarify. The purpose of discussion board assignments are for you to find articles about the topic we are discussing in the textbook and link it to a practical application. If you are not linking it to a practical application or topics on the test, then you are doing the assignment incorrectly.
In-class group discussion about discussion board topics. No one really contributes to the discussion. It is almost like they didn’t do it or they won’t talk. When I break the groups up, I was breaking them up into groups of 4-5. I now will break them up into groups of 2-3. This will encourage more one-on-one conversations. However, I need the students to be able to contribute in meaningful conversation.
A) Felt less engaged when I lecture over the slides.B) Slides talked about too fast I told the students to raise their hand or ask a question if they feel I am moving too fast. Also, when I am lecturing I will call on students to give me examples or answer questions about the topic. If the students are not liking to be called on individually or talking in-front of the group, I am not sure how I can engage them more during lecture. I told them I need their help on this, because I can only make lecture so exciting without interaction from the students.

3. Things they like & don’t need to change

Student’s Feedback My reflection
Acting out the topics with a partner& teaching to other classmates I think this is a great way for the student to apply and learn the material. However, it does somewhat conflict with the other feedback about students feeling uncomfortable talking in front of the class.
Podcast was easy to learn from. I think the podcast should supplement them when they learn and when they study.
Office hours & extra help is available. I have a few students that have come in and received extra help. I would like for more students to know this is a valuable option.
Study Guide are useful. I provide a study guide with about 80% of the material that will be on the test. I believe in the 80/20 rule. I give them 80% of the material to study and the other 20% they have to study on their own. I believe most students who do the study guide will pass the test, but if you want a ‘B’ or an ‘A’… you have to study on your own.
Examples & stories help me learn. I feel that examples help, but I tend to give these examples verbally instead of something written out or on the power points. I could give more structured case study assignments.

 

Learning Styles & the Perfect Teacher

As we embark on this “Midterm” week, I am faced with students who are performing well, who could perform better, and who are currently under performing. At this point in the semester, I tend to evaluate my students grades, my performance in the classroom, and any other factors that might be helpful or hinder the process. I have come up with two lessons I have learned from this time of reflection.

Lesson 1: Learning styles and the maturity of the student.

I believe it is important to understand and teach to a variety of learning styles. I find that some students with hate group work while others believe it is the only way they truly learn. I am ok with that and I teach using a variety of different methods in my courses. However, I have encountered a new dynamic in teaching…Teaching students how to mature intellectually in their junior and senior year of college. I find that many students get stuck in the “Dualism” stage and never mature past memorizing facts, taking notes, and “studying for the test”.

Learning styles are a great way to start evaluating your teaching, but the bigger question is … is your teaching style maturing your students’ learning on the comprehension and critical thinking levels.

This is a struggle for me right now, because it seems that my students are fighting my attempts to help mature them in learning the material on a deeper level. Give them a multiple choice question and they can answer it. Give them the same question in a short essay response… they freeze up and don’t know how to express their “memorized” knowledge using a real life example. They experience a disconnect from the knowledge/comprehension level to application level.

I know this is “growing” pains. I know it is part of the process.  I know I can continue to do more essay practice questions & open discussion. It’s a painful process at this point in the semester (for me and for them).  But this is what I believe is important for them.

Blooms Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels would say that my F’s are at the knowledge stage, C’s & D’s are at the Comprehension stage, and the A’s and B’s are at the Application stage.

Lesson 2: The perfect teacher syndrome

It is imperative that we focus on meeting the needs of our students. I believe that we can learn from each interaction within each course and develop teaching strategies specific to the class. However, I do not believe that we can become the perfect teacher for every student. For example, I have done several group discussion activities. Half the class loves it and the other half is irritated at this type of learning process. I change it up the next time and another (different type) of complaint is given. You cant please everyone, but I do believe that you can be aware and evaluate each situation.

I have reflected on what qualities that help me be a better teacher, or those qualities I admire in other people. I believe a level of each of these attributes are needed to be the ideal teacher.

  • Maturity is needed as a teacher to endure the ebbs and flows of the classroom.
  • Humility is needed to be willing to change or accept something is not working.
  • Caring is needed in order to want to meet student needs.
  • Effort is needed to try new assignments.
  • Passion is needed to stay interested in what you are teaching.
  • Patience is needed to give any change an opportunity to be effective.
  • Confidence is needed to be an effective leader.

Called to Teach: What Does That Mean?

6712120241_749fa986d8_oA call to teach.. what exactly does it mean? I feel as if I am not going to answer this question with justice. However, I will attempt to answer this question without spending too much time evaluating if my answer is “good enough”.

I believe you do not have to be super religious to understand that some people just “know” they are called to a certain profession. I have had wonderful non-religious/non-spiritual people in my life that were great teachers. I have also had wonderful religious/spiritual people that were also great teachers.

My call to teach is as much of a responsibility as it is a gift. I am not naturally gifted with teaching abilities, but I have to work on my teaching techniques on a daily basis. It is my responsibility to grow in knowledge and ability as I continue on my own journey as a teacher. Earning a PhD taught me that the more I know, the more I realize I still have much more to learn. Just like “ministering” is a never-ending job … “teaching” is a never-ending task as well. I find comfort and satisfaction when my students learn, and I feel discomfort when it doesn’t happen. I find joy in learning new ways to teach, and learning new knowledge to teach.

I have learned the most (as a teacher and a student) from being in an uncomfortable… sometimes even a challenging place. It wasn’t always fun… it wasn’t always pleasant… But I learned and I grew from the experience. Those experiences have shaped me into who I am today. One of the challenging parts of my job is making a safe environment for students to feel that challenge… that uncomfortable place that gives them the “nudge” to learn.

Similar to how eagles teach their young to fly, I view learning as a passaging in life for students to be successful in life and “take flight”. For example, at a certain point the mother eagle will “nudge” its baby out of the nest. Before the baby eagle hits the ground, the mother eagle will fly down and catch them.  They continue to do this until the baby eagle learns to spread its wings and fly. The point is that if we don’t nudge them … they will never be able to become who they were meant to be… or be able to do what they were meant to do.

It is my responsibility … my calling to help students spread their wings. Their future depends on me fulfilling my call to teach. Sometimes, I wish that I got an email, text message, or music playing in my ear every time one of my students catches wind under their wings….. it would make me feel better about pushing them out of the nest so often.

(read more about eagles learning to fly here: http://www.prophetic.net/eagles.htm )