Settling in at LSU

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Settling in at LSU

Post by KevinAndrewRRichards on Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:24 am

You have now been studying at LSU and living in Baton Rouge for close to two months! How time flies! Use this post to discuss how you think things are going and how you are settling into the new lifestyle. Consider relationships you are building with classmates and faculty members, as well as your new roles as graduate teaching assistants. Finally, during the first interview we talked some about pursuing doctoral education without first teaching in schools. You expressed some concerns are we discussed some of the advantages and disadvantages to going straight into teacher education. If you have thought about this any more, please discuss any additional thoughts, fears, or new insights.

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Re: Settling in at LSU

Post by Angela_Chambers on Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:03 pm

Things are going great! So far this semester I have become an expert at dividing my time amongst reading, class work, and teaching so that I can enjoy my weekends. Readings take up the greatest time throughout the week. I couldn't even estimate how many research articles I have read this semester! It seems as though not many of the other graduate students in the same classes read all of the articles, so it makes me feel confident and successful that I have read every word. As far as class work, most are short but detailed responses to questions from the readings that require application from our own professions. Reflecting on my own experiences in physical education in the class work has really led to a deeper understanding of the content we are covering. As far as my assistantship responsibilities, teaching tennis has been incredibly fantastic! I have been using the Sport Education Model with my classes, and the students seem to really enjoy it. The students, especially the lower skilled, seem to have developed extremely positive attitudes since the beginning of the semester which I would like to think is due to my teaching. Seeing this transformation has really boosted my confidence in teaching at an institution.

Relationships have sprouted and are beginning to bloom with friends and professors. The graduate students in pedagogy have really bonded this semester. Five of us are lab instructors for a course which is extremely writing intensive for the students taking it, and we are required to grade their writing. It was a struggle at the beginning of the semester trying to learn all of the information, but now that we all have one another to lean on, it makes it bearable. The other three graduate students have offices next to mine, and they are always stopping in to say hi as they walk past. All of us have even gotten together a couple of times this semester to tailgate before football games, and in September, Kelly organized a surprise party for my birthday in which they all attended Smile. The professors have really been welcoming this semester. One of the professors that is responsible for the health education courses has asked Kelly and I to provide feedback to students on their lesson plans and to also demonstrate health lessons on them. She had never even seen Kelly and I teach before. It felt so awesome that she was confident in our ability to teach to her class. In another professor’s class, I was extremely nervous to speak out loud because I felt intimidated. When I did speak, it was extremely short because I perceived that this person didn't see me as an intelligent individual. After we got our first writing assignments back in the class, this individual complimented me on my responses and told me they were incredibly impressed. Since then, I have gained confidence in my words in class and speak up to all discussion topics. This professor has also found more interest in my individual experiences and may be helping me to get teaching experience while in graduate school. My advisor and I have developed a strong bond as well. He seems incredibly confident in my ability to succeed and to take on new roles in graduate school like teaching undergraduate courses. His belief and motivating words have really increased my success and confidence in my current and future role as a higher educator.

Now comes my time to vent. One of the courses I am taking is horrible! Content for the course was supposed to be health and nutrition promotion, but it has turned into all nutrition and chemistry. The professor is a nutritionist. Go figure. Don’t get me wrong, nutrition and chemistry are very important subjects, but I am never going to relay the composition of an omega three fatty chain to the public. The worst part about the class is the teacher! This professor has had ZERO experience educating, and this is her first class, a newly developed course. She told us that we were her trial for developing the course. Each week we meet she posts 80 to 90 slides of information. Yesterday she updated the syllabus for the 8th time. We have recently been finishing a review paper, something over half of the class has never done, and we didn’t get any practice. I have never been so mad about a course before. After watching this professor teach, I feel as though I am needed in the higher education community, and I want to strive to be a great educator in the higher education community.

Since our last conversation, I have been presented the possibility that I may be teaching a kindergarten physical education class at the lab school! I was so excited when I heard this that I almost cried! My very first teaching experience was with six kindergarteners at St. Laurence in Laramie, Wyoming. It was in Lab 1 with Karen! One evening during the semester, I experienced an extremely traumatic event and had to teach the next morning. They learned about striking balloons with their hands! I remember how happy those six little children made me after the lesson. That was the moment I knew that I loved what I was doing. Anyways, my questions is as follows:

How do hiring universities perceive experiences such as student teaching and teaching at a lab school during graduate school?

