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Putting Pedablogue on Hiatus

April 7th, 2012 Comments off

I am putting Pedablogue on indefinite hiatus. Comments are closed, but I’ve left the archives up so that people can still read the many articles on educational theory and praxis.

I started this blog back in 2003 with the intention of sharing my research into the scholarship of teaching, and I think keeping a public journal really served me well. It expanded my knowledge of pedagogy, tied me in with the work of so many other educators out there, and helped me really develop my awareness of my own educational praxis, while also helping me to question the assumptions I harbored about teaching. I published several articles as a result of keeping this blog, and I continue to teach many of the principles I’ve learned in here (especially in a graduate-level course in “The Teaching of Writing and Popular Fiction” for our MFA program). But I have been lax in keeping this journal going, and reticent about renewing my work here for several reasons.

First, it has always been a little difficult for me to juggle my roles as professor and creative writer in a productive way, but when a new ball was tossed into my juggling routine — the administrative duties of being the Chairman of the Humanities Division at Seton Hill U — blogging became the lowest of my priorities. Where once I was blogging at least once per week, I now have been blogging every few months, and that’s just too sporadic and inconsequential for my tastes. That is not to say that my Scholarship of Teaching has fallen by the wayside — I continue to publish and write articles about teaching and I get to apply what I’ve learned in this journal in much of my work with faculty as Chair.

But beyond my own lack of time to commit to this project, I could point to the cultural shift from blogs to social networking, which sort of winnowed away my sense that I was writing for an active audience. But worse, the server on which this blog is based experienced a radical shift when the system moved from Moveable Type to WordPress and our system admin also changed. I can no longer edit the theme, which bothers me to no end, and as you’ll see in many of the posts line breaks and other errors found their way into hundreds of blog posts. This fractured my commitment to the site, and only added more administrative work to my plate…and I now find myself deleting comment spam from the site more often than I write for it.

So I’m taking an indefinite pause while I focus on other things. I may return to this page in the future, or I might turn it to some other purpose someday, but for now, this space is more of an archive of a learning journey I took from 2003-2011 than it is a living breathing document. Thank you to everyone who contributed and visited over the past eight years. You all taught me a lot, and I appreciate the many comments and ideas that were shared here. Pedablogue has been a successful edublogging experience and I still share many of the entries here with others. I hope readers will continue to draw inspiration from some of the articles, and explore the rich diversity that is available in contemporary scholarship of teaching.

This is not goodbye. Follow me on michaelarnzen.com to keep up with my other irons still burning in the fire.

“Student Outcomes”: Michael Diezmos

February 6th, 2011 Comments off

“Student Outcomes” is a continuing series of interviews with my former students who are now experiencing “real life” after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen



Michael B. Diezmos, Seton Hill U class of 2007
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I attained my MAs degree in American Studies in 2009 at Utah State University.  My thesis explored how marginalized people gained power through word manipulation and language play.  I took a year off to get work experience before finally deciding on applying to the Peace Corps and to several PhD programs.

At Seton Hill U, I was a writing fanatic. I kept a personal journal, and I maintained a blog. I also wrote for the public. I contributed to Eye Contact, SHU’s literary and art magazine, and to the Setonian, SHU’s student newspaper. I did work-study at SHU’s Writing Center, and an internship at SHU’s Office of Public Information. I incorporated writing in other activities I did. As Vice President of my class, I did a class newsletter. I wrote articles about my community service experience. I also translated a Filipino legend for my Honors Capstone Project, and reflected on my process.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

I thought by now, I would have a 9 to 5 job, and even if I might not like my job, I would still be writing my novel at night.

However, life turned out differently. 3 years after graduating from SHU, I realized I wanted to be in the education field either as a Professor of Rhetoric or as a Director of a Writing Center. I want to work with tutors and students. Completing the Peace Corps or a PhD program will help me become a better tutor and teacher. I still write, but I’m reading more so I can learn from authors I like.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

My college experience can be summed up by the word, “hands-on”. In writing and other types of communication, accurate information is important in attracting and compelling an audience. As a Setonian journalist, my experience in Fine Arts, Art History, and Dance made me more credible when I reviewed art exhibits and performances. I learned more about audience and the publication world in general as the Eye Contact Business Manager, and as an assistant to the Associate Director of Media Relations.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

One of the many lessons from a Literature class that I’ll never forget is developing my voice through weekly reading responses. I could focus on the obvious or start exploring the not-so obvious or analyze a detail that caught my attention as long as I supported it with evidence ( textual or basic common knowledge ). This exercise made me comfortable in expressing my opinions. This lesson worked because the teacher remained open to possibilities. Even when the idea seemed improbable, the teacher nudged me in a good direction, where I could make the idea and argument into a reality ( a possible research paper ).

