To kick off the 22-23 year, we wanted to highlight faculty voices and provide concrete examples of how one Renegade faculty has found small changes make a big difference.
This piece was written by Jacy Hill, MA,Ed, RT(R). Jacy says, “I have been a full-time faculty member at Bakersfield College for 5 years. I have served as Faculty Director of the Radiologic Technology Program for 3 years. Radiologic Technology is my second career. I was a teacher and certified athletic trainer for 12 years. I enjoyed working as an athletic trainer and teacher at Saint Bernard High School in Los Angeles and CSU, Bakersfield. I turned to Radiologic Technology in hopes of slowing life down and having a better work-life balance. I still love working with patients in the hospital setting. I have learned a great deal of the administrative aspect of education as a faculty director, but my first love is being in the classroom. It is hard to beat the relationships built with students. I am forever grateful to leaders that mentored me as a 1st generation college student.”
Small things, big outcomes. This is what I have seen in my classroom since implementing strategies to build a better class environment. I am by no means an expert. I gladly admit my gleaning from mentors to make a more welcoming and inclusive class for students. In the last 4 years, I have attended workshops on inclusion, humanizing the online classroom and first-generation teaching practices.
The majority of our students in the Radiologic Technology Program are 1st generation college students. Many of the students did not grow up in a home where a family member has modeled successful strategies in the college environment. The Center for Teaching & Learning at CSU-LA speaks of the “hidden language” for the 1st generation student. I am betting this hidden language extends beyond the 1st generations student.
To support students, I have noticed that the following five small changes have had a big impact on the success of my students.
Office Hours Versus Student Hours
Office Hours are often viewed as a punitive time that is only used when they are in trouble. Our area has adopted the term “Student Hours” instead. In the syllabus and first day introduction, time is spent to explain that student hours is reserved time for students to get help from me. Our hope is to re-frame a more positive student view of office hours.
“What Does Interest Look Like?”
It sounds elementary, but on the first day of class, describe what an interested student looks like. I feed off of students’ energy, interest and questions during lecture. “An interested student sits up, makes eye-contact, might lean forward or ask questions. By showing me these signals, I can see you are interested.”
What Do Students Want From Me?
On the first day of class, I introduce the syllabus and spend 40 minutes explaining my expectations of students. To get to know students I will then say, “I’ve spent all this time describing my expectations of you, now it’s your turn to say what’s important to you.” I ask the students to anonymously write the three most important qualities of a good teacher. I collect and review. Here are the most common answers:
- I want to know my teacher cares
- I want a teacher who is nice/kind
- I want a teacher who responds to my emails
- I want a teacher who grades my assignments in a timely manner
Consistently Review the Course Syllabus Schedule Throughout the Semester
“Take out your schedule, let’s look at what we discussed last week, what we are doing this week and where we are headed next week.” Students see the pattern of consistent review. By modeling regular review of the syllabus, students see the value. I also use this time to help students see the relationship of the topics. Students can fixate on the current week, but then miss the connection of the topics’ inter-relationships throughout the course.
Learn Students’ Correct Names
This final strategy is more personal to me than I realized. There are some challenging names to pronounce. I discourage instructors from saying, “that’s a hard name to say, I will call you ______ instead.” Names are personal, they have a story. I have a unique name and I always, notice when it is said or spelled correctly. I appreciate effort, even if said incorrectly, to say my name correctly. My name is Jacelyn (Jays-lynn), my friends call me Jacy, (Jay-cee). Using the correct/preferred name of the student is welcoming.
Thank you for the chance to share small strategies and their big outcomes. None of these strategies are my own original ideas, but I am glad to have them. I encourage finding mentors and attending professional development opportunities. I look forward to learning more about your classroom success.