The last of the practica

I taught 2 classes to fulfill my last practicum experience for my graduate program. This entry represents the final posting for this experience.

OSU Odyssey
The first class was a first-year experience course called Odyssey. There were 16 students in the class. The class, which took place during the fall term, was demographically homogenous. The students were mostly white (99%), mostly from Oregon, and were all 18 to 19 years old. The class was extremely easy to “teach.” It was like a giant
field trip. Each week, we would either venture out to visit a campus location or we would stay in our classroom in the lovely Rogers Hall and listen to a guest speaker.

I found something out about myself with regards to teaching and rituals. About an hour before class started I would find myself at the coffee shop in the library. I would order a white chocolate mocha with soy. It was a ritual of comfort. I actually had a few anxious moments where I was not able to have my mocha before class. Who new rituals were so important?

My Odyssey students required a lot of energy as they tended to have a lot of questions. I was constantly emailing them with wellness resources. For a time, I was their holistic caretaker. I think the class bonded well enough; however, it would have been nice if we would have had more time together. We only met 9 times. The class was an hour and a half on Monday afternoons. By the time Monday afternoon rolled along, most of my students were exhausted and completely checked out. Needless to say, sometimes my energy levels were not at their peak at that time of the day and I could tell when I was not at 100%. The class often ebbed and flowed with my energies. I think that’s why the coffee breaks were so important!

ALS 116 — Academic Success
I taught my second class in the winter term. This class was called ALS 116 — Academic Success. We met 17 times! This experience was fundamentally different from Odyssey in that I really feel that I was teaching instead of just “driving the fieldtrip bus.” Perhaps this is why there were more than 50 sections of Odyssey with an all hands on deck teaching approach versus ALS 116 which only had 6 sections. For ALS 116 all of the instructors were given a common textbook and a cd of course materials. It definitely felt like we were being given tools for teachers. This practicum was supposed to be composed of 2 separate teaching experiences, but I really feel that I only facilitated Odyssey and actually taught ALS 116. I was able to tailor ALS 116 in such a way that I felt would be most beneficial to the students. Of course I asked for input and feedback along the way, but I had at least created a framework for the general flow of the course. The textbook had wellness and diversity at the end. I flipped the book around and introduced my students to a holistic model of wellness. I incorporated the 8 dimensions of wellness model from UIC. They seemed to like the concepts and were excited when I showed them the online question/answer website: Go Ask Alice.

The diversity conversation was challenging for me as evidenced by this posting:
http://ericstoller.com/blog/2006/02/07/it-was-an-interesting-als-116/

Continue reading The last of the practica

white identity

Identity Immersion Paper (15%)
This paper will allow students to explore how one personal identity characteristic impacts her or his life experiences. A student will select and focus on one identity characteristic for an entire week. She or he should be constantly cognizant of how that identity trait impacts personal decisions, prejudices, stereotypes, and personal past experiences. Students should also consider how that identity characteristic affects other people’s perceptions and attitudes towards her or him. Students can focus on race, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. A different type of identity characteristic than those in the previous sentence might be appropriate with prior instructor permission.

white

White. It is the identity that always comes first. I usually say that I am a white-heterosexual-man. My journey to clearly identifying as White started in Iowa where I used to state quite emphatically that I was German. Of course I knew I was white, I just did not have my identities clearly defined. (Please note that I will use white or White depending on the sentence for purposes of clarity. The capitalized version is a necessity based on sentence structure while the preferred — lowercase, is a simple gesture in giving up a bit of my paradigm by subverting its written status!) As a 28 year old graduate student/professional student affairs practitioner, I have decided that white will be the identity that I will select as the identity for my identity immersion reflection.

Having read Helms, Wise, Tatum and hooks, my whiteness is something that I am cognizant of on a minute by minute basis. I feel like my social justice radar has been created by my ever present sense of self-awareness. I used to say that I advocated for diversity and that I was an ally for multiculturalism. (I still advocate for diversity and multiculturalism. I just have a better understanding of myself and how that affects my advocacy. It’s all about knowing your privilege and power.) I thought I was aware of myself and my whiteness. I wish I knew when I realized that I was white, but unfortunately, I existed as someone who thought they were only German, Irish, and Cherokee (the fact that my Native American heritage was completely repressed and oppressed was invisible to me) until I was twenty-seven. I do know that the second time that I found out about my whiteness was indeed a life changing event. I read Janet Helms’ White Identity Model and it changed my life forever. Helms’ writings affected me like a slap to the face. I was completely unprepared to deal with white privilege, white guilt, and the question of “what’s good about being a white person?” I have been able to address my privilege, the extreme amount of negativity that comes with the acknowledgment of that privilege, and to move towards a white anti-racist identity.

Why did I not choose my gender or sexual orientation as identities for this reflection? They are indeed part of my trifecta of identities. However, I feel that my gender (I’m a man) and my sexual orientation (heterosexual) have been fairly defined throughout my life. I do identify as a feminist and as an ally. These are important to me as well as the fact that I realize that I receive unearned privileges because I am a heterosexual man. I am well aware that sexism and heterosexism will only cease to exist if folks who have the same identities work towards the eradication of these “isms.” But, the enormity of white privilege as a complete system of unearned advantages overpowers or at least takes priority over my other identities.