Angela_Chambers

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Re: Settling in at LSU

Post by Kelly_Simonton on Wed Nov 05, 2014 8:10 pm

The transition to Baton Rouge has been nice. We are a long way from home but I feel good to be hear and continue my education. I feel that it is beneficial to gain some new life and teaching experiences, many of these experiences I don't feel I would have ever gotten in Wyoming. Our first couple weeks here were pretty slow and we were learning the ropes. But since the second or third week of school I feel like we have been going a hundred miles an hour. My days have seemed to be full from 7 - 7. During that time I am doing a mixture of my class requirements, planning for the classes I teach, attending my classes or the ones I teach, helping with some minor projects and helping some of the other students. In my last year of my undergrad I remember times of feeling overwhelmed and couldn't believe how I was going to get all of my school work completed. Much like many who have gone before me, told me, grad school is about 4 or five times busier. I believe I have learned to play the game a little as far as getting my classwork done, however, I haven't really prescribed to it. We typically get 3-5 peer reviewed readings a week per class and I am taking three classes and I have read every word of every paper. It takes me an extremely long time to read these articles and I know others in the grad program with us will resort to skimming and only reading parts of the study and I haven’t been able to do. I feel that I have an obligation and in order to get everything I can get out of this experience I don’t want to cheat myself. The time can mount up and there have been some stressful times so far but I feel more prepared in class than others and I tend to ask more questions.
I feel, I have made some good relationships in my department. Making relationships with my mentor and with other professors in my department is important to me. I like to have a relationship where I can ask questions “freely” (not inappropriate questions, but general or class specific). My advising mentor teacher and I have had multiple lengthy conversations about my expectations and my professional goals and that is really important to me. Although I still don’t think I have a firm grasp of all the aspects of grad school he has made many things more clearly to me. I have started relationships with a few other professors in my department which I have really enjoyed. The academic environment is one thing that drew me into continuing education, so anytime I can have those conversations with people in those perceptions and I can better present myself I try to capitalize on those opportunities. In general with said professors I have felt more respected and more equal in the community and step we play for them and them for us. Not that I ever felt belittled or beneath by my undergrad advisors, they were great and always treated us like adults, but we knew they were much more advanced then we could try and be. I still know my professors here are far above me I feel like a critical part of the teaching team and started some roles helping with the research team. I have had another professor from a class I am not associated with to come into her class and give feedback to undergrad students using my teaching expertise and I have had another professor ask me to speak with the undergrad student group about opportunity ideas for them and helping by being a mentor for the group. It feels good to contribute and makes me work harder moving forward. Some of the students in my program have been outgoing to get to know me and I feel I have already made some great friends. Having a tight knit group to study with and take courses with is important to me and research shows how important it is to academic success. One thing I wasn’t prepared for in grad school was the variance in expertise within the same department. For example, I am in pedagogy and my undergrad is in physical education. My assumption was I would be with others like me and we would have teaching as our background. That wasn’t the case all students are within pedagogy and with these degrees coming in: exercise science, kinesiology, fitness studies, psychology, and a variety of health sciences. There is one student who is a second year master’s student that has a bachelor’s degree in physical education. However, his experiences and practices have varied a lot from what I was taught and his passion is to be out of school and doing other things versus studying our field further. He is one of my friends but his academic goals differ from mine. As far as the other students in our group, they have really struggled with teaching a few of their classes as part of their assistantship. I don’t feel I have a ton of those same issues and I think it’s due to my teaching experience (however little that may be).
My typical cycle goes as taking time to learn the process, start a schedule to follow, complain or not be happy with some things I perceive as not efficient enough, make me modifications, then try to maintain success with what I am doing. Many of the other students in the group seem to be still in the distraught stage and they seem to have many of the uncertainties I had at the beginning. So, here are my two concerns: 1. I have haven’t applied myself to my work enough and I am not getting as much as I should out of the situation and they are working harder during their classes and that’s why they continue to struggle. 2. Out of the main group of GA’s that have class together 2 of us (angela and I) are first year masters students and the others are second year masters students, and first and second year PhD students. To me as a second year masters student I would feel very confident in my abilities, I have experienced the teaching, classes and requirements as a GA. So how can they have the same struggles as me or do I have a naive perception of what it is like being a student a year, two or three longer than me. I guess my point is, I want to be an expert and the best at what I do, and that doesn’t necessary pass the eye test that they feel they are getting to that point.