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I wish someone would have taught me how to better aply for jobs. Throughout my college experience, I though my resume was enough. My main priorities were to complete my classes’ requirements, participate in extracurricular activities, and graduate on time. There were resources available, but I didn’t know how to navigate them.

This lesson could be best taught if there was a structured class dedicated to career and life after the university, but this class had to be SPECIFIC to the student’s major and field of study. The class will be the main resource for networking, for news on internships and job openings, information on graduate schools and scholarships, and discussions about the field. The class could even have a budget for speakers, workshops on cover letter and resume writing, Q-and-A sessions with human resources and hiring committees, and mock-up interviews ( specific to the field ).

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

Taking tests was a teaching method that never made a dent on my learning. I did well recalling the agreed answers ( as discussed in class and the textbook ). However, thinking back, all the tests I took blended into one. On the other hand, writing essays and doing research papers made more impact on my learning. Even if I didn’t remember each content, I remembered the process of gathering materials, exploring different angles, and synthesizing the information. The focus on process helped me to develop my critical thinking skills.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

I didn’t enjoy doing presentations and participating in discussions when I was in college. But I’m glad I did them because they are helpful in my chosen profession as a tutor and teacher. Presentations and discussions helped me to think on my feet, to be more social, to stand up for my beliefs and opinions, to be open-minded to others’ beliefs and opinions, to negotiate, and to have patience.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

Making a list is a good habit I picked up in school and that I still apply today. Lists help me to set goals ( short and long term ), draft papers, and organize in general. If I wanted my day to be extremely productive, I would make a list where I would even note daily routines ( such as eating ). It feels good to cross things out ( a good reminder that I accomplished something even if it’s trivial ). The activities I don’t finish will just be moved to the next day. A list gives me an overall picture of the day, and it helps me to anticipate and react to the day’s surprises.

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

One of the things I missed about the college classroom is the physical space for conversations on literature, current events, philosophy et al, and a community that inspires its members for positive ( social ) action.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

The best advice I received was not to give others advice ( ironic? ). According to this Austrian actor, advises took away the responsibility from the advisee to make things happen. With that said, it’s always nice and great for students to have a supportive teacher, who is realistic, a problem-solver, and a co-conspirator ( contradicting? ).

Congratulations to you and best wishes to you on the next leg of your journey, Michael!
***
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“Student Outcomes”: Tiffany Brattina

July 17th, 2009 2 comments

“Student Outcomes” is a continuing series of interviews with my former students who are now experiencing “real life” after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen



Tiffany Brattina, Seton Hill U class of 2007
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

Since leaving SHU I have thrown myself into my teacher career. In the spring of 2008 I worked as a substitute teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU). Last June I was hired as an Autism Teacher at Bennett Elementary School. Bennett is part of the Prince William County School System and is in Manassas, VA. I moved to Virginia in July of last year and haven’t looked back.


In college I was an English Literature Major pursuing teaching certifications in Elementary and Special Education. I also enjoyed getting involved in campus activities. I was the president of two clubs and served as an officer of two others over the four years that I was on campus. My favorite of the activities I was involved in was Make-A-Wish.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

As a college freshman I never imagined that I would be living in another state so far from my family. I thought that I would be living in Pittsburgh and teaching elementary school in a local Catholic elementary school.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Growth. In my four years on the Hill I grew from a young girl into a woman ready to enter the teaching field. When I stepped into Brownlee on the first day of college I was wholly unprepared for how naïve I was. With help from the people I now consider my closest friends, I learned how to live independently and to rely more on myself than on my family. I also gathered the skills I would need to be successful in the teaching field.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

It wasn’t necessarily a classroom lesson, but it was a lesson that a teacher taught me. It was the end of my freshman year and a teacher (who shall remain nameless) asked me to remain behind a moment because the teacher had a question for me. As the professor handed me my final project I was asked if teaching was really what I wanted to do with my life because I didn’t seem to get the basics. The exact words that were given to me before we parted were, “I would consider your options and try to pick a different field.” I didn’t know what to say. I was flabbergasted, hurt, angry, and scared all at the same time. I remember trying to hold back tears that were trying to escape and to make a graceful exit.


