Western education 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

... working while on chemo.....

..... has its funny moments in and out of the classroom this week.

Starting an entirely new curriculum has a few minor pitfalls along the way and with tweaking and perfecting, the last lab/classes of the week tend to get a more condensed and to the point lecture than the sometimes awkward moments on the Monday where not every bug is worked out of the system.  Sara and I spent a great deal of time pounding out the structure and how the course should go.... the rest comes with the input from students and their ability or inability to follow along.  

It is Friday of week 2 and I am accommodating new student intakes into the back portion of the lab and stepping them through the process of creating their first simulation circuit.  While they do not know what they are doing, they are following along.  Sara is there and assisting with the students who are struggling while I talk about next steps and so on.  I think every tech environment would greatly benefit from an assistant like the one we have in Sara.  I ask her to give small instructional pieces, especially those parts that she has developed with me over the summer, to the students. It is a way for me to help show the class, not only how resourceful she is but also how incredible a role she plays in our classroom.  She stays behind while I pack to head off to my scheduled class tutorials.  Between the last two classes of the day, I will run into John, our coordinator who is teaching electrical fundamentals. He shows concern when he sees me and after I remind him that this is chemo week.  He makes me laugh as he apologizes for leaving me shite board markers.  No worries, I have my own thanks!!  We now have smart boards but I haven't used them extensively enough to benefit the class yet.  Practice will have to wait until I get my groove in the lecture and labs.

For is great to to be back and I am loving it.  On my great days, which are most of them, I am on top of my game and mentally aware.  Throw in some chemo and steroids and voila... a head cloud that dulls the wits and decreases the ability for my finger tips to function properly.  Catching minor glitches in presentations is no problem... we address it in the classroom as we go and it is a good way for the students to get involved and to ask questions.  It is also a way for them to know that we as teachers do make mistakes and as long as we own it and correct it, they learn that it is acceptable to make mistakes and to learn by them.  One student in the crowd has already stood out like a sore thumb amongst his peers by being overly vocal and often has a great deal to say when I am speaking in the lecture hall.  His inability to see how  his dramatic outbursts have on those around him cause a discomfort in the group that at times becomes palatable. Yesterday, I offered prize draws for the students who correctly filled out the scavenger hunt last week and his name was one that was selected by our hearing impaired student.  Our dramatic young man ambled down the aisle and casually poked at the three tokens offered for their effort.  He scooped up a pair of headphones and attempted to offer it to his deaf classmate and when the young man nodded no in his direction, he simply tossed it to a fellow in the row behind.  He then announced that I had not paid very much for the item, 'after all, the price tag is still on the package... sheesh'.  Would he have known that I have no feeling in the tips of my fingers and the slightest nick in my hand can send me to emerge with a life threatening infection? Removing the tag was the least of my worries when i spent the last remaining dollars in my bank account that week when I picked up 140 duo tangs and plastic sleeves for my lab students.  I feel for this young man, it is becoming clear that he has already created a tough start at the beginning of a promising year.  During the lecture, he is quick to point out mistakes and I graciously thank him, correct the mistake and move on.  He sits back in his seat satisfied.... for now.

I have two ASL (American Sign Language) assistants and one note-taker in the classroom.  They are fascinating to watch.  Tammy is energetic in class today and answers me in place of her student...and I grin back at her.  I have to place her voice in place of the tall male redhead she stands in front of.  The two ASL assistants take turns signing to their student and I wonder how difficult this must be for them to have to try and figure out what I am saying in a technical environment.  I have learned to slow down my speech so they can get as much information across to him as possible.  Its hysterical seeing Tammy out of the corner of my eye and seeing her become quite animated when I make a joke.  Yesterday her charge was starting to fall asleep at the end of the class and I asked him if he got any sleep at all... he grinned and nodded no, I turned to Tammy, who just shrugged and smiled.  She gets in the groove and just becomes an extension of who he is.  The other sweet translator does a hand off when the first one gets tired.  Both are exceptional ladies and quite engaging.  Our transcription guy sits up front and wants to be a part of the furniture but when I openly point out to the class that for him to type on the computer in binary numbers to transcribe my lecture..... our outspoken student offers that perhaps he should consider a pencil at that point..... point made and the transcriber looks up to give a rare grin.  Week 2 and we are well on our way to facilitating our students needs in many ways.

