Episode 8: From Student to Instructor with Rosa Tobin and Nissele Contreras
5:16PM Mar 15, 2021
Hello, we're here this morning with Rosa and Nissele, and Dan. And I'm Shannon.
Today we're going to be talking about value
hi, I'm Nissele Contreras and I'm a second year PhD student in rhetoric and writing. And I currently teach writing one on one class.
I'm Rosa Tobin, I'm a second year Masters student in digital rhetoric and professional writing.
So we've sorted all of our conversations out with this idea around value. Obviously, we're talking about education. But I would love to kind of pose the question to you guys first, when you hear the word value, what do you think about and completely outside of education? So if I say, some random person comes up to you, it's like, hey, how would you define value? Or what do you think of? When I say the word value? What kinda comes to your mind really quickly?
Um, I think it depends on the context. Like, I feel like there would be like, one additional, like something else to give me a context clue as to what values they were referring to. Because when I sit here, like I have, I think, like, three spheres have that, like there's values and like, monetary, right, under capitalism, there's also value within just like values that I hold, right or that are held by communities or by space. And then value is in like, what is like them? It can be aside from like, monetary value, right? But like, what is the value of an action? Fill in the blank, right? Like, what does it bring to the space? What additional texture does it add? So like, those are the three spheres, and then I think that would get narrowed down for me based off of the context of what was
how it was presented.
I watched a watercolor video last night, so I heard value, and I immediately, color. Oh,
that sounds awesome. Yeah. Just
what do I think of value on a Friday morning? Um, I don't know now that I'm thinking in terms of don't Well, I'm diverting from the question of color and value, because I'm still a novice and don't really know how to explain it just yet. I can only tell you, I watched the video that talked about value. Um, but when I think of like, value currently, just because I, I, since I know we're, this is an interview of like innovation within the classroom, I was thinking of it. Secondly, in terms of like the classroom setting, and because I'm both a student and a teacher, I feel like I pay a lot of attention to how I'm valued as a student, um, to then sort of frame perhaps how to, like, define value within the classroom, then as a teacher?
that made sense.
Sorry, that's my cat.
I love it. So can you give an example? Or how in what ways can you tell when you're valued as a student in a classroom?
Well, for me, I immediately think of like, my learning style, for example, I tend to be the type of student that you know, freaks out when gets called on is probably the most shy in a classroom discussion. But I know I'm being attentive. I, like have preferences in the classroom activities and all of that, but at the same time, I'm paying attention to when I see people, like really respond to activities, that might not be the easiest for me. So I try to see how, like, those students also benefit because then as a teacher in the classroom, I don't want to just favor the activities that are comfortable for me when I know that there are other students that might also benefit from activities that might not be as comfortable for me. I don't know, I guess I'm just observing a lot in the classroom to help me like, make better decisions as a teacher, like learn as I go, pretty much. You're observing.
That makes a lot of sense. I like that Milo is here
to jump and then when pinging in the midst of that conversation, because the job failed, and so that was what was happening.
Cat friends. That's lovely. Yeah, I mean, that that got us kind of to our second question, um, but Rosa I are there ways Nissele two experiences that you've had in a class where you can tell that your values are on display or maybe like that the teacher has the same values as you do, or you've seen things that you valued in the classroom. There are lots of ways to answer that.
I think one for me, especially lately, um, but but it's been consistent through my educational experience, I think just the pandemic has brought it out even more is that I'm creating space for not only creating lists of like community values, but actually consistently returning to an attending to them. So, you know, I've been in spaces where there's a lot of talk about alternative learning styles, and it's pandemic, and then those are then thrown out the window in the classroom environment. And then I've also been in classroom environments where there's a lot of participation and constructed space for participation and vocalizing of like, different learning experiences, different learning styles and practices and how we enter, weave those into our community values. And then that's, like, returned to throughout the course. And there's space for that. So like I, you know, I can see, myself and fellow learners feeling more comfortable, like setting up boundaries, or practicing our own educational values and having those respected in the space, as opposed to like more performative value construction. Um, I think that's where I've seen it come out more recently, which isn't an instructor mirroring my values, but like creating space for alternative values to be respected, if that makes sense.
Yeah. So like, the instructor might have certain expectations or values about participation are ways of being in class, but opening up space to have conversations about community values, and then returning to them is is a way of not just having one value set. Is that right?