Later that night, after thoroughly bashing the professor with my friends, I made a decision that not only is teaching what I wanted to do with my life, but it was what God put me here to do. I think that I was supposed to learn that sometimes what we thought we wanted wasn’t exactly right for us, but what the professor really taught me was determination. In the following semesters I did everything in my power to put my best foot forward in all of my education classes. If I needed help, I went to those I knew would assist without judging me. My determination not only spurred my desire, but because of the lesson this teacher unexpectedly taught me I received the Rita Leseman Award for Excellence in Elementary Teaching. It was also determination that helped me to begin the Autism 3-5 program at Bennett where I am currently teaching.


If there was thing that I would love to pass on to students entering into college (and I’ve shared this with my brother that is entering Seton Hill in the fall) it is that determination for what you believe in will take you a long way.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I know now how many different types of learning disabilities and disorders there are in the world. I had many classes that helped us to learn what some of the major disabilities are out there, but I think that I wish there were more lessons or even classes that helped students to specialize with their bachelors. I do think that it should be required that all teachers entering into special education should be taught more about Autism and the different ways that it is being treated. Also, that the teacher candidates are given a class on social skill teaching techniques. This is taught, but I think that an entire class fro the special education teachers would be beneficial.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

I think that the method I hated the most was the “busy” work that I felt I was subjected to. When the work didn’t seem like it would or should be important to what I was learning I would procrastinate almost to the danger point.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

The portfolio. I know that everyone complains about it, but I know now that had I not made that both the college portfolio and then the English portfolio I would never have known how to begin when I put together a portfolio to send out with my job applications. I believe that it was this skill that helped me to get the job that I have today.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?


  • Organization of my work and computer
  • Reading all the time (even to the extreme displeasure of those closest to me because I sometimes find myself blocking out everything around me)
  • Procrastination
  • Asking for help
  • Writing Lesson Plans

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

The thing I miss most about the college classroom is getting to interact with those that are my age. I love teaching, but in my area of Special Education I don’t get to co-teach very often because my students are all self-contained. This means that they are only in the regular education classroom for a portion of the day and that is usually during their specials (art, music, and PE).

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Remember that at one point you were a student too.

THANK YOU, Tiffany, for showing us a new teacher’s viewpoints, and for all your honest feedback. Your determination clearly is paying off. I wish you all the best in your new career!
***
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“Student Outcomes”: Kate Hursh

September 19th, 2008 Comments off

“Student Outcomes” is a continuing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen



Kate Hursh (aka Kate Cielinski), Seton Hill U class of 2005 (& CMU class of ’06)
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I’ve justed started a new job; I’m supporting a group of engineers by utilizing my writing, coordinating, and teaching/training skills in a pioneering company in the nuclear energy field. After studying literature and creative writing in college, I went to grad school to pursue a master’s degree in cultural studies. Grad school set me straight and I decided I didn’t want the PhD I had once desired, so I returned to SHU to assist in running the writing center. Now I find myself oddly situated somewhere in the nuclear renaissance, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to soak up something new.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

I thought I’d be an art history professor. I switched my major to lit and writing when I had a taste of my freshman writing class. I learned that I liked writing about all kinds of things — issues relating to education, gender, The Little Mermaid… In the end, I guess I didn’t really love writing as much as I loved the subjects I was analyzing. This is probably why I ended up in cultural studies; I’m just fascinated by all kinds of STUFF, and I like thinking about how we, as producers and consumers of culture, relate to “stuff.”