I have always offered my free time to students and yesterday was no exception as I borrowed the back of the classroom to get the students who missed their labs this past week to get caught up.  With their lab foldable created, a cross-curricular endeavor with my new colleague Stephanie in Communications, we now have a group working diligently at creating a great first project.  Working with Stephanie and collaborating our efforts in the two classes has been amazing.  She is easy to work with, has great ideas and is willing to support what I need for my students.  As I get more time, I will speak with my other colleagues to see what they are doing.  I keep a blog on the college site for all my colleagues to know what I am teaching and what we are learning.  I am keeping accurate notes and tweaking my paperwork as I go.

..... so here lies the chemo brain side of this week...... I accidentally issued an incorrect cell number to 40 of my students who I emailed to inform them of a catch up lab.... which was a mere 2 digits off... funny that i teach 'digital' .... and about 15 of them immediately texted to inquire as to how they could participate.  I received first a text and then a phone message from the rather unimpressed recipient.  I texted an immediate apology and emailed all my students to refer them back to my text number.  I felt it was probably prudent to call this poor individual and offer up yet another apology for the inconvenience.  She was wonderful and we chatted for about 20 minutes.... no, you shouldn't have to change your number, my students are very respectful and you should not be receiving any more texts. She was curious about the 'labs' and upon explaining what I do, she simply laughed and wished me all the best.  I am sure this will be a great story to tell at her next outing.  For me, its a reminder to re-read everything in the days of chemo fallout!!!  Later in the evening I sit up in bed and use my tablet to complete student contacts from the recent inbox of text messages. This way I know if they accidentally call my phone, I will see their name and student and not answer.  Well, my big kitty jumped on my la and lay across the tablet.....under his belly, I could hear a phone ringing and when I pulled him off....oh dear Lord, FaceTime has dialed the student. I try to hang up and managed to disconnect before they answer.  Two seconds later I receive a text and quickly respond with an apology. No sooner do I finish with that contact, but it happened again!!!!!  AAAAAAAArg!!  This student wanted to know if I had pocket dialed, I replied, my kitty called him.  Oh dear Lord, how terribly embarrassing is this?! He thought that was funny and bid me a good night.......yup....a chemo week for sure!!!

This is a great year for me being back in the classroom and having the incredible support from many colleagues who have become friends over the years.  Sara is the most incredible woman to work with and to bounce things off.  We have become very close over the years and yes, we have had our moments as do all great friends.  She is a true gem and I love and adore her.  Please don't retire anytime soon.... I would miss you like crazy!!!!  

I share a cubby with a fellow I graduated with in June.  It is such a small world to see some of my graduate class of tech students at Western Faculty of Education working in the same department.  I will get together with them over lunch and exchange ideas over the next few weeks.  It is alway best to try and collaborate or exchange ideas and techniques that work.  Often a teacher is left to their own without assistance and here I have been fortunate to have the expert guidance of Sara and John in my teaching experience.  With people like Elaine and now Janet to help with the administration side of our job, which most of us techs do not necessarily do well with...... OK Elaine, you rock.... you are amazing, highly organized and let's face it.... you kept us all in check.  Janet is learning to recognize my voice before actually seeing my head pop around her cubicle.  I promise not to break you too hard over the weeks to come.... you have enough on your plate.  Elaine chuckles as her cubicle is next door when I chat with Janet.  How did we get this lucky to have such an amazing support system?!  Our chief is busy but always takes time out to touch base.... I think having an open office door across from Elaine and Janet and me chatting loudly.... yah, hard to miss me!!  Thanking each of you and so many more like Kathy, who kindly hugs me and asks how I am doing, the coffee ladies who wish me all the best, Debbie, the college electrician who came into the lab last week and gave me a hug and to our custodial staff members who always take the time out to touch base with me when they see me.  

I dedicate this blog to all of you who offer support to those in need and I dedicate this blog to all the wonderful people in my world who have touched my life in some pretty amazing ways.  Sending out the hugs and thank you for making life just that much sweeter!!  xoxoxox

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