To Teach or not to Teach,

March
2007
Wheeler North, Area D Representative

"To teach or not to teach." That was the original question. And for the Academic Senate Executive Committee the question was, "Do we have a Teaching Institute or do we leave that to the other fine efforts around the state such as the Great Teachers Seminars and the many fine Teacher Graduate Programs which abound?"

Well, given the 200 odd years of combined teaching experience possessed by your Executive team it was a no-brainer to give it a try. In pulling all this together, however, a number of semi-colliding elements began bouncing into each other.

High on this list was the fact that the role of the Academic Senate, whose membership is exclusively faculty, isn't really to provide detailed classroom strategies or even define what quality teaching is.

In addition, while we wanted to present offerings abundant with great teaching ideals, methodologies, and techniques, we thought it important to pursue our central role of empowering faculty to practice good governance. This was a balancing act; some comments from attendees reflected a desire for more information about governance and some wanted less.

Another colliding element was that in some cases we were somewhat tied to presenting currently hot topics that may affect teaching but aren't necessarily directly in-the-saddle teaching strategies. An example of this is the Basic Skills Initiative. A part of our current effort as a System is to get the word out about this initiative and get faculty and staff engaged in the project. This means that every institute, plenary or other event we put on will have some element of this effort contained within. As a result, participants learned about the initiative; they didn't necessarily learn about how to work with their basic skills students in the classroom.

Yet even with those demands, of the fifteen sessions, only three were more focused on statewide and governance related efforts, while the rest spread themselves across the spectrum of classroom and campus learning issues. They ranged from developing effective Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) to addressing issues of student access and success across the campus; and every breakout, including the "big picture" ones, focused on how we can better meet our student's needs.

Of particular enjoyment to me was our opening General Session presented by Dr. Jean Twenge on her research of "Generation Me." This is the second time I've seen Dr. Twenge and I have to say she's done an incredible bit of research that is very enlightening for those of us suffering the "Big Chill" about our younger generations. Quite frankly, I have to admit I didn't realize that I am no longer a member of the younger generation until I heard her speak and read her book. In her presentation, we learned about what motivates and influences our youth.

Connecting the dots, through greater understanding, we can better connect what we do in community colleges with the goals and aspirations of young people today.

Now it makes much more sense to me why students keep asking, "Who the heck is Gilligan?"

A hearty tribute needs to go out to Phillip Maynard and the ASCCC Faculty Development Committee for pulling this all together. For Phillip, not only was he new to being an Executive Committee member, and the Faculty Development Committee Chair, but this was also a first-ever teaching institute for the ASCCC, so he had little from prior years to utilize as a guiding light. Thanks also to our Office team headed up by Executive Director Julie Adams who took care of registering, translocating, and feeding all the bodies who attend our events. And for my part, getting to present with the likes of Professors Sid Burks, Shaaron Vogel and Terri Smith Long is about as grand as it gets for an old curmudgeon like me. The many folks we have participating on the Academic Senate committees, bar none, define the word "winner" in every way imaginable. And they are all volunteers. They love doing it for many reasons of which giving a little back is high in the mix.

One of the few things I've learned in life is if you hang out with a bunch of giving volunteers you will find yourself hanging out with a great group of people.

So, for a selfless plug on how I ended up here, if you want to be "assimilated" by this fine reflection of humanity, the nomination form is just one click away at http://www.asccc.org/Resources/Frms.htm.

I have to add one little tidbit about the venue before I close. This was a delightful find just a hop south of the San Francisco airport in Redwood City called the Hotel Sofitel. It was very nicely laid out, with beautiful rooms and views in all directions set on a landscaped marina/business park complex that was great for lazy walks watching the pelicans soar casually by on their daily sunset cruises.

All in all this was a great institute, particularly as a first ever. When next you see the promotion come by for this Institute I would highly recommend you sign up as soon as you can.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.