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Bizarre. I was fascinated by taboo topics (and the responses people have to them), so I often wrote about feces and menstruation. This has proven to be an obstacle when attempting to locate suitable writing samples for job interviews. I suppose that some people would find papers about gigantic poop-monsters to be offputting.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

I was scared into becoming a better writer. In the second or third week of classes, my writing professor put a paper of mine on the overhead and tore it apart in front of the class. He said something like, “I’d give this paper an ‘A’ for its ideas, but an ‘F’ for its style.” I wanted to crawl under the table. Even though my name had been covered on the overhead, I was so embarrassed to have followed a five paragraph essay format. It was such a very high school thing to do.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I wish I had learned the importance of doing what I wanted to do. I’m attempting to re-career now that I’ve spent five years of my life pursuing a subject and career path that is painfully unappealing to me. As excited as I was in certain classes (those where I was granted permission to write about whatever I fancied), I hated the majority of my English classes. I abhored over 90% of the books and literature I read. That should have been a sign. Instead, I trudged on.


Very few people (regardless of age) know what they want out of life, but college students are particularly confused. They’re bombarded with all these ideas about what and who they should be. Parents tell them what to do. Professors tell them what to do. P Diddy tells them what to do.


I could have possibly learned what I wanted to do by taking advantage of the career development office and internships. Career development offices can help students to explore options they did not know existed, and an internship is a much better way of trying a job on for size. When I advised students, I was constantly talking to them about the importance of exploring different majors and going to the campus career development office to tap into its useful resources.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

Group learning was consistently awful and useless, especially in classes where professors relied on it as the sole method of teaching. All it really showed me was that most people are lazy and disrespectful, but I can’t say that was a lesson I hadn’t already learned.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Presentations. I used to hate them, but I now realize the value they hold and all of the fantastic practice they gave me for leading my own classroom and capturing an audience’s attention.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

Good habit: awesome research and critical thinking skills.


Bad habit: waiting for validation from others. I’m just beginning to act my own without any need for an ‘A’ paper or a pat on the back.

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

I miss having the opportunity to be completely selfish. I was lucky that I could soak up the college experience without having to pay for my tuition or other bills (well, I did have to maintain my GPA in order to earn my scholarship). Although I regret that I didn’t pursue a major that would ultimately satisfy me, I am so, so thankful that I had a chance to just be a student. I would do anything to once again be a fulltime student without any financial worries.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Never make your own book a required text. Even if it’s the best book ever written on the subject, don’t do it. That leads to a classroom situation that is just too awkward. Spare your students. Spare yourself.

THANK YOU, Kate, for sharing such honest and useful insights. Thanks, too, for all you did to help others in the writing center. We miss you at SHU!
***
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“Student Outcomes”: Mike Rubino

August 29th, 2008 1 comment

“Student Outcomes” is a new, ongoing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen



Mike Rubino, Seton Hill U class of 2007
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I am currently a graphic designer for a commercial and political strategy firm in Pittsburgh. I graduated from SHU with a B.F.A in graphic design with a minor in creative writing. While at Seton Hill I was a “Renaissance Man,” bouncing between graphic design, fine arts, theater, creative writing, and politics with the occasional pause to watch some “MacGyver” on DVD and write some blogs.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

I’m pretty much exactly where I expected to be. I knew when I enrolled that I wanted to work in the world of graphic design, and I discovered during my junior year that I wanted to work for the company that currently employs me. Maybe it’s strange that I was able to plan ahead and attain my goals with only minor hiccups; that either means that I’m boring or I’m blessed.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Unique. My field of study, extracurricular activities, and friendships yielded experiences that few others could expect from a small liberal arts school. As a cartoonist and writer for the school paper, as well as a campus blogger, I was able to reach a large number of people on campus without ever actually meeting them. My interest in English and theater allowed me to expand my education into new areas and consequently integrate these ideas into my graphic design degree with the help of independent studies and self-designed courses. I was also able to meet amazing people that I hope to be friends with the rest of my life.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

In my freshman drawing course with Phil Rostek (a course that almost all art majors take, and everyone loves), he began the first day of class with the odd exercise of having us draw with the lights off. Students stand by their easel with a raw stick of charcoal in hand and a piece of blank newsprint in front of them. Phil turns out the lights and everyone begins to draw. It was an odd sensation to say the least; however it was also the first indication that I was in a new environment, I was out of high school and in this strange and unnerving place called “college.” The exercise was fun and messy, but in the grand scheme of things it served as a reminder of the new sort of learning environment I had entered into.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

Personal finances. Now that I have a full time job, my parents have been working extra hard to teach me about investments, savings, and creating a nest egg for my future. It isn’t likely that upcoming generations will have Social Security when they retire, so it’s important for students to learn formally how to save money, invest, and budget their income (even if college kids don’t actually make enough money to put the knowledge into immediate action).

