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You Helped Me Know That I Know It

Patrick Morgan
Adjunct Faculty, CEWD and Youth Courses

“I don’t get it. Can you do it for me?”

I am in Community Education and Workforce Development, and work mainly with the Youth Classes. None of the classes that I teach last longer than a week. Most of the students probably will not remember me a week from now.
I get this question a lot; my students are here because their parents wanted them out of the house for a few hours during the summer, to give the kids something fun to do while the parents are at work. I always answer the question the same way.

“I don’t get it. Can you do it for me?”
“I cannot, but I can help you figure it out.”

A big part of my teaching style is keeping my students engaged. I want my students to not just go through the motions. I want them to remember why they learned it, and for that, they have to do it themselves.
In the summer of 2019, during one of the weeks of the robotics course, I had a student who would shut down the moment they ran into a problem. They were showering me with questions every couple of minutes that first day. Most of the exchanges went something like this:

“My robot’s not working, can you fix it?”
“I cannot, but I can help you figure it out.”
“But can’t you just fix it for me?”
“I cannot, because it’s not my robot. You built it, so you have to show me what’s wrong.”
“OK, well this part…”

I would have them walk me through their robot, and in the process they would realize where the missing piece would be. At the end of the first day, I knew that robot inside and out.
The second day, they asked half as many questions as the first.
The third day, they asked half as many as the day before.
The fourth day, they didn’t ask any questions about the robot, so at the end of class I asked them why.

“So why do you think you had to ask me so many questions the first day?”
“Um… Because if I think I don’t know it, I’m afraid I’ll mess it up.”
“Ok. What about now?”
“Now I know I know it. You helped me know that I know it.”

These are the moments where I am proud to be an instructor.

The Double Reward that Gives Back

Shannon Scott, MSN, RN
Nursing Teaching Clinician

About five years ago, I had two students who began the nursing program together, and they were friends who decided to attend at the same time to support each other.  Melinda was a young, quiet, and unsure mother who was caring for her daughter while attending nursing school.  Her friend Emmy, who was eager to begin the program, helped her with babysitting so she could get through the program.  Both students began with uncertainty, but gained the knowledge that was needed to successfully complete the nursing program and obtain their nursing license.  Their relationship as friends supporting each other reminded me of my past when I was a single mother and had the support of my family to help me get through college.

Years later, I was the first in my family to get the dreaded call, my niece had been hit by a car while riding her bike and they had to rush her into surgery due to a brain bleed.  I arrived at the hospital finding my niece’s father on the waiting room floor in tears.  My sister was out of town and on her way to the hospital.  The trauma surgeon came to the waiting room after the longest wait of my life to tell us that he was able to stop the bleed and that my niece was being transferred to the PICU.

When we arrived to the PICU room, my niece was on a ventilator and sedated. My mind went blank; I could not think as a nurse.  There were two nurses who were settling her into the room.  Through the tears, I was shocked to see the two nurses were the two friends, Emmy and Melinda.  They both were working hard to ensure my niece was stable.  I cried in amazement as they both took charge and knew exactly what needed to be done.

Once my niece was settled into bed, they both came over and hugged me reassuring me that she was in good hands.  This created a trust and bond that grew over the few months my niece was hospitalized. They both continued to care for her until her discharge to rehab.  Emmy and Melinda both thanked me for the guidance and push to excel while in nursing school that enabled them to be such successful nurses now.

As we all were able to witness the miracle of my niece’s recovery, the two friends who have now arrived to becoming confident PICU nurses solidified that I am in the right place at this time in my life.  Teaching in the nursing program at LCC is a double reward, being able to help those in need along with helping new nurses achieve their goals of obtaining their nursing license so that they can also help care for the community.

Summer 2018

Mental Illness: A Holistic Approach

As an instructor, I realize there are many students with disabilities that I am unaware of. Some students may have an accommodation through Lansing Community College which would enable me to assist the students in various ways. However, I realize there will be students who choose not to disclose their disability or mental illness for several reasons. More so, as an instructor it is my goal to assess each of my students for various roadblocks or challenges that may impede their learning process. Also, it is my intention to encourage and motivate my students to do their very best at whatever endeavor they envision for themselves. During the spring semester of 2017, I had a student appeared very engaged in class and he seemed happy as he laughed often with fellow classmates. I find this fact troubling because as educators we are trained to look for warning signs, but in this case, there were none. So, how are we to know when our students are in trouble? If instructors strive to create a loving and caring classroom environment, students will feel compelled to reach out to us when they are in trouble, even if it is unbeknownst to us. It is important that instructors treat students as whole individuals who have a life outside of the classroom. I choose to take a holistic degraded him, declaring he would amount to nothing. The surprising concept behind this situation is the student approach when teaching and engaging with my students. Sometimes an occasional hug, or pat on the back, or even a word of encouragement may be the deciding factor between life and death when it comes to our students. In reference to mental illness, it is pivotal that we approach it as we would any other medical condition that requires treatment. It is important that we create a sanctuary space within the classroom in order for our students to feel comfortable and safe in order to learn the skills and techniques we are teaching.