My grades are good and I feel that I am doing well in my classes. It takes a lot of work but it is paying off and I feel that’s what separates the students who want to move on vs those who don’t (at least that’s part of my motivation if it’s true or not). As far as the classes I teach, they are going very well. My activity classes or moving along nicely, but it’s a very long semester with 42 classes only worth one credit and in my case I am teaching golf and we are very limited about what facilities we get to use (about half of a driving range and a 20x20 putting area). Those classes have challenged me to be more creative in developing lessons. The lab I teach has been difficult to teach and very time consuming, but I was able to come up with a system that gets all of my work done. I also feel that this class requires too much of the undergrads, so a lot of the time in this class is taking my own time to meet and help individual students who can’t keep up with the work load. One thing I have learned about grad school and if I can make it far enough in school to become a professor that I would address, expectations. I have noticed in many aspects of grad school because there is such a variety of students and where they are in school that professors leading classes we teach make a lot of assumptions. Our professor draws up the class and creates all the assignments and has a set of expectations and week by week we are left deciphering what the instructions are and what the students should do, plus the twenty questions from students who don’t understand that I can’t answer because I didn’t write the instructions. There needs to be more time preparing GA’s for specific courses and a thorough walk through with brand new students who can’t find the classroom let alone meet goals they didn’t write in the class. Not trying to be negative or saying I am having a negative experience, but these situations are what hangs me up all night and I am spend hours trying to make things like that better. I realize I don’t have the power to change some of those course things and I also realize that in two years I will find out my thinking on these issues is all wrong (often the case). But I try to instill these memories or relationships, expectations, and experiences so one day when I am the professor, I can remember how my incoming students may feel and I can help them be better.
I have to add these side notes, even though they don’t necessarily go along with this week’s writing. I had a few motivational things happen in the last couple weeks. The first was discussing my class schedule going forward with my advisor. I found out that there is a chance I will be completing my master’s degree next fall and may even be taking one class said fall semester that will go towards my Phd. I get motivated and for lack of a better word, pumped about that type of information and the future. The second thing that re-motivated me this semester was getting to see the classes I get to take in the next few semesters. I landed in sort of an awkward semester here at LSU this semester. I enjoy my classes but none of them were directly correlated to pedagogy or research. The classes were about health, administrative issues in higher ed, and a seminar in teacher ed. I was able to see some really specific classes that I am interested in and feel I can do really well in coming up and that was nice to here. The third recent motivator was a guest speaker we got to hear who was a former PhD graduate from LSU. This professor spoke about research she got to do in schools, she presented her research, talked about some experiences here at LSU and talked about her journey that led her to the job she now has at Texas A&M. That really got me thinking about my future and all the things I could get to do moving forward if I can work hard and earn my PhD. Again, those types of things motivate me and refocus my goals for me.
However, transitioning to the final part of this blog is in regards to your final comment about our discussion of going straight through for my PhD. I am really scared that at the end of this and when there is no more school to go to there won’t be a job for me and in particular there won’t be jobs for Angela and I. I had a recent reality check hit me of how hard it is to get a job without public school teaching experience, throwing in looking for two jobs. Many people have said that at the end of school one of the two of us will get a job and the other person can do other things and all that. But I am not someone who like to settle and I don’t want one of us setting for not having a job to show for after all this work. I understand this is kind of off topic but I am using this time to vent some fears and frustration when discussing our future. These types of problems probably really screw with the intentions of your research but it is a reality that I feel for us. The second thing I have been think about, during our conversation I think we kind of discussed that research institutions will want people who can show quality research and they don’t put as much emphasis on if you have prior public teaching school experience. And so the flip side of that was smaller schools with a focus on pedagogy would require teaching experience when hiring an instructor. That caught me being pulled in two different directions. One being, I want to go all the way through and learn research. Two, does that mean I would never be considered to teach pedagogy and in PETE programs. I feel I do really good teaching PETE students and helping, it’s something I really enjoy. But, does going straight through remove me from a chance to be hired for one of those positions.
Separate question? How does gaining an expertise in pedagogy work? If I chose to do my thesis or dissertations on physical activity programs and motivation, does that mean when I am looking for a job I am limited? Meaning the job description must be asking for a person with a specialty in physical activity programs. Do these decisions reduce my opportunity to teach in the PETE program or to teach stuff my research didn’t cover? I don’t understand how this process works. I want to be able to teach a variety of subjects. The more I think of it though each of my professors who taught me in my undergrad all had a separate set of “expertise” and all taught classes within their specialty it seems like. Anyway, that’s kind of a sidebar and if I need to email you outside of this blog let me know.
(if Dr. Richards or Dr. Gaudreault have answers or advice I would appreciate it, thank you)

