AMY: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the teachers lounge. We’re going to go ahead and get started.
So a little bit about us before we get started.
LISA: Hi, everyone, I am a clinical assistant professor at Washington state university, which means I tyranny. I don’t do research. I have a Ph.D. I am here for my second year at SRCCON. And last year I noticed the idea of teaching came up at a lot of sessions, but it wasn’t something we specifically stopped and talked about. So today we’re going to involve both people who do teaching full-time like I do. But also if you do teaching on kind of an informal basis or if you’re interested in teaching more, that’s kind of the overall topic and goal of this session.
Oh, yeah. One thing to note is that this is being transcribed and have the live transcription. So especially if you end up later on talking about specific things specific to your lo job, please be sevenths sensitive about sharing any details about experiences you’ve had with teachers or students in the past. Make things somewhat anonymous. Don’t scream their full name or anything like that.
AMY: We’ll just yell Ferpa at you. My name is Amy Kovac-Ashley, and I was a journalist for a dozen years, and then knifing academia for four or five years. Both on the admin side, and then I did some teaching as well. And then now I work at the American press institute where my job is all about help newsrooms figure out the skills that they need, helping them get those skills, and then working on transformation and culture change.
So I’ve seen this type of thing from laugh different perspectives. We also realize that there may be some of you in here who maybe don’t want to teach on the university level, but you may want to do trainings or something like that for your newsrooms. So we’re going to try as much as possible to hit a couple of different things so that it’s applicable to the largest number of people here.
So what we’re doing here. We want to talk a little bit about a couple of different types of things related to teaching. So obviously, Lisa has a lot of experience from her academic experience. I have some of that as well. I’ve worked in training environments. And a lot of – I think a lot of journalists, professional journalists are interested in doing some level of adjunct teaching as well. I worked with a number of adjuncts as I was the administrator working with adjunct. So there’s a lot of different types of things that you might be interested in. Knowing we want to hear more from you, we’ll deal with a little quick survey in a second about that just to kind of figure out what it is that you want from this. But, again, we’re going to try as much as possible to hit a couple of different types of things that can be applicable to lots of different situations.
So now we want you to tell us about you. And we’re going to – hold on one second.
So if you guys can all pick out either your phone or tablet or laboratory as well and go to sift.ly. This is also a tool, by the way, that you can use in teaching. So this is part of the reason that we’re using this as well.
Be careful. Don’t put siftly.com. If you get to siftly.com, you’re going to be asked to put in a e-mail address, and you’re in the wrong place. It’s sift.ly, and your participant code is “Teach.”
Is everyone good? No one’s having any problems? Good. If anyone’s on a nonprivate – or if you’re on a private browser, it may not work, so you may need to switch to sort of a public browser.
So this first question is really just to get you guys using the tool. So if you can go ahead and sort of put in where you’re from, you can put state, city, whatever. You’ll start seeing the answers from everyone.
So the only tricky part with a lot of people in the room, it gets – slips off the page, so I’ll try to make it a little smaller.
Lots of dirty data.
AMY: Yeah. Let’s see.
LISA: You could use this winner.
AMY: Who’s our winner who has come from the farthest away?
There’s a London. Who’s from London?
I live in New York now. Does that still count?
LISA: There’s no prize anyway.
AMY: So there’s your dirty data.
Portland. Portland in the room? Portland. Good. So that’s kind of far away. We’ve got a Washington state here too.
LISA: Who’s from Spokane?
AMY: We can make it bigger.
How much experience do you have teaching or training? So I’ll make it bigger. There you go.
So we’ve got none, taught one or two classes or training sessions, regular teach or train as part of your job or full-time instructor.
Good. Most people have had some level of experience. Taught several classes of training sessions is our top winner here so far.
So we want to know a little bit from you what you’re looking for when it comes to advice teaching or training.
LISA: Throw in words, phrases, just give us some – anything you’re curious about.
AMY: The tool does limit you to I think 140 characters. But hopefully you can say what you need to say.
Okay. We have most people here.
So we’re going to cover a lot of these things. We probably won’t get to anything that’s around the research area, but we can talk more after that. Or offline about that if you have questions. But, yeah, we will get to a lot of these things then.
And then this is the last one for this period of time.
So we just want you to think about a teacher you’ve had. It could be at any grade level. It could be anyone. And just think about a quality that you think made them a good teacher.
Maybe I’ll read a few of them off.
So we have empathetic, which I know is on here a lot. Prepared. Connected concepts to the real world. Genuinely cared about us. Passionate. Funny. Patient. Passionate. Good storyteller. Helpful, confident, entertaining/funny, cared about student’s success, helped students teach themselves, enthusiastic, empathy, made time to help if asked, understanding, fun, believed in me, clear, lucid explanations of complex topic, humor, passionate, empathetic, enthusiasm, creativity, patient, empathy, entertaining, invested, and we just had one at the top. We have patient and mentor that popped on the top.
What’s interesting about this list – and I don’t think it’s there, except for maybe one or two.