Leslie Johnson
June 28, 2018

Inspiring Student

Inspiring Student

Larry Simpson

Full-time Faculty

Our job as faculty members at a community college is to help provide opportunities for all students to learn and prepare for careers.  Part of providing those opportunities is listening to students and doing what we can to help them succeed.  Often, we learn from our students.

A student, who I will refer to as Sally is a prime example of this.  Sally was a good student in my accounting principles class who earned good grades, however she was not always in class.  When I asked her to meet with me, she explained she had been that she had been going to the hospital for treatment during her absence.  Sally asked me if I would excuse her absences and I agreed to excuse her.  Later, she confided that she had terminal cancer, yet still wanted to finish her degree.  When she was not in class it was because she was having chemo-therapy.

Sally never complained about her situation and other students in the class were not aware of her illness.  Sally was always very pleasant and smiling, even when I knew that she was in a lot of pain.  She actively participated in class and was never late with a single homework assignment.  Sally stayed after class so that we could discuss what she missed when absent.  When I discussed the possibility of accommodation with her, she was not at all interested in seeking ADA accommodation.

Unfortunately, Sally’s story did not have a happy ending.  She earned a great grade in my class, but she was not able to complete her degree before she died.  All of the faculty that came into contact with her will always remember her courage and persistence.

Part of her legacy is the impact that she had on faculty members.  I will always be thankful for having her in class and getting to know her.  She showed a lot of courage, more than I think I would have in the same circumstances.  I have always tried to help students and be empathetic.  However, when students miss my classes, I am reminded of Sally.  We do not always know what students are experiencing and need to focus on helping them when we can.  She provided an excellent example of why we need to listen to students, rather than assuming education is not a priority for them.  She is a reminder of the importance of connecting with our students and trying to understand how we can help them.

Full Circle

Susan Hardie
Assistant Professor, Art Design and Multimedia Instructor

“Never discourage anyone who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” — Plato

We are not often privileged to know the rest of the story for our students but knowing that we walked with them for a time, listened and hoped to inspire, is what can make the difference.

For this piece, we will call the student Stephanie.

Stephanie was one of the older students in the class. She worked and went to school part-time, most likely putting herself through college. Being the only female in the class one would think she would be intimidated. I was. Not Stephanie, or at least she did not show it. Stephanie was a gifted artist and she knew comics. Stephanie, like many of her classmates, did not necessarily have a career path mapped out but she had a passion for her craft.

I certainly was kept on my toes that semester, researching to develop the course and keeping a step ahead of my students. I gave Stephanie and her classmates a context and structure for their art. In return Stephanie and that lively group of creative misfits gave me respect, and appreciation. More importantly they shared their concerns and perspective. As my very first class at LCC, Stephanie and her classmates oriented me to seeing LCC . . . through the student’s eyes. It is because of that class that I remain at LCC and am compelled to be a student advocate.

By the end of the semester, those students were a community with certain credit given to Stephanie’s charisma and leadership. Students with Stephanie’s skill and dedication ‘raise the bar’ for a class. She had the perseverance to achieve what she set her mind to do, and was always receptive to learning and sharing her ideas. I knew she had talent, but more is required. Being an artist, that is not the easiest path to follow, or survive.

Ten years passed when I next saw Stephanie. She approached me in the Gannon Commons portfolio in hand asking if I remembered her. How could I not? It turns out Stephanie re-enrolled at LCC to prepare her portfolio for admission to MSU art department. I was so pleased that her path came full circle. She is now in her second year and doing amazing work in ceramics, jewelry . . . and comics.

Where All of This Got Started…

In Spring 2015, Lansing Community College faculty participated in a Gratitude Project, sharing something about their jobs for which they were grateful. One submission stood out from the rest. Professor Chris Manning talked about a student who taught him exactly why community colleges exist.

Using Professor Manning’s piece as an inspiration, CTES 100 participants now complete a short essay to inspire our fellow teachers and remind us why community colleges exist and why we choose to teach at a community college.

What I Am Grateful For

by Chris Manning
Professor, Center for Transitional Learning

A student, ARK, has been the greatest gift of my teaching career. At 17, she chose to enroll in The Early College. Her mother is a chronic addict and her father, a man she desperately wanted to love and trust, sexually assaulted her. At 17, she only had the support of her uncle. Despite all of this, though, her homework was always turned in on time. She worked to not only succeed in my course, but to test out of her next pre-core courses. She did just that.

Then, she did the impossible. In a writing assignment exploring her educational experience, she wrote about learning and education being a constant in her life when all else was anything but constant. I read about the bullying she endured because she wanted to learn. I learned about nights she spent alone at the dinner table finishing homework. I learned about her moving from one school to another on a yearly basis. I learned about so much of her struggle. So, what was impossible? I cried—just a little—when I finished reading this excellent, powerful essay. I’ve only cried twice before in my life—the birth of my two daughters.

I don’t know if I could ever quantify or even express what she’s taught me. But, I have never been so grateful to work at a school that openly accepts—and even welcomes—students like ARK. Students who are not college-ready, but students who can teach us all about living with purpose, conviction, and genuine strength.