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

The most ineffective teaching method I have encountered is the “group project.” This isn’t because I’m anti-social or fear cooperation; rather, I found that group work slowed me down and diluted the learning process. First, students that I knew rarely wanted to be in a group (and if the kids get to choose their groups, then you are faced
with the “picked last in dodgeball” scenario). It’s like playing on a team that no one wants to be on. Secondly, students who are self-motivated leaders find themselves at odds with other members of the group, and, in my opinion, have to stunt their own advancements in
order to keep the “learning field” level. Lastly, group projects, presentations, and discussions rarely felt appropriate when they were instituted in the lesson plan. They weren’t present in every course I enrolled in, but oftentimes I found that their inclusion was because people assumed groups were necessary, rather than actually adding to the learning experience.
Of course, the idea behind the group project is noble: that they prepare you for a team-oriented working environment commonly found in the real world; but in my work experience so far, my collaborative efforts (which hinge on seniority and hierarchy) have been very different from the classroom.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Doing fake interviews. In a couple of the core courses, students are asked to sit through a mock interview to go over their resume and test their job-grabbin’ skills. At the time, I sort of rolled my eyes at the idea, and wasn’t thrilled about going through the motions of an interview. Looking back, however, the practice interview in my core courses, like Senior Seminar, was a huge help. It taught me instinctual skills that I had to actually use at an interview six months after graduating.
I’m sure there are plenty of other exercises and lessons I went through in college that I didn’t enjoy but ended up needing… but my advice to students would be to sit through them and try your best to absorb everything, because you never know when it’ll come in handy.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

1. Drinking upwards of 4 cups of coffee a day

2. Listening to Charles Mingus when I really want to get something done

3. Constantly employing the phrase “I could blog that” in my head


You can decide if any or all of those are bad.

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

It was nice having a syllabus to tell me about what I’ll be talking about and doing each day. It provided me with a gameplan, a learning track that I could see in its entirety and prepare for. It’s a shame the real world isn’t like that.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

If you’re going to make students buy a book that costs over $50, you’d better use every chapter in that thing.

THANK YOU, Mike! You offer some fantastic advice in here for students and teachers alike.
***
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“Student Outcomes”: Jennifer Olivarez

July 17th, 2008 Comments off

“Student Outcomes” is a new, ongoing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen
Jennifer Olivarez (aka J. Leigh Welteroth) , Seton Hill U class of 2001
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

My name is Jennifer (J.Leigh) Olivarez (Welteroth) and I moved to Arvada, Colorado (a suburb of northwest Denver) after college and have lived here for seven years. I love hiking and camping in the mountains and I wouldn’t trade Colorado weather for any other! For the last few years I have been working as a production assistant for a company that manages homeowners associations. I produce layouts and proofread newsletters for over 270 associations. The work is right up my alley: I was an English creative writing major with a minor in graphic design. I aspire to find an editing position in a more creative industry though!

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

When I was a freshman in college I thought I would be an elementary school teacher. But I just kept taking English lit., creative writing and art classes and before I knew it, I had changed my major.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Creative. I learned to appreciate and develop my own creativity. And I value the opportunity college gave me to experience my fellow students’ insights and share my own in collaboration.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

Dr. Lynn Conroy’s Asian Philosophy Class: I remember there was a group of rather rowdy students who sat in the back and week after week would cause a disruption. And every week she would find a way to keep control of the class. This particular week, Dr. Conroy was teaching about Buddhism. I remember she showed us mala beads, Buddhist robes, and prayer flags. And she taught us to meditate, even the rituals of a meditation ceremony. She taught us how to hold our hands when we meditate and I still meditate that way. (While others learn these things at the temple, I’m always proud I learned to meditate in college.) You know, now that I recall, there was not a peep from the rambunctious group in the back of the class. Her lesson was that engaging. That’s how Dr. Conroy kept in control. She commanded our attention through interesting activities fueled by all the knowledge she has and the excitement she holds for the Far East and its people.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