Continue reading white identity

It was an interesting ALS 116

Today’s class discussion was a mixture of white privilege, racism, heterosexism, institutional power, rape laws if written by women, rape as defined by men, the Kennedy’s and their whiteness, the rampant heterosexism-racism-sexism in the textbook, and a general sense that 50 minutes is just long enough to get everyone thinking before the “bell” rings. We talked about the fact that everyone in the class is a TAB = Temporarily Able Bodied individual.

I could tell that there was plenty of resistance from the white students in the classroom. The nonverbals were telling me a lot. I saw several double crosses = arms crossed & legs crossed. We talked about the institutional privileges that advantage white folks. The class came up with a list of institutions — Legal system, Medicine, Education, Government, Corporations, etc. One student said that his family had institutional power. I illustrated that his family did have power but on a small scale and that families did not have institutional power. Then I was struck with a great question: What about the Kennedy’s? We then talked at length about the Kennedy’s and how they could affect change on a large scale. I asked my students why the Kennedy’s had institutional power. They said things like, history, traditions, etc. No one said anything about the Kennedy’s being white. I wrote “white” on the chalkboard and one of my students erupted “WHY DOES WHITE HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT?” I calmly proceeded to say that the Kennedy’s power and influence is in large part because they are white. They benefit from all of the other institutions that benefit white people. The Kennedy’s have advantages because someone else has disadvantages. To further prove my point, I referenced the fact the President and the majority of our government leaders are white and this has been the case since the beginning of this country. My students agreed that this was indeed an issue. I asked my students how many presidents of color we have had in this country? or how many openly gay supreme court justices? or how many textbooks reference the “discovery of America” by Columbus.

One of the most difficult parts of today’s class was when a male student said that rape was essentially a term that had been given a bad rap and that only men could rape women. I kept thinking to myself as he was talking that I needed to figure out a way to preserve his dignity while at the same time affirming to all students that rape was 1) awful and 2) could be perpetrated by both men and women. I offered up that violence against women is why women are afraid to walk alone at night on campus and that he would most likely never, ever have to worry about being raped and that I felt that it was wrong that women have to prove that they are raped – which can lead to victim blaming. (How do you squash dominant-ignorant viewpoints, maintain a safe classroom, and still allow this student to feel like he can voice his opinion?) It was probably the most challenging moment I have ever experienced in a classroom.

On Wednesday we are going to watch a clip from the OSU Voices Project about diversity and discrimination. I plan on having the students write a one minute reaction paper and then we will gather for a large group discussion. Wish me luck. 18 students and a guy from Iowa, what a wild ride!

By the way, the class is an academic success class. We are covering time management, note taking, goal setting, learning styles, wellness, diversity, critical thinking, communication styles, and more! I’m taking a holistic approach with this class. Academic success is made up of many dimensions and I hope to cover as much as possible.

2005: A classroom odyssey

I had my worst day as an Odyssey instructor today. I was tired and my students were tired. I was not feeling well and several of my students have colds. It was a rough hour and a half. 3 of my students came to class late. They disrupted everything and really messed up my flow. I sent a lot of emails tonight. Overall, it was not my best day as a teacher.

Cat et al. saved the day by facilitating a “Guess the Het” panel. It was entertaining and educational. The premise is fairly simple. The audience tries to guess which student is heterosexual and which student is gay. You can ask as many non-gender specific questions as you like. For example: What traits do you like in a partner? or What did your family say when you came out? It was great watching my students try to guess. I think this experience was mindblowing for some of my students! How many times in a college class do you get to hear an exchange like this (This is paraphrased, the original was hilarious):

Son: I have something to tell you.
Mom: Oh my God, you’re gay or you’re on drugs!
Son: Well…it’s only one of those things…
Mom: Oh my God, you’re on drugs!!!
Son: Mom, I’m gay, I like boys.
Mom: but you’re sure you’re not on drugs?
Son: Yep
Mom: Phew…I was worried about the drugs…

I really owe Cat and her students. They saved the day.

Moral of the story: Get more sleep so you can be a good role model/teacher for your students. If you’re tired, they too will be tired.

2 Practica are better than 1

Week 3 at OSU starts tomorrow. I am currently teaching my first-year experience course, Odyssey, as well as working with Student Conduct.

Odyssey:
Thus far my thoughts regarding my class are very mixed. My students had considerable amounts of confusion with my syllabus, the classroom is very traditionally oriented, and my guest speakers have been perfect.

The syllabus for this course is the first official syllabus that I have ever constructed. Students earn points via participation/attendance, think cards (reflective journaling), OSU Success.com summaries/reflections, and a professor interview paper. Think cards are written up on paper while OSU Success.com homework is posted on Blackboard. It took almost 2 weeks for everyone in the class to understand the functionality of BB. The first day of class I spent a great deal of time going over the basics of BB. Then the OSU Success.com website had a malfunction and my students became slightly perplexed. I can definitely empathize with my class. They are going through a major life transition and things like homesickness, stress, money, and independence are swirling around their heads.

