As an adjunct instructor for Yavapai College for three years, my first year as a full time instructor in 2010 in many ways, was a continuation of the work I had begun those years before, but more than that it was the beginning of what could be considered my journey at Yavapai College. I challenged myself to develop the subjects I taught in creative and innovated ways. I love teaching, and although I feel that my style of involving students in their own learning process was important, it was time to turn up the volume and challenge myself to find my own voice and rhythm. I remember a quote by the French poet Paul Valery, “The purpose of psychology is to give us a completely different idea of the things we know best”. As I began thinking more and more about this quote, I realized that the excitement in learning is the discovery of seeing things in ways not only different, but in ways that challenge not only our students thinking but our thinking as well.
I began, by looking at all the classes I had taught previously as an adjunct and making changes not only to how the chapters in the text were presented, but how the delivery was to be made. I wanted my students to be challenge in their thinking about the things they felt they knew the best. Psychology is a perfect subject because challenging one’s thinking is in many ways the crux of the curriculum. For example, in my Psychology 245 Human Growth and Development class, on the first day of class, I remind students that studying developmental psychology is their opportunity to examine their own personal journey of physical, emotional and social development. Assignments in the class are based on students responding to significant developmental periods as they relate to them. At the end of the semester the students write their own life story and present their life story to the class. Having the opportunity to understand and validate one’s own life is a very powerful experience and I have often had students thank me for giving them the opportunity to write their life story and gain personal insight.
Also during my first year, I began teaching two courses being offered to students working towards their Associate of Applied Science Degree in Social and Human Services. These classes were Psychology 175, Counseling Skills and Psychology 262, and Crisis and Trauma Intervention. Having 27 years of experience as a therapist working with different populations within various clinical settings, I found the opportunity to teach courses in subject matter supported by my professional experience as a therapist exciting. I developed a curriculum that gave students the opportunity to learn practical skills to use in real life situations. These skills taught were based on my own personal experiences as a therapist and the clients and populations which I served. Conceptual and theoretical understanding is important and useful, but one’s firsthand experience in utilizing these theories and concepts makes learning real and practical.
Although I had already completed EDU 255 “Fundamentals of Educational Technology” as an adjunct instructor, I wanted to stay current by applying technology to teaching as well as expand my understanding of all tools available, not only for my online classes, but my FTF classes as well. In my first year I participated in many of the IT trainings such as advanced Blackboard techniques, more effective ways of engaging online students, and incorporating current technological learning environments in the classroom as well as online. During year one, I started my EDU 250 “Community College” course required for all probationary instructors. I found this course both helpful and interesting. I appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of my first year teaching experiences with other first year instructors. It also gave me the opportunity to learn more about how community colleges operate.
In the fall of 2010 I volunteered to be part of the General Education Committee, representing the faculty of the Verde Campus. This was to become a valuable opportunity for me to not only learn more about how general education plays a role at Yavapai College, but also how it is reflected in our students educational plan. I was drawn to further pursue an understanding of the Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC). I can truly say, my first year at Yavapai College as a full time instructor not only allowed me to expand my role and abilities as an instructor, but allowed me to learn from my colleagues and students alike, thereby becoming a student myself in the process.