Yeah. And then like identifying, right that there, I'm like an instructor's understandings and values around participation. And then what's vocalized in the community values from the class, right? might look really different into like, actual intentional reflection on like, space creation. So like, the instructor coming back and being like, Okay, so how then do we create space? Like how do I, as an instructor with a different power dynamic in this class, right, create space, then to hear and actually implement strategies for like, alternative forms of participation? Right. So like, it's almost the like classroom equivalent to like, understanding that because people have different values and ways of being did not necessarily immediately take those personally, right. So if someone doesn't participate in the same ways that you view participation, that inherently doesn't result in points being docked, or forced participation, right. So understanding that there's more going on. Yeah, and I think that sometimes that's a perform like a very static initial activity is community values. But the reflective part is trying to actually incorporate space for difference, which I mean, I think I've tried to do in my own, like, I think I experienced it as a student, which then informs my experience as a first year writing instructor to right where it's like, okay, but there's so many times where like, I'm like, oh, like, I'm now performing this element that I see my students doing, right, where it's like, maybe they're not reading fully, because there's so much going on. And it's like, I see myself doing that in class. And then there's like, okay, so I asked in my graduate class, for different ways of participation to be honored and respected. So then how do I then take that back to my own class, and also create space for that?
Yeah. And that transition is really an interesting one going from student to instructor right. Especially in terms of value. I remember when I did that, too. I think one of the biggest pitfalls as instructors, especially initially, is we tend to project our learning experience and our styles on to other students. And again, that's just what we know. And that's how we have to grow. But that's one of the hard thing with values is even from the beginning, we started with this question, what's the value? Rosen's like, Oh, I need more context. Like I could never answer that. Like you got to tell me and so I actually liked that you talked about, you know, color theory, because that's the other side where there's like a scientific black and white. Like, hey, there's like actual, like number of values placed to these things. And we can look at that even if we don't understand it right now. But that's a lot easier to talk about than value because it's very nebulous, and it's very Different to every person. So what advice would you give? It could be the students, it could be the instructors. But, and we've talked about it a little bit about opening up space to honor values. But it is really hard. Like, if I say, Hey, I'm going to build my course. And I and these are the values that I want to kind of hold. Like, how do we do that? Well do incorporate different learners. So you said, Hey, I don't want to be called on. So like, I imagine I'm the same way. So I am really okay with awkward silence in my classes when I'm teaching. Like, I don't want to force people to talk. And that really is a projection of myself. Like, I would never be what I would never want to be in that spot. And so I'll just let a question hang for a couple minutes. And if no one answers will just keep going. But someone else's style might be like, Okay, we got to get someone to answer. So how do you how do you play with those? that transition?
I think for me, I don't know. I'm thinking of a couple things. Because like, when I started out as an instructor, there's Yeah, some of that like projection of like, I don't want to call out because I was me as a student, and I hated it when teachers that that, but then I was also starting to like navigate how I saw it, like, how do I say this, like my institutional value, because then I would also hear from students of like, I'm paying for this class. And that's a different type of to have in mind that I'm into, like, navigate community values as well, when I know, from some students, there's that expectation of like, what is my money or my parents money paying for? Um, and so that also affects like, how I approach assignments and in all of this other stuff, but I don't know, it's, it's, it's so murky, and I tried to still center it from like a community perspective of value, especially during these times where I feel like we're all like in our separate rooms and are on our own laptops, like how do I express that value of community even though everyone? Everyone is pretty much dispersed? So yeah, I don't know. Because it like it has been a year. But I also feel like in answering this question, it's like doing that compare and contrast of like, before the pandemic, here's what probably was, and with a pandemic, here's what value is, and, but we might go back in person, so what is it going to be then? And so I same with Rosa, like, with, once I started thinking of context, I'm there's my mind goes, value in watercolor. Like it just goes blank.
This year, your first year? Sorry, Shanan. No, no.
This is my first year teaching the Nissele teaching for almost four years now.