But you don’t see on this list that that person was an expert in their topic; right? So that’s something to keep in mind as you’re going through your teaching journey.
A lot of people get asked to teach because they’re an expert in their topic, which is great; right? I mean, that’s a really good thing to be. But when it comes to why people really love a teacher and why they make a big impact on someone, it often is all of these sort of more softer skills, I would say than – someone put an expert on there.
Still very much outweighed by the sort of more soft skills personal things here; right? So that’s something to keep in mind when you’re going through your teaching journey.
Cool. So we’re going to Swift back to this tool in a second or at the end, and then we’ll get back here.
So you can keep that open just so we can get back to –
Okay. We’re going to go through a couple of things, and then we’re going to have you guys do some small group stuff to look at some scenarios – various scenarios that might come up in a teaching situation.
So one of the first things I wanted to talk about was setting expectations, and it’s not just expectations for your students. It’s also expectations for yourself. So when you think about that list that you had there – so this is one of the teachers that I thought of. Her name is Mrs. Mastroianni, I still call her that. She has told me many times to call her Susanne, but I can’t. She was one of my high school teachers. I had her for two classes. But we’re not all going to come Mrs. Mastroianni the first time we teach or the second time or third time. When I got to her, she had probably been teaching for 15 years at that point, and she had it down; right? And she was all of those lists that you had up there. She was all of those things. She has an expert in that topic, but she had all of those other skills that she was able to bring and really reach people because of those skills.
But we can’t sort of put an expectation that we’re going to walk into a classroom or walk in front of our colleagues in a training situation and be whoever it was that you guys had in mind; right? It’s just too much to have that be the expectation at first.
So I think that’s one really important thing is that I would tell a lot of adjuncts who taught for me that they had to teach a class three times before they were really, you know, just going to hit it every time. That first time, they were going to make a lot of mistakes. That second time, they were going to make fewer mistakes, but they were still going to make them. That third time is when they were really going to hit their stride.
So I think that’s an important thing to think about when you’re trying to plan and when you’re doing teaching is that it just like everything else, you have to practice doing it. And being in front of people and trying to transfer a skill is actually a really difficult thing to do, despite how maybe our country tends to lack at teachers overall; right?
So it’s a really hard skill. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, and we need to be able to work on this skills before we can actually get to the Mrs. Mastroianni level.
So there’s that. But then you also have to set expectations for your students. And I know that Lisa is going to get into this a little bit more about the first day of class. You really have to be very explicit about what it is that you want them to get out of a class. If you’re not, they’re just not going to get it. Or at least a certain subset of people are not going to get it.
So you will find yourself – my husband also has done some adjunct teaching. He’s a statistician, and I bought him a shirt that says it’s on the syllabus. Because there are so many times – and I’m sure you can attest to this as well, that you actually have to tell people that’s on the syllabus. Like, they’ll ask a question, and you tell them that’s on the syllabus. Which, by the way, when you’re pug your syllabus together, you have to think through a lot of different scenarios. And you have to be very clear about what it is that you’re asking team to do. So from a training perspective if you’re doing this from a newsroom or situation like this, I think really being clearer about – if you’re going to evaluate people, for example, or if you want them to do some kind of work for you, you have to tell them what it is what you want for them and how they’re going to be evaluated and when they’re going to be evaluated and when things are due. All those sorts of things are really, really important that they have to sort of be there.
A lot of people – a lot of universities, actually, will tell you that the syllabus is almost a contract, really, of what you expect from the student and what the student can expect from you.
So one of the things with putting together a syllabus or a plan of some sort is that there’s a lot of prep work that you have to do before you actually teach; right?
So when I was working with adjuncts, I would usually contact them a semester and a half before they would teach with me. And depending on what kind of class they were teaching, they would have to do more or less work. And if they taught it before; right? So if they taught the class before, they might have less work to do. But they might want to refresh the syllabus, for example. I think it’s important when you’re doing elective courses or things like that that you actually do refresh a syllabus. That’s really important to keep things current. To use new examples, et cetera.
But if you’re doing a core class, for example, in my parliament, which basically means a required class, a lot of those will have a templatized syllabus that you have to use.
You can obviously bring in different examples. But if it’s a core-required class, a lot of students – like a student in my class would have to get the same, basic instruction that someone in Lisa’s class would have to get. So having a templatized syllabus is usually how people work. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to still do a lot of prep work in finding examples and bringing in real life experiences for students.
So the other thing is this two to four hours per each hour of class, that’s the prep work that you have to put in. That’s a number that came from the American faculty association. So that’s kind of a good marker. If you’ve taught the class before, it’s obviously on the lower end of that. But if it’s a new class, you’re going to spend a lot more time preparing things.
And the prep work could be everything from, you know, coming up with what the class actually is. Sometimes I would call – call someone and be, like, I really want a class on X. But all I knew that I wanted a class on X. I needed that person to really work with me and figuring out what that class was about and so really thinking through, like, what are the objectives? What do we want people to learn? How can we actually measure them learning those things? How can we give them assignments that will test their knowledge of things, et cetera, and help them learn along the way?
