About this Issue

In this month’s edition of the Communique, I asked professors at different points in their career, what keeps you up at night as an educator?  What are the things that you continually think about long after the work day has passed? What bothers you or what are you trying to do better?

To answer this question, I selected a newly appointed assistant professor, Michelle Alcorn, an assistant professor with some experience on the tenure track, Gilpatrick Hornsby, myself, a tenured associate professor, and a full professor and director of a program, Randall Upchurch. My hope is that you can relate to the thoughts and perspectives presented in this issue and this will stimulate conversations with colleagues.

What Keeps You Up at Night?

Catherine Curtis, Director of Education, ICHRIE

Many things keep me up at night, including a toddler who just does not believe the whole night should be wasted in sleeping. However, when there is no fault to be assigned onto others and only myself, I find myself contemplating my work. I am sure that this is not uncommon for many people. I think about what I want to improve and what steps I can take to make that improvement. Over the last year, I wanted to put more emphasis on teaching; that will be my focus in this piece.

I have been lucky, I work at a university that does value teaching, and in particular, my college.  Like many other universities, we have an institute for teaching and learning where faculty can attend workshops and keep current with new skills and techniques. My college took an extra initiative to hold workshops that faculty could attend in a lunch hour and share advice with colleagues from the various departments in our college. There was nothing wrong with these approaches, but it is instructors teaching instructors.

On occasion, I have attended a few lectures across campus from faculty who are known to be excellent in their respective disciplines. There was nothing wrong with this either, but it was an observational approach. I wanted to experience the classroom the way today’s students experience classes.

I became a student again and enrolled in two courses in the spring semester.

These courses were online and I wanted to take courses that way because of the convenience factor, I do have a full-time job and familial responsibilities, and I wanted to know how I could improve my online courses. In the past, I have taken courses and received certificates for online education, but that was years ago and with technology, things can change very quickly.

I took courses unrelated to my discipline. I have a strong interest in this area so I was excited to learn something new. In the first course, I enjoyed being a student again. I was excited to learn new material and my children were looking over my shoulder to see what I was studying.  For the most part, I felt the course delivery was good.  A few issues here and there, but nothing that would make me discount or dismiss the class. I did not see anything too innovative. I know that our institute for teaching and learning could replicate some of the video effects used in the course.  Overall, I was happy with the experience.

The next course however, blew my mind, in a good way.  I discuss transformational leadership in my class and if there is a such thing as a transformational teacher, this person had the qualities. The course delivery was amazing, the topic thrilling, and the way the instructor spoke to us on camera made you eager for the next module. The instructor did all the things that we were taught in those instructor-to-instructor workshops, the difference was that I was to live the experience as a student.

As I worked on my courses this summer, I tried to implement some of the techniques I was not already using into my online courses. I do not know if the new ones are successful yet. I am hoping that with a renewed student perspective, I have given my students more tools to be successful. Despite this, I am sure the sleepless nights will continue.

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