Tag Archives: Key Learning Experience

Teaching: A Path to Learning

Becoming A Lifelong Learner

Flow chart of inquiry while acknowledging fear of information overload

Acknowledge a fear of information overload and choose inquiry!

Context

My past fourteen years teaching for the School of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has been a key learning experience for me, diverse and  rewarding. This reflection examines this experience for deeper learning about my skills, knowledge, and values.

I was initially hired because my experience with software applications qualified me to step-in where someone else had ducked-out, mid-semester. I began teaching with a B.S. in Computer Science and later earned an M.A. in English.

Since 1999 I’ve:

Taught diverse courses:

  • BUS 200: Intro to BUS Computing: Information literacy and technology skills.
  • BUS 299: Excel Spreadsheet: Spreadsheet skills.
  • BUS 308: Computer Information Systems: Information Management skills.
  • BUS 498: Internship Experience: Guided reflection and research related coursework, internship, and career goals.
  • BUS 304: Reading, Writing, & Crit Thinking/BUS II: Written and Oral communication focused primarily in a critical thinking context.

Participated on several campus committees:

  • Critical thinking workshops
  • ePortfolio committee
  • Technology/Information learning community
  • Search committee for campus-wide Advising Director
  • Tech/info ULR committee

Spent several years managing advising for our department:

  • approved student learning plans
  • trained and managed student peer advisors
  • collaborated with other advising bodies as well as the registrar’s office, and the campus career center
  • participated in informational events at local high schools

Explicit Skills and Knowledge

The large range of skills and knowledge used, initiated, or enhanced by my responsibilities as an adjunct faculty member at CSUMB seems consistent with my sense of always learning something new in this role.

  • Intellectual Skills: All are integral to teaching, special projects and committee work.
  • Sustainable Knowledge: increased through coursework, and department and campus events and goals
  • Helping Individuals: integral to teaching
  • Civic Knowledge and Engagement: increased through committee involvement
  • Ethical Reasoning and Action: increased through coursework and some professional dilemmas.
  • Intercultural Knowledge and Competence: increased through coursework and professional context
  • Philosophy, Education, and Psychology: increased through coursework,  faculty workshops, and professional context

Outcomes

The dynamic, stimulating environment of our CSUMB campus combined with the excellent leadership and collaboration of our faculty in the School of Business have provided countless opportunities for growth. So many kinds of challenges confront teachers: challenges of subject mastery, interpersonal relations, course management, learner engagement, differing learning needs, and changing institutional demands. Many times when faced with a new challenge, I balk, thinking, “NO! I don’t want to do that –!” However, a long time ago I discovered that when I embrace a new challenge that falls in my path, amazing, unexpected rewards follow. When I sidestep a new challenge and opt for an “easy out” I invariably experience either a sterile “dead” period or worse. Addressing challenges requires learning new skills and knowledge,  which, from my experience,  in spite of any frustrations and disappointments, always seems to result in  fertile feelings of growth and fulfillment.

Taking a Deeper Look

Aspects of teaching that have been easy for me include organizing my courses,  guiding learners through specific individual activities, and learning to set some necessary boundaries. More challenging aspects include developing more engaging and effective in-class activities and new ways to teach concepts, as necessary. The most challenging part of teaching, that has led me the closest to dreaming of exit plans, is facing student work that falls far short of acceptable quality, uncertain how to respond. However, I’ve recently had epiphanies that change my perspective on this issue.

An “a-ha” experience that changed how I approach teaching was realizing that learners need not only instruction, but effective, individual feedback on their understanding of all of the fundamental elements of a larger project, before they can effectively develop the larger project.

This sounds obvious. Someone probably could have taught me this sooner. Although I’ve been teaching for 14 years, only in the past few years have I availed myself of opportunities to learn more about the art of teaching from other people and other resources. Previously, I’ve learned primarily from trial and error. My lack of inquiry into the scholarship of teaching and learning is an example of the same kind of fear of information overload I described in my Yoga discussion. I did not consciously acknowledge that I was choosing NOT to learn teaching methods and improve my courses. Instead, afraid of information overload, from the vast field of learning science, I ignored the issue. A certain rigidity accompanies my organization skills. I am attracted to straight forward, defensible solutions to well structured problems. When I ponder integrating new teaching strategies, I wonder,  where does the need for change and improvement end?

Perhaps the need for change and improvement never ends! I’ve recently read some formal discussions about reflection and had the opportunity to consciously understand that a habit of suspended judgement, supporting ongoing inquiry, is necessary for true reflective judgement. But such ongoing inquiry is only possible if I can accept the “discomfort” of suspended judgement, which may be the root of my fear of information overload.

Note: This post is one of three developed as part of my personal example of exploring key learning experiences for deeper self-awareness. The steps for the project will be described in detail on a page of this site.

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Yoga — a Life Practice

Yoga Became a Lasting Practice

Headstand Photo

Photo taken 1987.

