A Teaching Career-Part 1: What Is Your Masterpiece?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am as a teacher, what I’ve done and what I’ve yet to do.  Part of  the “yet to do” is training someone to take my place as an instructor and eventual department chair when I move on.  I’ve always believed that, if possible, a person should be preparing someone to step into her shoes if and when it becomes necessary.  So, I’m looking at my legacy, what it is, what I want it to be as I finish my career, and what I can do to keep the department moving in the right direction as I prepare to leave.

So, what have I done?  I’ve encouraged collaboration between faculty, departments and even colleges.  As a Spanish instructor in 1997, I developed a partnership between MATC and ITESM in El Estado de Mexico, between our Foreign Language-Spanish department and their Foreign Language-English department which lasted until I moved out of the Spanish department and into the ESL department.  Each semester, using two-way video, we connected two groups of students in their entirety, paired them up, had each pair develop two intercultural skits, one in English set in the U.S., and one in Spanish set in Mexico.  After the six weeks during which the pairs of students met via e-mail and instant messaging to compose and practice their skits, we reconnected the two classes once again via two-way video to perform their skits for their classmates.  After each skit, I and my ITESM co-teacher interpreted possible intercultural misunderstandings or miscommunication and facilitated brief conversation among the students.  (All of this was before Skype or other individual video conferencing applications were available.  Imagine how much fun this could be for our students today!)  I should also mention that the last semester we did our video-conferencing project, 15 students in that  MATC class and I actually did take a trip down to the Mexico City area to meet their Mexican counterparts, visit the Monterey Tec campus, sit in on a class or two, and, of course, tour the central part of Mexico.

This partnership that I created and this activity would be what I consider my masterpiece in teaching.  Additionally, it was the first time my college used its two-way video technology internationally.  I started this activity because I had many students who were not able at that time in their lives to travel, but who wanted to have an international experience as a part of their language learning.  By using new technology, we enabled them to have that.

So, a question I would ask a person applying for a job in my department would be, “what have you done in your career that you consider your masterpiece to date, and why do you consider that your masterpiece?  What did it achieve for you, your students, your school?

To be continued…

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