So hopefully, if any of you are interested in teaching at a university, perhaps as an adjunct, something like that, hopefully you will have a program director or program manager who you will be working with to help you through that process. Again, as I said earlier, I would contact somebody, you know, one and a half semesters ahead. Not everybody does that. I have a friend right now who moved from DC. She’s actually a nurse. But she moved from DC to Sacramento. Sac state. She’s been talking to them about teaching nursing, and she’s been having great conversations with the person there, and she has no idea whether she’s teaching in the fall, and it starts in, like, three weeks. And she literally has no idea.
So some places will be more in that category of things.
If that’s the case, then I think it’s really important from a preparation standpoint that you soak up as much as you can from a program manager. That person may have 1,000 other things to do. Soak up as much as you can from them. But then also ask them maybe to talk to other people who do adjunct work for them or talk to other people who’ve taught in that similar situation so that you have something to go on because not everybody is always as well planned out as I may have been.
But, yeah, so preparation’s really important. We’ll get to some scenarios later about being prepared. But it’s everything from – and this – the nice thing about this comic as I was looking for memes last night, you would be surprised of the types of things come up when you put the word preparation in.
So the thing I like about this, actually, is that he’s prepared for one thing, but he’s not prepared for something else; right? He’s not prepared to eat. So you may be really prepared for the actual content that you’re teaching, and you may be not prepared at all about how to deal with students. Or how to deal with their questions or how to deal with some of the situations that we’re going to talk about a little bit later.
So I think just like with everything else, you really want to do your homework and try to figure out as much as you can. If you’re walking into a training session at your job, you have much more knowledge about the people who are probably going to be in the room than you will if you walk into maybe a session like this; right? And you wouldn’t necessarily know everybody or where they’re coming from.
Same thing when you’re in the classroom. You might want to ask ahead of time so tell me about your students. Tell me what they’re interested in. Tell me if this is an elective class that you’re teaching. What are the core classes that they should already know by now, et cetera, et cetera.
So I think asking questions about your audience is really important. Just as much as it is in journalism, it is in teaching as well.
LISA: Is this working? Yes? Okay.
All right. So now we’ve talked a little bit about overall expectations, so you guys there the first day of class, sometimes the only class. But especially if you have an ongoing class structure, it’s really important. The first day that you sort of outline these expectations, which means you need to know them. So that goes into preparation and expectations. And I would just summarize the checklist and Amy touched on this. But you need to know the objectives. Why are the people who are there, what are they going to be getting out of it?
The policies, what do you feel strongly about? What does the institution require? And the schedule. What is going to be happening? Even if it’s just an hour long, what are people going to be doing in that hour? It’s good to lay that out in the very beginning. And especially if it’s a longer sort of session or longer series of classes, you need to know exactly what’s happening, when? Exactly being kind of a squishy word. But at least an outline of that.
And also, how work is going to be evaluated. Even if it’s going to be something that you’re just giving verbal feedback, maybe there’s not a real structured evaluation process. But you need to be able to tell them your students right away how are they going to be evaluated?
And the preparation just to build on that a little bit, you know, I have two new classes this fall that I’m supposed to be teaching. I have not done anything for them yet, so I’ll be doing this – I got about – I’ve known for about a month now, so that’s not a lot of preparation. My husband has also taught classes in our program. He once got three days notice to teach an entire class. He did not have this stuff on day one. And that was something where then is sort of a challenge of what can you tell people? You don’t want to tell them something wrong. So it is better to tell them a little bit of, hey, we don’t know exactly yet, but I’m going to tell you, you know, next time we meet or in – by e-mail tomorrow or something like that, rather than giving wrong information you have to correct later.
And the other thing about the first day of class is that you are being judged. There are all of these little eyeballs in there looking at you. And I feel pretty strongly that you cannot really separate yourself from what you are teaching. Everything that you say and the way you present it, that is going to be essential to the way that everyone in your class understands it and remembers it. And that can be both an advantage or a disadvantage.
I am often younger and more female than people expect from someone who is teaching them how to code. And it comes up. I’ve had students point-blank ask me how old are you. Which is an awkward question in the middle of class.
Or you have just people don’t necessarily take you seriously, sometimes. That has been my experience. But you may have other types of experiences as well.
A lot of times I’ve been asked, well, when is our professor getting here, because they think I’m a glad student. Which is kind of fun because I get to be, like, I am your professor. Go sit down.
But you have to be kind of aware of how your audience is going to be seeing you. If you are not necessarily going to fit in the box of who they expect you to be, it doesn’t mean that you need to change anything about yourself or what you need to do. But you need to anticipate those reactions and be able to answer any questions they have. You may also then, for example, part of the day one and expectation setting is clarifying how you want to be addressed, and that’s a good way – that’s something that is extremely important to have – oh, yeah.
So this is another comic.
