CECS Announces Spring 2014 Bloggers

As our inaugural blogging semester concluded in December 2013, the Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship issued a call for bloggers to the ETBU faculty members for Spring 2014. This semester we are able to sponsor 3 new faculty bloggers as they endeavor to explore the collisions of faith and academia. Please join us in congratulating our Spring 2014 bloggers – Dr. David Brooks, Associate Professor of Biology & Nursing, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, Director of Leadership Studies, and Dr. Darrell Roe, Associate Professor of Communication Studies. Together they will use their varied vantage points to examine what it means to be a Christian scholar and teacher in today’s world.

Dr. David Brooks, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, and Dr. Darrell Roe

Dr. David Brooks, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, and Dr. Darrell Roe

You will have an opportunity to learn more about our bloggers and their individual journeys next week. Each writer will share a weekly post on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Stop by three times a week to see what they have to say or subscribe via email by signing up on the right side of the page. We hope that you will engage with our authors by leaving comments and asking questions throughout the semester.

Have a topic suggestion for our bloggers? Leave a comment below!

Looking forward to another semester @ The Intersection,

Elizabeth Ponder, MSLS
Program Coordinator, Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship

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

Real Live Prof

Semi-sweet. I am really sure that when I took the class, “How to Teach Sociology” at UNT, the prof never covered the end of the semester.

I was in my office this week, between classes, when three students dropped in. One is graduating next week, and is already applying for jobs for which ETBU has well prepared her. She is also getting married next year (she has already picked out the guy, and is asking us to save the date). The second student graduates in the spring, and is already planning on grad school. She too, is applying for jobs in her field. The third student (I have now run out of chairs), is graduating in the spring, and looking at grad school as well. They are all excited about life and the seemingly endless possibilities and permutations. I am very excited for them, and I know they will do very well. I should probably care more that they are so raucous and such frequent visitors, because I am sure “they” disturb the peace of the otherwise somber and tranquil office. But, I love being with students. It is my favorite part of the job. It is also emotionally taxing when they leave.

I know this because they will soon graduate, and be gone. Oh, they will promise to “stay in touch” and will try to do so. I might see some them at the Homecoming football game, or be asked to write a reference letter…and then I will see a posting or status update of theirs on Facebook, and realize I have not seen or heard from them for several years.

Students are also nervous about their futures and all of the unknowns it holds for them. I am always amused when they ask me, “Will you be at my graduation?”

I always respond, tongue in cheek. “I was thinking about not going this semester. However, because you were such a wonderful student, I will go, just for you.” (Of course, I am required to go.) But the truth is, I would not miss it even if I could. Semi-sweet: I love to meet the students’ families and I love to say over and over, “Congratulations!” However, nearly 30 graduation ceremonies (3 per year) have taught me it will probably be the last time I see most of them.

I was eating breakfast very early this morning with my wife Diana, when she said, out of the blue, “I miss my kids”.  One has graduated college, and has a job (The dream comes true!), but she lives 3 hours away. The second is half way through college, and stays gone most of the semester. The third, whom she was about to struggle with waking and getting to school, is in 8th grade. But I know what she means.

Thankful

When you ask a professor to reflect on and blog about her experiences in the classroom, expect there to be a bunch of grousing about students’Bashaw laziness and lack of commitment, and some lamenting about the moral decline of civilization, as seen in the youth of America.

And maybe I have done a fair amount of complaining as I have pondered the intersection of faith, teaching, students, and society this semester.

However, as I reflect on my job as an educator-counselor-learner-mentor-pastor-motivational speaker, there is much more for which I am thankful.