Kelly_Simonton

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Re: Settling in at LSU

Post by KevinAndrewRRichards on Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:25 pm

Angela and Kelly

Thank you both for such thoughtful and insightful posts! I really enjoyed reading about your successes and understand many of the challenges that you are currently facing. I have faced many of them myself and found myself nodding along as I read.

First, let me say congratulations to both of you! It seems as if you are both settling in nicely and making LSU your "home away from home." I agree with Kelly's comment at the beginning of his post - this is an incredibly unique and different opportunity for both of you and you are gaining more world experience than you would have staying at Wyoming. While that part of your education was a good experience, it helps to get out and have other experiences.

Both of you posed some important points and asked key questions in your posts. I have done my best to respond to all below, but if you would like to follow up via email or other the phone please feel free to do so.

I am so happy to hear that you are finding a way to manage the varied responsibilities of graduate school! You definitely get pulled in a ton of directions and being able to keep on top of everything is a skill that some students never really grasp. I am really happy to hear that you are staying on top of your readings. You are right that the volume of readings seems insane (it's like faculty think you are only taking one class!), but I assure you that it will be worth it in the long run. The more you read the more you learn about the topics being discussed, and the better you get at writing!

It is great to hear that you both are developing a network of friends and and colleagues in the department. Finding a place to fit in and socialize is SO important to the graduate student experience. When I first got to Purdue there were several senior graduate students that I developed positive relationships with and that made a huge difference for me. I am also glad to hear that you are develop relationships with faculty other than Dr. Garn. The transition from undergraduate to graduate student is pretty awesome - you go from being a student to really being considered a colleague or apprentice. This apprenticeship will be very important for you career development.

I think it is awesome that you are both so reflective in thinking about your experiences as graduate students. It is very important to avoid overconfidence as this typically leads to lax behavior. At the same time, however, I think it is important to celebrate the successes you have both experienced! You have both accomplished a lot in a short amount of time and it sounds like people are starting to recognize your potential. This will open doors for you and lead to new opportunities and experiences. Take advantage of these - to the extent possible - without burning yourselves out. You want to have a variety of experiences in graduate school, but don't spread yourself so thin that you don't have a personal life outside of the office.

I agree with Kelly's concerns about TA preparation. This was something that really frustrated me at first too. I felt like I walked in the door, someone threw a book at me, and I was on my own to teach my classes - and I had just graduated a few months earlier! There limited guidance or insight from my supervisor and I was a TERRIBLE teacher that first semester. I believe that the lack of TA training is a major issue in higher education overall, so don't think this is a problem with only your program. However, I stuck with it and feel as if my reflective thought and persistence led me to develop into a pretty good teacher throughout my time at Purdue. My advice to you would be this: Do the best you can to teach/evaluate/answer student questions/"insert other roles here" that you can. Recognize your successes and acknowledge your shortcomings. Next semester, do the best you can to improve on those shortcoming and keep improving throughout your time at LSU. Be critical of yourself, but don't ever beat yourself up. Come to view teaching as an iterative process that takes time to master.

Kelly - to answer your question - I do think that you will still be able to teach in PETE if your research focuses on something other than PETE, and all faculty - even those at research intensive institutions - teach to some degree, so don't worry about not being able to teach. The best thing for you to do is to seek out opportunities to practice teaching PETE courses as part of your TA position. It sounds like you are teaching more general courses this semester, which is typical for first year master's students (and perhaps even second year students). As you get further into your program and begin your PhD, ask your supervisors if there are any opportunities for you to teach or assist in teacher education courses. This will help you get some experience working with preservice teachers. I am not sure if they have a center for teaching and learning at LSU, but if they do you may consider going to workshops or trainings that they provide. I got involved with a group like this at Purdue and it helped me to become a better college-level teacher, which (in my mind) also makes up for my lack of teaching experience. I tell people in job interviews that I may not have K-12 experience, but I have done the best I can to become a quality college-level teacher.

Also, Kelly, I disagree with the notion that you and Angela will not be able to find jobs when you finish. You may have trouble finding positions at the same institution, but there are often multiple institutions around metropolitan areas. For example, a colleague of mine is a faculty member here at NIU and his wife - who also got a PhD in physical education - is a professor at a nearby college. Will your situation be a challenge? Possibly, but that does not mean it is impossible. The better job you do setting yourself apart from your peers the more likely you will be able to find positions nearby one another. My philosophy is that if you work hard you can overcome barrier and obstacles.

Angela - Congrats on the lab school teaching gig! That is huge for you! I wish I had looked for an opportunity like that while at Purdue. It will go a long way in overcoming the "teaching experience question" as you will be able to tell people that you have both student taught and taught PE classes while working on your graduate degree. It will also give you a chance to implement some of what you are learning in your program!

To conclude - we all have "shortcomings" of some sort. Some people teach for years and come to get their PhDs later in life, which limits the duration of their career in PETE. Others, like us, forgo teaching experience in order to move into the career that we ultimately want sooner. I will not lie to you - the teaching experience question will continue to rear its frustrating head, especially as you begin thinking about the job search in a few years. However, I have come to accept it as part of my identity that I embrace. I also point out that there is absolutely no evidence that having teaching experience makes you a better teacher educator (I will send you some articles). This is a big assumption in education and it really bothers me. As scholars we should seek to demonstrate things empirically, not make generalizes that are not based in fact. There are several teacher educator in PETE who are very good at what they do and have never taught in schools.

Thanks again for sharing your insights! I hope you have found this to be cathartic Smile

KARR

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Re: Settling in at LSU

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