But this is a clear way of doing that. But probably not the best way. But you need to be very clear with students. How do you expect them to address you? Who are you to them? You get to define that relationship, as long as you do it. Otherwise, know that they’re sort of going to do it for you, and that’s, you know, not always going to work to your advantage or be what you want.
So you are in charge, but you have to act like it.
Can I ask a question quick?
So related to that, I’m an adjunct, and so one of the issues – I like to be up front with my students in saying I’m an adjunct. I have a full-time job, and I have two little kids at home, and I go to bed at 9:30. I’m not going to respond to your e-mails after that, and I want you to be aware that I have all of these things.
And then almost every year, I get a comment on my reviews she’s too busy with the rest of her life kind of thing. And I’m trying to be up front with them that I am busy. And part of me is thinking maybe I shouldn’t tell them I’m busy. But to your point, I want to be up front to them as well.
I am busy.
LISA: I kind of want your advice. I admire a lot of your teaching and can probably learn from a lot of you in that regard. I’ve had that – I’ve been teaching now full-time for – this is going to be my fourth year. So six semesters, and I have been pregnant or had a baby in all except one of those semesters. And so I’ve had a lot of the sort of conversations about, hey, as you can tell, I’m going to be missing a couple of weeks in the semester. We don’t know well. I will probably let you know. And then I’m also going to be pretty busy with, like, having a baby.
College students don’t understand that part very well.
LISA: No. My son was born in February, and I was from the hospital coordinating a replacement TA for a TA who did not make me happy.
Yeah, I just want to throw out that I feel like there’s an impulse to be really open and honest. And if you’re pregnant, that’s, like, a fun thing to be, like, there’s not a secret here. There’s a person growing inside of me.
But, like, it doesn’t matter why you don’t answer e-mails. You can say to students these are my office hours. I’m super happy to take questions. You should come to my office hours. Also, if you’ve got questions, I will sit down and answer them during my office hours. Like, you can set those boundaries, and it doesn’t have to be about, like, you and your burdens and the ways in which you are bringing too much to the table. It can just be about reasonable boundaries and, like, when.
LISA: I think that’s a great idea. I would say that’s the way that I’ve kind of erred toward is say this is when I’m available and not mentioning whatever else I’m doing.
Yeah. I definitely struggle with, like, sticking to those boundaries because I’m an adjunct with full-time newsroom job and students want to meet during business hours when I’m working, and I’ve made exceptions and met with people in my newsroom, and then it, like – I don’t know I think I struggle with how to be, like, I’m sorry, like, I’m free, and I’m also not going to be free every weekend, every weeknight with a day’s notice. So I think I’ve given a lot. But I don’t know if people have advice on how to keep those.
LISA: Well, and it’s worth knowing that there is research that shows that female professors are judged more harshly for not being available, even when research has shown that they have – they hold the exact same office hours for that kind of thing.
So I do think that that kind of goes back to being aware of who you are and how your students are perceiving you. And also hopefully having supportive bosses who interpret your student reviews with, you know, some knowledge.
Grain of salt.
LISA: Which most of them do, in my experience, anyway.
Sorry. I didn’t want to cut that off. Did anyone else want to – I think we’ll kind of touch on boundaries in one of our things come up.
And the last thing we wanted to talk about just before we get into that is the communicating with students. We are all communication professionals, so this should be a wonderful and easy thing, and it is not.
And the main thing that I like to say is being clear, consistent, representative, and redundant. Both being because you just can’t count on people to be listening every moment. The more you can reiterate things, the easier it is for people to understand that. And that’s really true for all of us. It’s really a lot of the same thing is respecting your readers that you don’t want to treat them, you know, like children or be condescending, but you also, you know, want to respect their team and if you know it’s going to help them to hear something twice, then just say it twice.
The other thing is kind of both and good and bad thing is e-mail documentation. I like having everything in e-mail because then it’s documentation I’ve told a student certain policy or they have gotten back to me at a certain time. It’s sort of unfortunate how many times you can end up having to come back to that if there is a question about things.
But sometimes a tenancy of administrators and other people will be to do things in person because they don’t want that record. I like having a record of all conversations I have with students. But also think of it that way.
So I usually am a little overcustomer servicey in my e-mails. Especially to students I don’t know. They often are not, so it’s really important to not respond with the same tone that you receive the message in.
AMY: Such as this one.
LISA: This is real life example from spring semester.
This is the standard e-mail.
Do they not know how to use a return key?
LISA: They mostly type on their phones.
Those are return keys too.
LISA: Yeah, but I don’t think they know about it.
Dock them points.
LISA: You can’t – well, you would have to build in an e-mail evaluation into your syllabus, so make sure you’re thinking about that before day one.
This is one that I looked up that student on social media.
Oh. Oh, my god.
LISA: This is kind of rare. I mean, like, this blatant is pretty unusual.
Did you screenshot that back to her e-mail or say how was Coachella?
LISA: That’s a good question. I did not. I responded to her first taking her at her word that she had a family emergency. I said I’m sorry you had a family emergency. Please let me know when you’re back, and let’s discuss this. Because of things that did happen previously, I did have my doubts, I guess. So that’s why I did then look her up.
