Sunday, May 22, 2011

What Goes Up Must Come Down. Spinning Wheel's Got To Go Round

I have been joining a community education quilting class at the college for the past two terms. I have never taken quilting lessons--everything I have learned, I have learned from books or friends on the Quilting Bee forum (Delphi Forums). But I decided to have some once-in-a-while fun. And sewing with people, chatting, laughing...this is the best of times!

The first term we made bargellos. It was one of those types of quilts that seemed difficult, so perfect for a short class. I made my little piece the best I could, and like it hanging along my stairwell. The next one I make will have more movement, but it was a fun wallhanging.

The this term I have been working with curves. Again, not something I have attempted before. Mostly because I think I am a lazy sewer...curved blocks looked like too much work! But again, I found curves to be relatively easy and had fun with my new quilt.

Most the students decided to use a Drunkard's Path block. I have played with a Drunkard's Path in the past and it is too spiky a pattern for my taste. So I decided to make circles out of multiple colors of batiks. I used Hoffman's Bali batiks because they were on sale with 40% off at my local fabric shop: Fabric Depot (I am FULL of links today, aren't I?).

I decided to make it a standard size, even though I have no double beds. Mostly because I had enough blocks made to do this :) I also decided to have it professionally quilted, mostly because I no longer have the space to quilt anything larger than a twin bed.

Next up for classes? Paper-piecing in the fall! Life is good :)


Friday, May 13, 2011

Sign of the Times

The economy must be picking up!

I heard an advertisement on the radio recruiting for the CIA. It was a glamorous ad, describing all the wonderful world of travel, of meeting interesting people. But it also warned that you couldn't tell your family and friends what you do...

Listen to an ad similar to what I heard (link will open in a new page):

Could this be my next new adventure?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

And On to the Next New Thing

(The final chapter)

The most important part of being a teacher is bringing her passion to the students. It is caring about their learning because you care about their learning. If this passion slips, it is time to leave for there is nothing sadder than an old curmudgeon still teaching because he doesn’t know what else to do. A teacher is someone who holds this love in her heart, who wants others to succeed because she cares about what they do, how they go, what they learn. I recently read an article in the Oregonian about a man who won the NAACP Award for excellence. He was a high school chop teacher and was nominated by one of his students. The student said he deserved this award, not only because he was a good teacher but because he went out of his way to help this student through personal problems and decisions, through the teacher’s guidance. As I read this, I knew he was a teacher at heart. And I also realized about myself that while I used to be this teacher, the energy it takes to follow-through was no longer in me. While the passion and love are in me, the energy to follow through was not as strong. While it is true that I have just this week worked on helping a student who was very ill get her classes together for when she can return to school in the fall. And it is true that I visited her in the hospital and will make her a meal for when she returns home after open-heart surgery. And it is true that I worked with a student, listening to her carefully, and prevented her from filing a grievance against one of my part-time faculty. I still have the drive. But the energy is for those new to the gig. My goal has always been to leave teaching while still at the top of my game. For many years I have watched colleagues stay at PCC too long because they didn’t know what else to do. I have watched some turn bitter against the college and some just walk through the motions. I am still near the top of my game; there is a bit of slippage there now and it is time to leave.

For nearly 30 years I have been privileged to stand in front of students and presented them with information, theory, new skills, shining up rusty skills, and given them a piece of myself. And for nearly 30 years I have continually been infused with energy from these people, learning from them in more depth than they can ever possibly know. And it is time to step down from the classroom. It is time to find something new.

January 7, 1980-June 20, 2011. What an incredible ride! And this journey continues, bringing along with it new adventures…

The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—And whether pigs have wings."

May 1, 2011

To the Dean:

It is with a mixture of emotions that I write to you with my resignation, effective as of June 20, 2011. I have always wanted to leave PCC while I was still at the top of my game; I have reached this moment in my life. I still love what I do, still love doing it, and realize it is time to do something else.

I believe that teaching is one of the most noble of professions. To be a teacher is to have the privilege of sharing ideas and knowledge to others. To help guide students, advise them, work with them and then see the spark of excitement start to ignite their imaginations and creativity. To be a teacher is to wear your passion, dedication, and love of others on your sleeve for all to see. When asked what I do for a living, I have always been able to say with pride, “I am a teacher.”

I have been fortunate to have been able to teach so many hundreds of students at Portland Community College for 25 years. PCC has been a wonderful place to work, from the diversity of students to being able to be with so many people who share my passion. I have had the opportunity to learn so much, gain many lifetime friends, and been able to experience such incredible events. All because I have had the good fortune to work for Portland Community College.