  • I am thankful that God has allowed me to work in a career that demands constant learning, that challenges me to get better and know more every day;
  • I am thankful for the privilege and challenge of teaching the Bible, in its messiness and glory, and for the opportunity to communicate my love for Scripture with my students.
  • I am thankful for daily deadlines (and I also curse this!), that I must keep on top of things and strive for excellence not just for my own improvement but for the education of others.
  • I am thankful for the constant interaction with young people, which forces me to learn how to tweet, compels me to learn new colloquialisms (that’s ill!), and keeps me in touch with the challenges and contributions of this up-and-coming generation.
  • I am thankful for flexibility of my classroom, that my teaching need not fit into a rubric or someone else’s expectation. I can lecture or use pod casts or facilitate discussion or show youtube clips or encourage journaling or sing songs or have confession time, depending on what best communicates a particular subject to my students at a particular time.
  • I am thankful for the teamwork involved in a university setting, that professors and administrators and maintenance crew and IT and cafeteria workers and student workers and resident directors all work together for one noble goal–to provide the best education for our students.
  • And I am thankful for my students: students who are trusting enough to listen and learn, who are brave enough to show vulnerability in the classroom, who are caring enough to support their peers in their needs, who are committed enough to be leaders even in their young age, who are strong enough to overcome all the challenges they face in their personal and private lives in order to remain committed to education and to their faith in the midst of a distracting, discouraging, sometimes dream-crushing world.

For all these things, and all these people, I am truly thankful.

jgb

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

Real Live Prof

Social Comparison, revisited.  It was a late afternoon, as I recall. I was chatting with two of our junior profs, when one said, “I am just so puzzled by my students. I give them an easy assignment to do and they just seem to ignore it. Don’t they understand that not doing it will impact their grade in bad way?”

So I told them this story:

The famous "A" row,  situated near rthe front of every classroom.

The famous “A” row, situated near the front of every classroom.

I recalled being equally disturbed about student apathy when it came to their grades. Five years ago, I was teaching an intro to sociology class when I did one of my favorite first day exercises. I was teaching in Marshall Hall 107, which is an amphitheater -style room.

As we were starting the first day, I asked, “Is every one comfortable with their seats?” Everyone agreed that they were.

“Well”, I said, “That’s kind of sad…because you all have to find a new seat. Here is what I want you to do. Starting with this seat (far left, front row, I demonstrate by pointing), I want you to seat your selves in reverse alphabetical order.”

Someone always asks, “Can we have the roll?”

“No. You have to do it yourselves”

They groan. A lot. And then they stand up, and someone begins by stating, “My name is Zach Zedikiah, so this is probably my seat…” and he sits down. It is painful and awkward as students state their names, introduce themselves to each other, and slowly find their seats. After Alyssa Amanda Applewhite has taken the last seat, we check it, and then (always) correct it. And then, I tell them they have already begun seeing sociology…leadership, lack of leadership, social loafing, meeting someone who will turn out to be a friend,  etc., with the added bonus of being reminded of the alphabet song. (They always manage to look really unimpressed.)

After this part, I state that there are some, for whatever reason, who need to be really close to the front of the room.  And, I suppose, it might even be possible that some may need to be towards the back. If you can persuade someone to change seats with you, you may switch. However, I always point out, the front row is where the most “A”s are made…and the back row is where the most “C”s are made.

As I share this story with the junior profs, I tell them this is my “Aha” moment in to the enigma that is the modern student. One student, James W., who was unwittingly placed on the front row by virtue of his name, stood up and announced, “Dr. Miller, I only want to make a “C” in this class, so I will happily trade with anyone on the back row.”

Fortunately, someone on the back row needed to be on the front row, so I let them change seats. As I followed James’ semester in the grade book, I soon realized that, though very bright and active in and out of class, James really only wanted to make a “C”. I was astounded. Why be so smart and aim so low?

I asked the two profs, “What kind of students were you in college?”

They both humbly replied, “”A”s and a very few “B”s”.

“Who did you hang out with in college?”

“Other good students”

“And when you got to grad school?”

“Other good students”

“Did you or your friends you hung out with ever start a class and not try to get an “A”?

At this point, they proved their sharpness and mental acuity by realizing that perhaps they were (socially) comparing themselves to students who were in school for very different reasons and with very different goals, than they had been.