And at that point, then she wrote me back saying, oh, I turned it in, but it’s two days late. I hope I don’t get points taken off. And I said the policy is you get this many points taken off. Here it is in the syllabus. Let me know if you would like to discuss this further. I chose it not to bring it up at that point because if I had to treat this as a academic integrity issue, it would have been a lot of paperwork for me, and she would have failed the class and not graduated, so it did come down to if she’s not going to push it, I’m not going to push it.
AMY: So that’s one situation where knowing what your policies of your university are really important. When I was – I had a number of situations where there were plagiarism or fabrication issues that came up in class. And there was a clear protocol that you have to follow on how to proceed in those sorts of situations with grading of the work, which is essentially you don’t grade it. You sort of turn it over to this whole process.
And because I was working with adjuncts and anyone in here is a professional who’s an adjunct, you have a life outside of this. You don’t know what all of the policies are, necessarily. So leaning on and working with your program manager is really important because they can help you sort of walk through that process.
Every university handles it slightly differently. So even though I was sort of coaching an adjunct through the process, the honor council folks never spoke directly to me. Because faculty, the university I was working at at the time had such power, they would never talk to an administrator. They went straight to the faculty, even though the person was an adjunct faculty. Which was very confusing for the first time that I went through this because I didn’t even know all of the rules, and I was trying to help this other person out, and I say of in the dark about what to do with the student.
One of whom was in his last semester and the fabrication and plagiarism that happened was in his capstone, and we were working on all of this stuff right before graduation, and there were questions about whether he could even walk and graduate. I mean, it got hairy. And, you know, some of those things, you’re going to have to deal with. If you’re working at a university environment, hopefully you have a partner in a program manager or deem somebody who can kind of help you go through those processes.
But that’s where back to the earlier thing, e-mail is documentation. So that’s why you want to put a lot of things in writing when you think something is fishy and, you know, it’s really, really important. That way you can share that with whoever you need to share it with if it gets to that situation.
LISA: I would also say my first year teaching, I would have had a meeting with her and called her in and confronted her about this. And I’ve been doing this a few years full-time, but I’ve tried to purposely direct my effort more toward the students who are also putting in the effort and trying not to spend more time with the students who aren’t.
All right. So now we’re going to do some group discussions. You can probably do these at your tables. But if you guys want to rearrange or have people at smaller tables want to move or anything, that would be perfectly fine. We’re going to be doing this with pretty much the rest of the time with different topics.
So make yourselves comfortable. We’ll get to – should we start –
AMY: We can just go with number one, I think.
Okay. So here’s our first one that’s about a tech problem.
So if you guys wanted to discuss this, we’re going to do this for five minutes. And if any other related topics come up during your discussions, that’s perfectly fine. You don’t have to stick strictly to these scenarios, unless – but it’s kind of meant to be a starting point, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experiences of your own. If you have, please feel free to inject those into this conversation as well.
AMY: So we’ll give you guys about five minutes in your group, and then we’ll report out a little bit, and then we’ll move on to the next scenario. So go ahead and go.
LISA: So that’s been a little short of five minutes, but let’s start to hear the solutions you guys are talking about. Some people are talking tech solutions, some are talking preparation solutions. So let’s hear at least a couple of ideas from folks who wants to share their – what they would do in this scenario.
One thing we do at our work because we have for a while during some instruction, we basically go in and have everyone join a hangout or a tell conferencing tool and have the person giving a learn or whatever share their screen, everyone can watch it that way.
That works well if everyone has a computer, and they’re not having to use the work on it while they’re giving a presentation. That’s something we did.
AMY: So before we get another one. Just one comment about videoconferencing. That might be one thing you want to ask about when you’re teaching because a lot of universities, in particular using something called Zoom. Some of you may use it. Some of you may not. But there are pretty large capabilities, even for large classes of, like, 100 people that you could do something on video. So I think knowing what some of those tools are ahead of time that you can use. That the students may already have access to, as opposed to giving them a new tool that they might not have access to. And one thing I can also say about Google hang outs is that they’re really, really unreliable.
Zoom also has the whiteboard capability, which is amazing.
LISA: Anyone else want to share their recommendation in this one? I like having people pointing to other people.
This might be somewhat of a cheat, but I almost always when I’m doing a tech or, like, any kind of software lesson, and I have it planned, I almost always use screen shots. Partly because I’ve had – I’ve never had that happen, but I absolutely had a computer where you’re, like, oh, wow. Okay. So this needs some kind of update. Thanks. I’m glad this update is going to run right now. This is great.
So having those screen shots means that I can – that just possibly just share a document with everyone. Like, all right. I’m going to walk through this, but we’re going through this screenshot with the button highlighted, which is what I was planning on throwing up on the screen.