Somehow even though I learned how to diagram a sentence in high school, a lot of grammar rules either didn’t stick with me or had never been taught. I’ve taught myself about proofreading and editing over the last seven years and often wish I could’ve taken a class on this subject in college. I think a lesson in proofreading could be part of the creative writing curriculum. I feel I’m a better writer now than I was in college because of it.
I also remember learning about the publishing industry and how to submit one’s work, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to also teach more to the undergraduates about what happens on the other side of the publishing industry (editing, proofreading, typesetting, etc.). I think in the least it would be beneficial for them to know what to expect in general once a manuscript is accepted for publication. Maybe inviting a guest speaker, an editor from a publishing house, could give students a broader perspective.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

When a professor would assign students the task of teaching a section of the curriculum to the rest of the class, I never seemed to learn as much, though I appreciated the fresh perspective. With this method, I found that I learned a lot about my own topic, since I invested so much time and energy into it, but I never really learned as much about the other students’ topics. Often the only thing I got out of the other student presentations was a worksheet. And I’m sure they felt the same about my presentation.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Portfolios were a major part of the Core Curriculum when I was in college. I thought it was a waste of time back then, because what future employer is going to care how I did on my term paper about William Blake?
I still keep portfolios; however, the term papers have long since been replaced by sample layouts and magazine articles. It taught me how to keep my career organized and to be prepared. Keeping a portfolio and resume current has kept me ready to seize any opportunity that may come my way.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

Good

  • Walking to work (I used to walk to SHC—over the train tracks and up that giant hill!)
  • Brainstorming
  • Keeping a running to do list
  • Reading, reading, reading
  • Writing, writing, writing
  • Researching

The bad habits:

  • Too many to do lists
  • Tendency to get involved in too many activities and projects

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

I miss the variety of feedback and the exchange of ideas.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Be excited about what you’re teaching and the class will be excited too.

THANK YOU, Jennifer! Congratulations on your success in Colorado and thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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“Student Outcomes”: Karissa Kilgore

June 24th, 2008 4 comments

“Student Outcomes” is a new, ongoing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen
Karissa Kilgore, Seton Hill U class of 2007
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), but I will also be starting as a full-time technical writer at Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. this summer.
I graduated in May 2007 from Seton Hill University (SHU) with a B.A. in English literature as well as minors in creative writing and new media journalism. I was the Literary Editor for Eye Contact, the literary/art magazine at SHU, and published several creative pieces in the magazine. I also wrote a column for the student newspaper, the Setonian.
Most notably, perhaps regrettably, were my experiences on crutches—having broken my left foot twice between the beginning of my junior and senior years, it seemed like I was always crutching around campus. Beyond that, I would like to think that I was a jovial, thriving, active member of the student community and especially of the Class of 2007.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

I initially thought that I wanted to teach high school… but that changed after the completion of my freshman year. As I continued my studies at SHU, I eventually discovered the splendor of composition, writing, and the English language, and decided I would continue my education in hopes of some day teaching ESL or writing at the college level or running a writing center.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Networking. I met the most wonderful people during my college years and I am still in contact with the ones who are most dear to me. They are more than just friends, though; I have true resources and mentors within my human network. Opportunities and encouragement alike have come from my network. But more than these, I value the personal connections I’ve made.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

In my senior year I took a figure drawing class. The teacher loved that I wasn’t an art major. (He told me my lines and strokes were poetic and lyrical. “Very Matisse,” he said.) It was a three-hour studio course, so the pace was rather relaxed, but the teacher gave periodic lessons about using guides to draw symmetrically, noticing nuances in light and shape, and including or ignoring detail.
When I drew, I saw shapes and light but at first I tried to draw everything. It was frustrating and when the model changed poses I usually hadn’t even finished one drawing. The teacher saw this and reminded me to notice what is there, but also to notice what is not there. He suggested that in my next drawing I shade in the shadows and voids before focusing on the physical matter. I tried it and loved it. My drawing wasn’t something you’ll find in the Met, but it taught me about my own way of seeing. Learning that I had a choice to recognize details changed my perspective of a variety of things in my life, including writing.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

In general, I wish that Compassion 101 was a subject in schools… the world could use it. But for myself, I wish someone taught me more about real studying and note taking. My middle school years were plagued by notebooks filled with Exactly What the Teacher Wrote on the Board, and my high school years were spent experimenting with my own methods. Eventually I found things that worked for me, but I don’t feel like I ever knew how to study.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