“At some point”, I said, “We realized that good grades would help us in our careers. In fact, if we are honest with our nerdy selves, we liked school and studying. I think we unwittingly (and unfairly) compare our experience as good students who wanted good grades, with those who only want or need, to pass.”

The great irony, of course, is that James W. went on to grad school…and by his accounting, did very well.

Real Live Prof

Perspective. Before I taught at ETBU, I was an adjunct professor at Dallas Baptist. (btw, “Adjunct professor” = part  time professor.) DBU prided itself on being a degree completion destination, and so, many students were well into their 30’s or even 40’s and were coming back to finish their degrees. As a teacher, I was almost never the oldest person in the classroom.

One of my favorite ways to introduce a class to the value of a sociological perspective was to pose as a student on the first day of class. I would walk into class the first time we met, usually a few minutes early, sit at a desk in the middle of room, and start asking “other” students what they had heard about the professor. As I was part time, I was somewhat anonymous and seldom the oldest person. Since few had heard of “Miller” and fewer still even knew my gender, there were not a lot of comments. So, I would start smack talking about myself. “I heard his tests are impossible!” or, “He makes you write a really long paper!”

Usually, I would let the class continue for 15 minutes past the start time. Inevitably, a student would finally get up and announce they were going to talk to somebody in charge and find out why the prof never showed up. At this point, I would stand up and say, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I would then walk to the front of the room, pass out the syllabi, and start a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.  The students usually were fairly good natured about my “prank”, but they were also furiously rewinding their mental tapes about anything incriminating they might have said before I outed myself as a prof.  

In my Minority Groups class,(which I often taught at DBU and annually teach at ETBU) I send my students to their same denominational churches that serve a race, ethnicity or people group that is different than them. Usually this means that white Baptist students visit Black Baptist churches, or Hispanic Baptist churches if they speak Spanish. They learn about another groups’ way of worshipping and their customs. Often times, at least for white students, it is the very first time they have ever felt like a minority in their lives. I think this is a great perspective to have, and to have challenged. Students almost always talk about the fact that this is a very positive experience, but that before they actually visited the church, how it was scary, intimidating, and uncomfortable for them. They usually admit that they were very glad they did it, and how they will not take their race for granted anymore.

Almost always, the pre-prof outing conversation in my classes was about other classes and profs the students had before this semester. I learned a little too much about my colleagues on several occasions. Once, I learned too much about myself…

I had sat next to a student who was eager to tell me about her friend who had taken the same Minority Groups class the semester before. She told me all about this crazy visit-a-church assignment. I listened politely as she told me all of the details. She finally concluded her recounting of her friend’s experience by stating that her friend thought it was the easiest class she had ever taken.

I was really surprised by this. “That doesn’t sound like an easy class to me”, I said.

She replied, “Oh, but it was! My friend totally faked the whole thing!”

A few minutes later, I stood up and said, “Well, I guess I could teach.” I walked to the front of the room, passed out the syllabi, and started a short lecture on why I loved sociology and the different perspectives it forces us to use.

Real Live Prof

004

Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

It was shaping up to be a great Sunday evening. My wife and I were having dinner, without kids, with another couple. We love this couple, but because of family and that demon, Busyness, we do not get to chat with them as much as we would like. Inevitably the dinner conversation turned to our histories. I was surprised to hear a very familiar story from her.

It seems that when she was in college, in her last semester, she was doing her student teaching. She had always wanted to be a teacher. Unfortunately, within a few days of starting her student teaching, she knew it was not for her. She dropped out, worked for a year, and finally went back and finished her degree with another major. So, while I am very glad she finished her degree, I can wish that she had taken a Service Learning class along the way.

At ETBU, I teach this class every semester. Since it is an upper level elective, the students who usually take it are seniors. Their first question is almost always, “What is this class all about?” The short answer is that after students enroll in the class, they must find a place to volunteer for either 30, 60, or 90 hours during the semester. For many, it is exactly like the frustrating process of finding a job later on. Employers do not return calls, or respond to emails. They seem really annoyed when students keep asking about the volunteering opportunity. Or, the potential employers throw down gauntlets of procedures and forms which appear designed to discourage the students from actually working.