The other thing that I almost always do with any kind of, like, software lesson or programming lesson is part of their homework assignment involves, like, repeating that whole thing, so I’ve got a document that was going to go up on the class blog after class immediately that’s, like, got a set of walk through steps that reviews the steps we took. So, like, I already have something that really spells out those steps. Meant for someone to follow after they did it in class once. But it’s sort of there, so I have a few things I can point to if the –
LISA: That’s a great suggestion. I would also point out that that’s a good accessibility practice to have instructions in alternative form, especially something that people can access after the fact. Or sometimes even before. That’s something you may get called upon anyway.
AMY: Also, on the technology end of things, you may be asked or required in some cases to use Blackboard. If you’re working in a university environment, has anyone used Blackboard in the room? It kind of sucks; right?
LISA: If anyone is curious to see how badly it sucks, I would be happy to show you.
AMY: Especially, I don’t know if anyone has taught an online class, there’s also using Blackboard tools for teaching online classes and the modules that they – are created from the university, et cetera, they’re not very user friendly. But some places will require you to use Blackboard for certain things, and you should know what those things are. You may get comments in evaluations, particularly adjuncts if you don’t use Blackboard, students are very upset about it because they’re used to using Blackboard, and they will comment to us as Lisa said you’re being judged.
LISA: You may occasionally get good comments too, like, your website is so much nicer than blackboard.
Okay. Here is number two. So you’re teaching a session, I’m using data, and students are working with a dataset independently after a step-by-step introduction. You walk around the room and check in with a female student who seems to be struggling. She says I’m just really not good at anything to do with computers. And I’m your typical bad at math journalist. I totally respect the guys who can do this, but I’m just not smart enough. Can you walk me through exactly what I should be doing?
How do you respond? You’ve got about four minutes.
AMY: Okay. Guys, we’re going to come back together on that one.
I overheard a comment from Eric. Can you tell us what you’re saying about yet?
I teach high school social studies. But I would have made her – I would have said you don’t say yet or maybe enough, so I said, you know, I probably wouldn’t do this with an adult, college kid. But I would have had her write down her first and third lines so she could remember them and add the word yet and say them to me.
Which changes I’m just not really good at anything to do with computers yet. I totally respect the guys who can do this, but I’m just not smart enough yet. So every time I’ve had a student who was in a decent enough mind-set to maybe do something, say that, they get it right away, and they can move on. But we were kind of talking about. If they’re not in that mind-set, you sort of have to assess pretty quick whether they can just do it eventually or, like, in the next couple of seconds. And if they’re not, go get a drink or come back some other time.
We were talking a bit about kind of responding to the immediate need with, like, trying to maybe reframe it as okay. What if we think of programming as learning a language or pattern recognition, which is something you do when you’re interviewing people. And then maybe trying to mentor her a little bit more in the long-term.
But I also wanted to say, like, something I noticed a lot in journalism circles or tech journalism that’s not helpful for people like this is there’s this pervasive thing where people are, like, coding is easy and anyone can do it. And that’s really unhelpful to people who are trying to code because it’s not easy.
And I think we would do people who are not confident or struggle with math a big service by saying, like – by being realistic and, look, we want you to be able to communicate with people who do this stuff, and maybe you’ll like it, and it’s for you, and you want to go on and become a developer. Or, like, maybe you understand what a programming language is and know how to ask for what you need and, like, that is okay. Like, not everyone needs to be able to write Python scripts.
AMY: So one thing that’s interesting about this particular statement and for those of you who have small children, you may have heard this before. But the idea she says something I’m not smart enough; right? So that’s going after being smart, which is sort of a binary thing. You’re either smart or you’re not. And sort of preschool, prekindergarten, kindergarten, they talk a lot about having a growth mind-set, so it’s not that you’re smart or not, you just haven’t done the work yet to get to where you need to go. And so I think that sort of speaks to that point, like, this is a difficult thing. Lots of things are difficult. We need to kind of work on these things. The longer you work on something, the better you get at it. As opposed to it’s easy or it’s hard; right? Which is there’s either one or the other. And there’s no way around it.
So I’ll go here, and then I’ll get here.
We talked a lot about how being stuck is part of the process and not knowing what to do or banging your head against the wall is – that is part of doing this work. And when you have an exercise that’s, like, a step-by-step example, that’s artificial because that’s not exactly how these things happen. So if there’s ways to build in that discovery or that confusion into the process and emphasizing that that’s normal, and then that means you’re actually doing something right if you’re confused or stuck because you’re forging new territory.
So you mentioned growth mind-set, and I think it’s a super important concept. I was wondering if you could give a little bit more background to the folks who don’t understand growth mind-set and where it comes from.
AMY: Sure. So I don’t know all about it. I know it mostly because I have a 5-year-old, and he’s at a really awesome school, so they sort of drum this into us as well. But basically the difference. So a fixed mind-set is either you can do something, or you can’t do something. You’re smart or you’re not. And you start out with the idea that you’re either one or the other, and you can’t really change. There’s no ability to move from one to the other; right?
And so by telling particularly small children “Oh, you’re smart; right? That that means that they sort of internalize that and if they can’t do something, then it sort of makes them feel that either they aren’t smart enough to do it. And so there’s no point in trying to, you know, learn how some – learn another way of doing it. Or to put the work in because it’s – it’s a binary sort of thing.