I want to thank the college for entrusting me with so much responsibility: to work with the community, to guide students, to make decisions that can affect so many people’s lives. And I want to thank you for giving me every opportunity for growth, from continuing as department chair for so many years to slipping into your shoes for a year. It has been an honor to work with you these many years and I value our friendship. I would appreciate the opportunity to teach part-time on occasion for I still have a desire to bend students’ minds. I would be open to this possibility in the future.

Again, thank you for your leadership and friendship. I hope both will continue for many years.

“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat, “we're all mad here.”


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Still Capping

As department chair, I have had the opportunity to mentor many new faculty. One of the most time-consuming and yet important parts of my position is to sit in classrooms to observe a part-time instructor’s teaching. It takes time, but the best part is the time spent with the instructor afterwards, talking about their teaching style, the things they are doing well, ideas for improving. It is the connection I can make, keeping an open-door policy, letting the part-time instructor know I am here if and when I am needed—that is what makes the task a joy.

I held the position as Interim Division Dean for a year. It was a very successful year as the faculty is extremely talented and work hard at their own crafts. They accomplished a great deal during the year and it seemed that everything they tried, they did well. It was their talents and hard work that brought these honors. My contribution was in creating a team who cared about one another, collaborating across the division together, building on our relationships.

All this remains outside the classroom. The most best delicious part of being a teacher is being inside the classroom. And it is this teaching that I love the most. When I was working with kids in special education, the best part was watching them “get it.” They worked so hard and hopefully the light bulb would come on. This thrill never went away. In college it is exciting to listen to students make the connections, start to think how they use the skills and knowledge for themselves, see the learning, the growth. It is watching the student with barriers learn how to roll with them, roll over them, learn how to deal with the bumps and slings. Each day I fall in love with teaching all over again.

Professor Ben Padrow was my mentor while in college. I was recently contacted by his daughter-in-law, asking for information about Ben as she prepared a portfolio for her Master’s degree program. Unfortunately Ben died long before she could meet him. As I prepared my answers to her questions, I came to remember what made him such a great teacher. Ben had an incredible passion for rhetoric. He brought this passion to his classes every day and assumed that his students held this passion as well. He didn’t question our feelings about speaking; he simply treated us as if we held this same passion. And we did. I compared my own teaching to his and realized that unlike him, I didn’t believe that my students had this same passion. Instead I hoped they did. Like Ben, I treat my students as if they did hold it, but not with the same conviction as Ben. Once again, he taught me something important. I may be surprised that students don’t hold the same love of speaking, but accept they may not…Ben simply took us to this passion on the wings of his own.

And teaching doesn’t stop as we walk out of the classroom for we never know where we have been a role model, a teacher. I remember once while in the Women’s Room, I heard a woman crying in the stall next to me. I quietly asked her if there was anything I could do. She was quiet for a moment and then said, “No. I’m fine.” A week later a young woman I had met while lecturing in a Sign Language Interpretation class came up to me, telling me that it was her in the stall the week before, and thanked me for my concern. She had recognized my voice when I asked if I could be of help. A year later she returned to the college and told me how much my offer to help, my sense of caring for a stranger, has helped her. It is this type of interaction with students and colleagues that help make this profession such an exhilarating. In 2002, I won an Excellence in Teaching Award. It was such an honor to be nominated and to actually win was incredible.

I returned to teaching after the year of being Interim Division Dean. The transition was not as easy as I thought it would be. The roughness I experienced wasn’t due to leaving the dean position, but rather was due to a combination of losing the connections with faculty I had created as dean and by not re-entering into a traditional classroom. When I returned to teaching it was to teach online courses. Over the past 15 years, I had worked to appropriately bring Public Speaking to the online venue. Initially I was one of two national pioneers of teaching public speaking online—I taught my first online public speaking course in 1997. I say “appropriately” because it could be and I did teach it online, but it wasn’t quite right. The technology was not yet perfected. Percentage-wise, students were as successful as in a traditional classroom, but I was not satisfied with how the students were being taught. I spent the next two years following my return to teaching in a virtual classroom. The amount of work it took to teach this class in what I hoped would be correctly was overwhelming, and it still wasn’t right. It still remained a one-on-one tutoring class. And frankly, doing this online almost broke my spirit. I hated my job as it had no rewards, or the rewards were so few and far between that there was no balance. It was true that I was working well with some students, that I received positive feedback from students. There were some positive “AhHa!” moments for them. But not enough to overcome the actual amount of work to get them there. I finally stepped away from the idea of teaching this course online and returned to a traditional classroom. After two hours on the first day of class, I stepped out of the classroom and felt my heart sing. I was once again in love with my job.

An on and on and on~~~