The students’ next question is, “Well, where do I volunteer?” I explain that the volunteering can be a career investigation in an area they are interested in when they graduate in a few months. A kind of “try before you buy” approach, I suggest.

Over the 8 years I have taught the class, the overwhelming response of students to volunteering has been very positive. Students who shadow workers for a semester have a very real understanding of what a particular job is all about. They know how to get the job they have seen modeled. They now have a reference in the area they want to work in and they have started networking. They can even list the volunteer experience on their otherwise very skimpy resumes.

When the experience is not positive, the students still come away with amazing personal insight. I well remember a student asking me to help her find a volunteer situation that worked with children. Together we found an after school program that allowed her to do just that. In the middle of that semester, however, she had the “Aha” revelation that she did not want to work with kids, ever. She finished the semester, but soon changed her major. She is now working exclusively with adults in counseling and loves it.

I really believe in Service Learning, and I often wonder why more students don’t try out prospective jobs through this program. Service Learning is part of my story as well. I began teaching at a junior college (so the pay was actually close to volunteering!) When I wondered about teaching at a Christian college, I applied to adjunct teach at Dallas Baptist. After a few weeks of teaching there, I was hooked for life. Eventually I found my way to East Texas Baptist, and I can echo Solomon’s words: I have found great satisfaction in my work and I see that this is also from the hand of God.

Who I am: teacher, learner, pastor, mom

photo (2)The first thing you need to know about me is that I am not your typical Religion professor.

I do not scratch my beard thoughtfully as I discuss soteriology with my esteemed colleagues. In fact, I do not have a beard and I hope I never will.

I do not sport a tweed jacket, well-worn, with patches on the elbow and thick, tortoise-shell glasses. Usually, I rock (what I like to think are) trendy, youngish-looking dresses and contact lenses.

I do not spend hours in the library, pouring over dusty theology books, and meticulously planning my contribution to academia. I actually prefer to read vampire novels and Entertainment Weekly magazine (because, after all, knowing about pop culture helps me make a contribution to my student’s lives, right?)

In short, I have little in common with the stereotype of a Bible professor.

Who I am is a wife and mother of three young boys who sometimes has to clean up kid vomit on her way out the door to her 8:00 class (thankfully, this week my husband finished the clean-up so I would not be late!).

Who I am is an ordained, female Baptist pastor, which in this neck of the woods is an anomaly (anathema?) and some would even say an oxymoron. [sidenote: I may be oxymoronic in many ways but being a Baptist woman in ministry is not one of them! This subject will crop up in later blog posts, I assure you]

Who I am is an interpreter (and lover!) of the Bible who learns as much from her students as she teaches. I am the same kind of teacher as I am a learner—I prefer creative projects and group discussion instead of lecture soliloquies and structured outlines. I believe active and creative participation in the classroom implants seeds of knowledge into students (or maybe I should call them learners?) that will take root and grow rather than bounce off hard ground.

Who I am is a fledgling professor who wants to become better at teaching the Bible effectively and intentionally, with passion and grace.

Since I have been a student for four times (!!!) as long as I have been a teacher, much of what I know about teaching I learned from my amazing professors (shout out to Dr. Rosalie Beck and Dr. Roger Olson!). What these teachers have modeled for me is that the strength of a teacher’s character is as important as the strength of a teacher’s content.

With this in mind, I offer a prayer we teachers can pray as we begin a new year:

Lord, help me to be humble, so my teaching will be malleable;
Lord, help me to be creative, so my teaching will be memorable;
Lord, help me to be purposeful, so my teaching will be meaningful; and,
Lord, help me to be transparent, so my teaching will be a message. AMEN

In this blog, I will be recounting the ins and outs (and ups and downs!) of teaching the Bible to the millennial generation in this place God has placed me…East Texas. I hope you can learn from my troubles and my triumphs and I invite you to leave comments along the way so I can learn from yours.