He who practices the Headstand for three hours daily conquers time.” — Yoga

Upanishad (The Sivananda Yoga Center, 1983, P. 38)

This post reflects on one of my key learning experiences, learning Yoga, for further insights into my skills, knowledge, and values.

Context

While growing up I spent a lot of time at the city library and at some point, perhaps about 1970, I discovered books about Yoga. I was intrigued by details of esoteric practices like the cleansing Kriyas and inspired to have the kind of power to influence my well being that was promised by the teachings I read. That year my parents gave me Yoga for Young People by Michaeline Kiss. I believe they hoped to support my interest while also steering me away from  more extreme practices. Kiss’ book provided a wonderful introduction to a regular yoga practice. I studied her book thoroughly and adopted her suggested seven-day exercise plan as a regular habit.

Explicit Skills and Knowledge

By following the instructions, photos, and drawings in a variety of books I learned to execute a range of yoga poses including the lotus, crane, cobra,  locust,  bow, dead man’s pose, shoulder stand, plough, and headstand. I had to be able to follow instructions, use my body and my concentration, and establish regular times and places for my practice. My practice of poses also enhanced my awareness of balancing and breathing.

With reference to the “Skill Areas Worksheet” I selected six areas, large motor skills, information literacy, sustainability knowledge and engagement, helping individuals, science, and social science, that were employed and enhanced by my Yoga exploration. I used large motor skills to execute poses and information literacy for finding multiple books, and developing my physical practice through interpreting text and images. The Sustainability knowledge and engagement and Helping individuals  categories relate to my focus on yoga as a lifelong care practice for optimal physical and mental well being. My Science and Social Science knowledge  were increased by increased knowledge of body mechanics and of some practices from a culture different than my native culture.

Outcomes of My Initial Practice

Developing my personal practice early in life gave me a sense of making Yoga my own, as a casual hobby, and as part of caring for myself. Over the years I purchased many books, took  classes and workshops, and learned additional poses as well as diverse ways of combining and executing poses. At one point, when I had only one young child, I taught a basic Yoga class that welcomed parents with babies.  In spite of a long standing interest and trust in Yoga as a path toward balance, I’ve never become “expert”  in a particular way. I don’t hold any certifications and the most extreme pose I confidently sport is the headstand. However, the valuable outcomes I attribute to my early learning experience with Yoga are many and diverse. A sense of empowerment to take charge of my physical and mental well-being by discovering methods of self-care led to:

  • attachment style parenting
  • adopting homeopathic remedies as a first line of defense
  • natural child birth
  • breastfeeding
  • learning clinical massage to help friends in pain
  • learning Reiki as a channel for healing and a life practice
  • embracing fresh natural foods

Many times my Yoga practice has lapsed. Often aches and pains brought me back because I knew from experience that with regular yoga practice I felt physically flexible and balanced. Now in my sixth decade, experiencing previously unimagined vulnerability to aches and pains, I’m more faithful to my practice than ever before and I’ve returned to Michaeline Kiss’ recommended daily routines, for the variety and balance they offer, augmenting them with additional poses as feels appropriate.

Deeper Examination

An “a-ha” for me that came through reading about yoga was a sense of empowerment to apply knowledge to my own life. While growing up, I read fiction books endlessly, and was sometimes  wistful about the gap between my virtual characters’ life situations and my own. In contrast, Yoga books invited and enabled me to make the poses and their potential benefits real through my own practice.

Learning basic poses was easy and enjoyable. I was naturally flexible and already had some basic gymnastics skills. More challenging, was maintaining a progressive practice. I established a regular practice, to a degree .. but I was not faithful nor inspired enough to develop to an advanced stage or learn deeply enough to become a qualified teacher. Because I have such an abiding and deep affection for Yoga, I believe that not developing expertise is evidence of not taking initiative and responsibility, not following through, with something that part of me embraced deeply. I see this as a form of sabotage. Part of me betrayed another part of me. I never examined this dichotomy before, but upon reflection, I believe that a number of habits, tendencies, preconceptions, prejudices, and distractions conflicted with my interest in yoga and I never consciously addressed the conflict.

My Yoga practice has influenced others more peripherally than intentionally. For example, my children grew up with my practice and although none of them practiced with me, they now each have their own practice. There may be no connection, but if so, it’s an interesting coincidence.

Future Connections – Inquiry!

Examining this experience reinforces my awareness that determined, creative research can uncover valuable information. I see my relationship with “information” as both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, I’m always aware that tremendous amounts of information await discovery. On the other hand I’m sometimes afraid of being inadequate to the task of digesting, evaluating, and interpreting a necessary amount to become truly “responsibly knowledgeable” in a particular area.  With  more conscious awareness of this barrier I will research more issues I care about.

Note: This post is one of three developed as part of my personal example of exploring key learning experiences for deeper self-awareness. The steps for the project will be described in detail on a page of this site.

References

Kiss, M. (1971). Yoga For Young People. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

The Sivananda Yoga Center. (1983). The Sivananda Companion to Yoga. New York: Simon and Schuster