Irene Stewart standing before a class of students.

I don’t teach

That’s right, it is confession time. I don’t teach. At least not in the way most think about teaching at the post-secondary level. I have no answer for you when you ask me: So, what do you teach? This will make some of the activities in my professional development project with Ontario Extend a bit challenging as I will need to extend in my own way but I believe that still fits the overarching goals.

So, what do I do? I am a member of the faculty of St. Clair College in Ontario. Faculty at colleges in Ontario are defined by the CAAT collective agreement as professor, counsellor, and librarian. I have been a Retention Coordinator for over 10 years and in that time I have been categorized as a counsellor, then a professor, then a counsellor again. I don’t quite fit in either category. I, along with a 2nd Retention Coordinator, am responsible for Tutoring Services at all three St. Clair campuses. I am responsible for the theory and practical portions of tutor training and for the ongoing observation and guidance of tutors throughout the semester.  I am like their in-class teacher, lab teacher, and placement supervisor all rolled into one and perhaps preceptor is the best term to apply to my role. My partner and I precept 100 tutors across the college during Fall and Winter and about half that through the Spring/Summer.

That is half my job. The other half of my time is spent responding to gaps in services and programs through direct involvement or advising on potential solutions.

Here is an example. In the past few years, we have had an increase in International Student enrollment. Because there was a need, I created and presented a number of different workshops and seminars for International students on writing, APA, study skills, group work, presentation skills, college level reading, academic integrity, etc. I also helped to develop and implement tutoring services to serve International Student needs in ESL including walk in and conversation club services. These workshops are presented outside of class as voluntary activities and in-class upon faculty request. I developed a workshop on college culture in the Fall for a specific program to address issues encountered in and out of class.

It went like this, I was meeting with the Manager of Student Services at the Chatham Campus. A faculty member interrupted to talk about issues their class was having and boom, gap girl is tapped in. Gap girl is me, by the way. I modified some of my existing material, added some new insight and came up with a workshop that would benefit both domestic and International students on college culture. I did the workshop and it helped.

Fast forward to December and I am called into a meeting with managers from Marketing, Student Services and International Student services to present the workshop. I walk them through the workshop as I can’t really present it because the learning activities and discussions don’t work without the students. They love it and ask, can we turn this into a 3 minute video for Orientation. Ummm…. no. I agree to do the workshop, without the learning activities and discussion, before a group of students to be video taped. I can’t strip is down into 10 minutes and I have to tell you, I hated it because it was 27 minutes of me talking. All the fun stuff of interacting with the students and energy that comes with that experience was gone. There was no opportunity to modify the content or delivery on the fly based on the students in front of me. I also had to change the way I dress and go to hair and make up which just made it worse.

After the taping, someone else decided what to cut and what to keep and came up with 10 minutes of video. I think they cut out some of the good stuff. At January orientation, it was shown to the incoming students as a whole group. For the Spring/Summer, it was used in small groups as part of the Faculty sessions with program groups and included opportunities for discussion.

Please don’t misunderstand. I think the video editing, addition of pictures and other video clips was masterfully done. I hope students and faculty are finding this video helpful. I certainly have had students stop me in the hall since Spring Orientation to say – hey, you are that lady! But this is not what I consider teaching.

I love my job, I have the flexibility to do many interesting things that other faculty are not able to do. And I can fill the gap between what I do and the Extend modules and apply the activities in a way that will help me grow professionally and improve what I do for students and the college. I just hope that some of what I share will be helpful to other in our fabulous ExtendWest cohort.

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Published by

Irene Stewart

Learning and teaching is my passion; books, coffee and cats are my pleasure. Life is like a 3-D chess game I am playing in my head with the universe. So far, I am winning!

4 thoughts on “I don’t teach”

  1. I don’t know what definition of teaching you are relying on, but everything I read here and see in the video, sire looks like important teaching to me. Gap girl does some impressive teaching!

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    1. Thank you, what I found lacking in the video presentation was the interaction with the students. Making the video was so different than conducting the workshop in the classroom. While there were students in the room when we were taping, I wasn’t to interact through discussion or activity and it just felt so wrong. I couldn’t ask their experiences, ideas or questions to build upon or respond to, that is the part I don’t consider teaching. The content was good and my delivery was good, but I have no idea if the students got anything out of the presentation or if it in anyway met their needs.

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