Posts Tagged ‘Robert Morris University’

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

After Paul’s last post, I would like to give him another perspective on his thirty years. I am going to show him how I perceive time zooming past in my idiosyncratic, historian’s style in the hope that it will allow him to view his years from another angle.

Simply put, I ‘relativize’ the time that has passed by comparing the years I have lived to what came before. This probably doesn’t make much sense, so let me give you an example.  Last year was the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s seminal album, “Nevermind”.  Twenty years is a long time, but it feels like only yesterday that I heard the newly released songs of “Nevermind” on the radio.  How long has it really been? In order to give me a sense, I calculate what music was on the radio 20 years before “Nevermind” was released.  1971 was five years before I was born.  In that year, John Lennon released “Imagine”; Marvin Gaye put out “What’s Going On?”, and The Rolling Stones produced “Sticky Fingers.”   Those albums might as well be Mozart, in the sense that they are part of the distant past in my mind.  But, to a freshman in my Western Civilization class, this same remote, untouchable aura surrounds Nirvana’s “Nevermind.” (If they even know of the album.) In other words, I am old; my students are young; time flies.

Let me provide some other examples:

  1. I began working at RMU a decade ago. This is nothing.  But, ten years before 2002 was 1992.  Babies born in that year are already Juniors at RMU. (Yikes)
  2. I was born in 1976; 36 years ago.  I don’t feel old, but someone who was 36 in 1976 was born in 1940.  They lived through the Second World War for goodness sake!
  3. RMU was founded in 1913.  Granted, 99 years seems like a long time, but the world was recognizable then. There were cars, planes, and Chicago was a booming metropolis. 99 years before 1913 was 1814: Napoleon was yet to be defeated at Waterloo; Thomas Jefferson and John Adams still had over a decade to live; Chicago was not in existence, and the United States was fighting the War of 1812 against Great Britain.

This is how my mind works.  I have no idea when I started to do this, but it is now a habit.  This way of looking at time puts into perspective how fast history moves, and also how fleeting certain things we take as absolutes actually are.  For instance, most people think America will always be, but history proves otherwise.  America as a nation has been in existence for roughly 240 years.  Rome was a Republic for twice as long. Christianity has existed for 2000 years, but people lived on this earth for roughly 200,000 years before Christ was born.  And on, and on.

There you go Paul Gaszak; perhaps you now feel older; or younger; or, perhaps you just think I’m weird.

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by Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty & Chair of the Sustainability Council

“Education should reflect the world we live in.” Who said that? Some famous educator? A successful business person? Oh, it obviously comes from the back wall in Room 303, right?

Nope. It was said by my student, Kayla Moore.

This quarter, I’m doing something new. Not because I, as a professional educator, thought of something new to do with all of my “education” or “experience.” Not because I read about it in a pedagogical periodical or went to a brown bag workshop or webinar. I’m doing something new because my student, Kayla Moore, approached me and said. “I have a lot of thoughts and ideas about education. It must be changed and I think I know how to do it!” Now, as the “professor” in this situation, my professionally acceptable responses would be as follows:

(1) “Well, focus on graduating first. Answer all of the questions, write all of the papers, and take all of the tests, then we’ll talk.” [Subtext: “Think the way I want you to first. Then, and only then, should you start thinking differently.”]

(2) “Change education? You need to be formally educated to understand what needs to change in education!” [Subtext: “Join us here in ‘the system.’ You’ll see.”]

(3) “That’s nice, dear.” [Subtext: “That’s nice, dear.”]

I’m a professor, right? I’m supposed to be doing the educating. I’m supposed to have the answers. I’m supposed to teach my students how to, when to, and what to think, right? Before you quickly (and smugly) claim “I don’t teach them what to think! I teach them critical thinking!” (as I did), consider these ideas, that I’ve been lucky enough to explore with Kayla in our independent study this quarter:

We’ve explored different “landscapes” for education, instead of the classroom.

We’ve explored teaching students to think of terms in the unexpected, instead of anticipating “what’s on the test”.

We’ve explored embracing social media and welcoming it in the classroom, instead of forcing students into a “phone-free” zone.

We’ve explored technology in a way that pushes education forward, letting it evolve into something beyond software that prevents “cheating” and facilitates “course management.”

We’ve explored changing the focus of education from “They need to get these ‘fundamentals’ down,” to “They need to learn how to innovate and develop new ‘fundamentals’ themselves.”

We’ve explored switching up the teacher-student relationship, and that is exactly what happened for me with this experience. I’ve learned that I don’t have all of the answers, or the best career advice, or the right opinion to hold. I’ve learned that there are innovative ways to get students engaged (like microblogging! Yes, Tweeting, in class!). I’ve learned that there are different ways for me to share the awesome stuff that I learn with my students (by interacting with them through social bookmarking, like we are peers who respect each other or something. Imagine that!)

I, a “professional educator,” have learned more about educating from my weekly discussions with Kayla than I have from most of my 11 years of experience because, for once, I relinquished the control.  I didn’t set up “objectives” or “learning outcomes” or “assignments” or “tests” for this independent study. I invited my colleagues to join in our conversation and (gasp) learn from Kayla’s insights as well (Thanks, Paul Gaszak, Gerry Dedera, and Tricia Lunt!). Instead of “teaching” her, I let Kayla’s ideas guide us, and she will be ending this quarter with an active blog on innovative thinking, a video that communicates her blog and draws the world to her ideas, a thesis that is evolving as we speak, focused on changing the educational system to help students become innovative and creative thinkers, on using what she calls “Academic Networking” to get students to learn in ways that mimic the world they have embraced and live in, and a formal plan and proposal for educators, to help us decide that, even though we are the “professionals,” it is time for US to get inspired: to let our students lead the way.

Welcome to The Flâneur’s Turtle, the new blog of the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at Robert Morris University – IL.