I’m going to answer this one from a different (and perhaps more positive) angle…
I recognize that my teachers used a great deal of scaffolding within (specifically) the English courses that I took. I trusted that I would be able to get a grip on what we were studying before stepping into unknown territory and that always gave me confidence. Courses that did not build up to acquisition and use of new knowledge proved to be frustrating from start to finish.
I appreciated when teachers allowed students to take leadership roles in the classroom. Leading discussions, teaching a lesson, and giving notes helped me remember (and apply) the things I was learning. Lecture is okay, but in measured doses. I don’t recall having many long lectures, but perhaps that’s because they didn’t make an impression on me. When the classroom was student-centered and student-driven, I was a satisfied student.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Ugh, I got a B. It was horrible because I was an A student all my life. It wasn’t that I thought I knew it all or always deserved the very best grade; my perfectionism was getting the best of me. I recognize now that getting that B helped me loosen up a little and see coursework as real learning and not just a competition or a conduit to a pristine grade point average.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

The good habits:

  • Planning ahead
  • Writing every day
  • Reading something for yourself (and not just for class)
  • Trying to see the positive in every situation (no matter how grim)
  • Having realistic expectations of others
  • Reaching outside your comfort zone
  • Considering different points of view than your own

The bad habits:

  • Planning ahead (sometimes to the point of absurdity)
  • Relying on technology too much
  • Forgoing food or sleep to focus on work
  • Not making enough time for myself to “live”

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

I don’t miss much at all, really, because I’m still in the college classroom! I’m just at a different level now, so of course it is not exactly the same as my undergrad experience.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Get to know your students. Having a personal connection with someone whenever possible helps me in innumerable ways, and I know I can’t be the only person who feels this! The best experiences through all my years of schooling have been with teachers who loved not only their subject material and their jobs, but also their students.

THANK YOU, Karissa! Great reflection and advice!
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“Student Outcomes”: Neha Bawa

May 22nd, 2008 6 comments

“Student Outcomes” is a new, ongoing series of interviews with my former students who are now living life after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen
First up…
Neha Bawa, Seton Hill U class of 2006
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

I am an eternal English major who keeps moving from one aspect of dissecting the language to another. I’ve completed my undergrad as an English Literature major, and currently, I am teaching English writing to college freshmen and I’m about to begin graduate classes in Communications.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

As a college freshman, my worldview was very convoluted, and I had no idea of how to picture myself in the future. When I first took Introduction to Literature in sophomore year, I knew I wanted to teach college students, so I’m exactly where I thought I would be.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Eclectic. My college experiences have shaped my life and my thinking tremendously and have made a hard core liberal out of me. From the good to the bad and the ugly, the only year I would relive would be my Senior year, for both, academic and personal reasons.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

It was a class with you, in fact, that taught me a very valuable lesson in classroom management. I remember, I had started explaining something to a classmate about poetry, and you stopped teaching and asked me if I had started teaching the class at some point. It’s always stayed with me because I use it in my own classroom every time my students start talking in the middle of my sentences. Sometimes, respect has to be commanded.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I have always wished that, beginning with freshman year, universities made it mandatory for students to learn about post-college savings and retirement options. Terms like “Tax Deferred Annuities” and “Individual Retirement Accounts” hold no meaning for college students and new college grads, which means that the time they spend with philandering away their earnings could have been spent building a nest egg. Also, I’ve always wanted universities to spend more time and resources on career advice and counseling, especially at Seton Hill, where the resources exist, but are not advertised well enough for the students to be completely aware of them.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

Reading responses based on emotions, instead of literary techniques used in a text. Being inundated with homework doesn’t necessarily mean that the class work is being understood. That just means that there’s more on the plate as “busy” work.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

Writing research papers. I have never had the patience to sit in a library for hours and research a subject into the wee hours of the morning, but now that I’m teaching, I realize the importance of understanding research methods, especially when time management is involved.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

Constant reading. Constant. Whether I read fiction or non-fiction, a newspaper article, or even the back of a tube of toothpaste, I make it a point to read something new every day.

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

The personal and social touches to teaching and learning.

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Please don’t ever let yourselves forget, that at the end of the day, after the tenure has been earned, after the papers have been published, after the book deals have been signed, that our profession is about making a difference in our students’ lives and not always our own.

THANK YOU, Neha!
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