The class is in Rogers Hall. The classroom is in the shape of a large rectangle. It feels like I have some students sitting right next to me while some are a world away. I end up moving around a lot. The class takes place at 3pm on Mondays. At 3pm on Mondays, I’m tired…I can’t imagine how tired some of my students are after already having 3-4 classes!

My guest speakers include: Moira Dempsey (Academic Success Center), Deb Burke (Community Service Center), Dennis Bennett (Writing Center), Mercedes Benton (Minority Education Office), Theo Sery (Office of Community and Diversity), and Tanya Ulsted (International Education and Outreach). It’s an amazing group that I am very honored to have as presenters. We are also going to Dixon where an as yet unknown recreation employee will be guiding us on a tour of the DRC.

Student Conduct:
Everything about conduct revolves around confidentiality. Please be aware that if I am vague, it is on purpose…

I observed 2 informal hearings this week. The Office of Student Conduct uses a restorative justice model. It’s a pleasant change from the drop the hammer down model of an unnamed Windy City school. Restorative justice is a process of bringing back students who have done something wrong into the collective via involvement or other restorative means. Instead of punishing a student who has engaged in underage drinking with a “cookie cutter” punishment, each student is looked at as an individual who may need a class on responsible drinking or perhaps an introduction into a club through Student Involvement.

One aspect of this practicum that makes it unique is the amount of campus wide interactions that occur. Everyone is connected in some way to conduct. Academic dishonesty runs the gamut of all colleges/schools. Underage drinking happens a lot especially when you mix peer pressure and extreme amounts of transition.

I am very excited to be working in conduct again. Bringing people back from the edge is one of the most fulfilling parts about being in student affairs.

Note: I hope I am able to survive 3 hours a week of Odyssey teaching/preparation and 9 hours a week of Student Conduct work!

Odyssey starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow is a big day. It’s the first day of classes at Oregon State University. I’m doing triple duty tomorrow. I have class (Feminist Philosophies), work for my assistantship, and teach my first class of Odyssey. I’m a little nervous. I feel very excited. I feel like I did in college just before I would have a big trombone solo in the jazz band. I’m jazzed about this experience. My class takes place in Rogers Hall, Room 440. Who knew that someday I would be teaching a class to first-year students at a Pac 10 University? What a wild ride!

Here’s a link to my classroom: http://oregonstate.edu/mediaservices/enhanced/rog440.html. I still need to check it out before my class starts. I’m definitely coming down to the wire with my logistics. I’m still editing my syllabus today and my Blackboard Teaching website is almost ready. I have one class of 20 students and I’m feeling overloaded. I can’t imagine how professors who have 2-3 classes handle the teaching load.

My schedule for the fall term looks like this:

  • 20 hours a week for my assistantship with Enrollment Management / OSU Student Affairs
  • 1.5 hours a week teaching Odyssey
  • 3 hours a week prepping for Odyssey
  • 9 hours a week in 3 classes: 1 philosophy, 1 cssa, and 1 counseling class
  • 9 hours a week for my practicum experience with OSU Student Conduct
  • 18 hours a week studying for my classes

I’m exhausted just thinking about this list :-)

Wish me luck. Once school starts, I’ll be busy until I find a full-time job. That means I’ll be a little occupied until June (if everything goes as planned).

Learning Contract: ASC Teaching

Odyssey and Academic Success Learning Contract:

Learning Objectives

  • To gain experience in teaching first year students success skills at the
    university.
  • To gain an experiential understanding course planning and implementation.
  • To have a basic understanding of teaching at Oregon State University .

Goals

  • Growth as a professional and a teacher.
  • Develop the competencies of:
  • 2a. Transitional issues faced by students before and after their tenure
    in higher education settings
  • 2c. The diversity of student populations including, but not limited
    to, age, socioeconomic status, gender, race, and ethnicity, language,
    nationality, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, and
    preparedness
  • 3c. Organizational structure, dynamics, and leadership
  • 6a. Develop and share ideas an concepts to students, staff, or faculty
    groups outside of the CSSA classroom
  • 6b. Incorporate original and innovative techniques that are appropriate
    and engaging in sharing these ideas
  • 6c. Reflect on the experience and make constructive changes and improvements
  • 7a. Positively manage, develop, and engage in working relationships
    with faculty, staff, and students across functional and institutional
    boundaries.
  • 7b. Initiate and participate in working alliance and teams with a
    wide range of people across cultural boundaries.
  • 7e. Manage and/or mediate conflict, crisis, or problematic circumstances
  • 8a. Seek out a comprehensive and well-rounded graduate and professional
    experience
  • 8e. Engage in thoughtful career planning and decision making exercises

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Periodic meetings with practicum supervisor and other students teaching
    ALS courses.
  • Development and implementation of course syllabus.
  • Instruct both Odyssey (Fall 2005) and Academic Success (Winter 2006)

Performance Evaluation

  • Exhibit professional growth and competence through self-reflective journaling
    via an online journal/blog.
  • Fulfill 90 hours of practicum experience.