Whereas a growth mind-set, and I think it comes from – I should know this because I went to Stanford as a undergrad. I think it came from –
AMY: So the growth mind-set comes from that anything is possible. You just have to put the time in to learn it and obviously, we don’t want to go through the whole thing, like, you could be the president. There’s some backlash of that, I think. But the idea that anyone can take a problem and tackle it and that by putting in time and actually thinking about the whole thing that something is challenging is actually a good thing. So there’s a whole list of questions that are on our refrigerator right now that we’re supposed to ask our five-year-old about when he comes home from school.
So what did you do today that was challenging; right? And I mean, he’s five. So maybe when he’s in 2nd grade, he’ll have better answers. Or what are – you know, maybe not.
Don’t hold out hope.
AMY: But the idea is that you ask yourself, like, what do you do? Or what happened when something was challenging for you today? What do you do about it? So that you’re actually – you’re doing some sort of action. It’s not where you’re sort of that situation where you can’t go anywhere from there.
I just had a comment too on the bad at math thing. I think societyally we allow people to say they’re bad at math in a way that we don’t allow people to say they’re bad at English. Like, you can’t just be, like, oh, I’m bad at reading and the teachers in 4th grade or middle school are, like, okay. We’ll have a separate track for you, for the bad at reading people or you can’t read; right? But you can say, like, I can’t do math; right? And people don’t kind of freak out in the same way that they should, I think. And so I don’t know if, like, in the moment when she’s frustrated is, like, the right time to get at that.
But, like, it should not be okay. To say you don’t do math in a way – we should have the same reaction to that that we have a reaction to the way people say I don’t read.
AMY: Another point, we were talking about earlier that small children have helped us learn a lot about teaching. But to that point. The school, again, where my son goes, they’ve done a lot of work to actually get their teachers to a point where they don’t come at a problem as they’re being bad at math. And that’s actually one thing for you all. Like, some of you may have the same reaction of, like, I’m bad at math; right? For those of you who are not coders in the room. Or maybe those who are, maybe you feel you’re bad at math or something.
You actually have to deal with your own bias before you walk into the classroom too. So this particular school that my son goes to, they made a lot of strides in math that they’ve actually trained their teachers to stop that kind of mind-set as well.
One other – go ahead.
LISA: Well, I was just going to kind of put it to the room. But also, I think one part of this is the idea of how directly do you counter some of these stereotypes if students are saying that kind of thing to you? It’s about themself, but they’re also kind of making generalizations about other people, you know, is that the time and place to be challenging that? Is it something that you say later? And I think – I don’t think there are necessarily right answers there. I know that that’s one that it very much depends on who you are are too. Is it somebody that you know withly? Is it somebody that trusts you? And I found in my work that I have a lot of students who are kind of looking at you to say it’s okay. Like, it’s okay to be bad at math. Like, that’s what the student wants is almost more affirmation that they don’t need to try or a lot of students are looking for that, rather than actually – so being able to gently get them off of that mind-set is a huge piece to get them to ask more productive questions too R.
We’ll do at least one or two more of these.
AMY: You’re teaching a mandatory area module to an entire business unit of your organization. So your whole newsroom, some large department, et cetera. Your first session is with a group of managers. You are not a manager. You have a plan – you have planned activities that require at least 12 people to attend. Before you begin, four of the 15 people in the room tell you that they have to leave halfway through. One is particularly rough and says she doesn’t even understand why she has to be there in the first place. What do you do?
AMY: Okay. Guys, we’re going to come back together for this one.
Does anybody have one that they want to share about this?
Since this is mandatory as a teacher, even if there was nothing, I would assume there was some sort of way to document that these people did this. So even if I had nothing, I sort of mentioned to the group, well, you could kind of make up that you had some. So if the person was leaving, I would just say, you know, hey, write down your name on this list. Or sorry, I can’t put your name on this list to document that you completed this. You know, something easy like that. Not confrontational. But.
I was also advocating what I think I might call poly in a punt. Which is gosh, I didn’t make this mandatory. I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it.
But I’m so sorry that you can’t stay for the whole session. You should definitely talk to Logan about how to deal with that because it’s not up to me. And then the other question is people get sick, all kinds of things happen. Like, you actually should never – like if you really just can’t run the class without 12 people, like, you have to figure out how to make it work with 11.
AMY: I was overhearing something you were saying, so I’m going to give this to you.
I was getting all east coast on them.
I would be a lot less passive aggressive and say this is mandatory. I’m giving my time, all of these other managers are giving their time. Do you really have to leave? Because we need 12 people to get this done and if we don’t get it done now, we’re going to have to do it again. So, you know, just kind of put it on respecting their peers. The other people that are with them and confront them that way. And they still are, like, I can’t do it, then, you know, they can’t do it. I think that’s what I was saying.
LISA: That works on undergraduates too. If they’re all on phones during their presentations, they’re saying you’re not being a good audience for your classmates is better than, like, I’m so tired of seeing all of you guys on your phones. They do respond to peer –
The team thing.
LISA: Yeah, the team aspect.
This isn’t really a solution to the scenario at hand, but we recently went through the entire newsroom all had to do compulsory training. I wasn’t running it or anything, I attended one of them. But they did a lot of prep work to anticipate this happening because they know how difficult it is to keep journalists in one place for two hours at a time.
So they – you know, there was a lot of e-mailing up front about this, there were e-mails from senior – kind of senior management, it wasn’t just from the trainers e-mailing about saying how important this was. They held it in a separate building a couple of blocks down the road to make it – presumably to make it harder to leave. They emphasized how they had a list of everyone who was going to do it. And they also made sure the managers were breathing down people’s necks to make sure they attended the training.
AMY: This are all good things right there.
Ryan, I think I overheard you saying something similar about also framing why someone needs to be here. I don’t know if you want to talk a little bit about that.
Sure. I mean, just going back to the goals of whatever the training you’re doing is. In my head, I’m always a product person rolling out a new CMS to a bunch of editors that don’t want to be involved. So trying to make sure that people remember all of the opportunities they have and all of the things they’ll be able to do. Stoke their competitive fire a bit and let them know that these are the tools that look like the cool things you keep sending me in e-mail every day.
AMY: So we’re going to do one more.
LISA: One more real quick. And afterward if you guys are interested in talking about this or especially if you’re interested in you haven’t had a teaching role, or you’re interested in that or something, we will both be available during lunch just informally, we would love to keep talking about this with you.
AMY: There’s one more on the meeting sift about advice we will put up at the end.
So scenario number seven. We’ve skipped ahead. You are guest teaching about a topic directly related to your primary work. After explaining the instructions for a quick activity, you ask if anyone has questions. A student raises a hand and asks how to accomplish a particular task. You know there are several ways to do it but don’t know the exact steps.
You start to demonstrate one option and quickly realize it will take a little trial and error to figure it out. Students are looking at you wondering if you really know this topic all that will. What do you do?
AMY: Okay. Guys, we’re starting to run out of time. So we want to just come back together on this one.
Is there anybody we haven’t heard from yet who wants to raise your hand and give your solution? Anybody, anybody? Who we haven’t heard from yet? Okay.
We’ll come back to you. I promise. The Logan who it was blamed on before.
So in the context where I’m teaching workshops for people, I run into stuff like this kind of all the time. And because we have a wide variety where some people are more advanced and some people are just beginning. And my experience is that when I’ve tried to go outside of my planned kind of curriculum, I don’t do it primarily because I’m going to accidentally introduce half a dozen concepts that aren’t necessarily part of my major, part of my track. And, like, I don’t worry so much about the trial and error part of it as I do, I have this planned lesson, these concepts and vocabulary that I’m trying to be disciplined about. And I try to push this to, like, hey, let’s talk about this at the break. Let’s – you know, let’s do this outside the curriculum because I’m going off the track, I might be leading other people astray in the way that kind of is a potentially risky to a lot of people who are the beginners in a class.
So I have occasionally guest taught an intro to Excel and data journalism one hour thing in a college class, and this exact scenario happens to me every time. And I love it. Like, because I think it’s a really good teaching moment to demonstrate because usually by the point we’re doing hands on stuff, I’ve kind of said here are some stories you can do using this tool, like, gotten some buy in of I know this looks boring and not sexy but, like, here are the sexy things that I wrote because I did boring work first.
So I can say, like, this is what we do. We actually don’t know what we’re doing most of the time, and we Google stuff, and it’s, like, messy and stupid, and we figure it out and, like, you can be a self-taught pro and do that.
And as far as class practically, I would probably say you know what? I don’t know right away. I’m going to figure this out while you guys do the activity that I just gave you directions for, and then week talk about it in a minute. But I love teaching because I always learn new stuff because people have questions for things I was never expecting, and it was great.
I think they’re trying to get us to wrap up. There’s one more comment here. Who wanted to speak?
I mean, I think that I was kind of similar to what she was saying, which was, like, taking this to the common opportunity for the students to learn, like, that this kind of teaching – this kind of field is based off of trial and error. Like, allow them to maybe pull their brain power and help you figure it out too because maybe they have suggestions, especially if you have drawn a couple of other students to work on the project with you. And use that as a opportunity to get that, like, problem and solution mind-set in mind.
AMY: Thank you, guys. So we have one more question. You can answer this in here, or you can leave. I’ll leave it open for a while.
So I just wanted, since there’s lots of different people with lots of different types of skill sets and experience with teaching or training, we wanted to hear from you about what advice you would give to others. And we’re going to put the link up for the meeting sift onto the ether pad, as well as I’ll look up the book.
I put it on the ether pad.
AMY: Fabulous. Already done. And other things we think about in this area. But thank you so much for your attention. We’re happy to talk more at lunch if you so desire.
LISA: Thanks, everyone.