So Nissele has seen that transition. But Rosa, like, hey, you're teaching now happy online
You're like, is this Wait, what
did I sign up for? I or not. I mean, my students would not have a functioning classroom without Nissele. So yeah, I'm very, like, grateful to have a colleague that's given me so many resources. And that's fantastic. I honestly think though, it's weird to be like teaching online as a first year teacher, but at the same time, I think, you know, when we talk about context, and we talk about value even right, like, I don't know, I have my own experience as a student learner in a physical classroom. But I haven't taught I don't have experience teaching in a physical classroom, right, like a physical in person classroom. And so I actually think, transitioning online, then, um, because there's not a transition spatially, for me, it's just the transition into teaching has been smoother than say, you know, the experience of myself who have taught for three years in an in person classroom, right. Transitioning online, like that, I think is a rupture that I've seen, like colleagues that have that experience, teaching, right, doing so much work, and then laying the groundwork for teachers like myself this year, right, who weren't teaching last spring, when there was an immediate transition online, right, like laying all this groundwork, having the experience of teaching in person classes and bringing that to conversations around online learning. Whereas for me, I'm like, at student experiences, and that doesn't initially or immediately translate to teaching experiences online. Yeah.
And I think for me, like thinking of that rupture, now, it's like, letting go of some of the values I had in person, because I missed that interaction. And because I As the interaction I also hear from some students say like, I wish I was interacting with my classmates, but then my class is asynchronous. I know I also have other students that are pretty much approaching this, like an online class. They don't want that interaction. So then I have to like, rethink, okay, like, how can I communicate like these like spatial values to like an online class so that they're still thinking of community, even as we're all online, but without getting that interaction. So it just gets tricky. Sometimes and trying not to, like, we'll try and to not pull in so much stuff from like the in person classroom just because I'm comfortable with it.
But also, there's moments that have informed me like to as an online instructor, and only online instructor like I carry with me continuously, like your reflection of like, remember, they don't have five minutes after class, right? Where your class breaks out. And there's a five minute 10 minute transition period where some people can mingle and ask you questions. They don't have that. And so what does that then what might you be seeing in your online chat, like chats on Microsoft Teams are like their responses to announcements that are a, an approach to constructing that five minutes in between classes, right? And I've never experienced like having students wait after class in a physical classroom, right to ask questions. So it was such a thoughtful way of both contextualizing communication practices of my students. And also looking forward, how can I create that additional space? So I think in some ways, yes. To what you're saying then yes. And like you also bring a lot of really thoughtful reflection, because you've had experience teaching in another medium, and space.
Do you think that the things that you value as a student are the same things that you value as an instructor? Or are there differences there? Like I think about myself as like, I know, I'm in good company with introverts here, and I'm really quiet in class. But even as a teacher and an in person classroom, sometimes I really crave that what feels like lively discussion, but actually, probably, like 10% of the class is participating. So I have to remind myself in my instructor role that like me having a conversation with like, four of the 10, or 15 students doesn't necessarily mean that like, that's helpful for everyone else. So that's one example where like, I have to, I appreciate that my student experience feels different than my instructor experience, because then I can sort of balance the two, like, Oh, I don't, I don't need to have in person discussion is only one type of learning.
I think that like when I sit like, I guess what I'm reflecting on is like, what do I like? You know, I do like a lot of prep on weekends, right? And do I sit down in my prep for Fw, and go, Okay, let me reflect on my experience as a student, and then do it. And I don't write like, I first just think through, I think, the most immediate way, as we're like all students, like inside or outside of academia, right, like just being curious, like, the intuitive way that my student practices inform my teaching, or the ways in which I engage in learning of the content itself, right, because I'm learning this curriculum this year, for the first time, right? I am like a student of the curriculum as well. So the ways in which I teach myself, you know, the five core projects for the first year writing, like I, I'm sure then influence in the way that I'm learning from those influence the way that I'm teaching them, right. But I also don't sit down and when I'm constructing intentionally my core schedule, reflect on my experiences as a learner. Because right, just like you're saying, right, there's so many different learners in the classroom. And that's an exciting thing. And I try and rein in my own understandings of what learning looks like, because it emerges so differently across the writing of others. But at the same time, I think the one way in which I continuously see that is probably just my own learning as a new teacher of the curriculum, right. And that, of course, is always already informing then how I'm teaching it. And my appreciation of community values and practices. I think that's the only other thing. I'm like, time to complete things time.
I feel like for me to note, I think of like, a lot of the times when like Rosa has like her learning questions, it's also a moment for me to like, stop and reflect on something that I have taught before because when her questions give me a different perspective on something that I've taught to different students, and then I'm thinking of like how I hadn't seen it that way, which just happens My mind to just continually like, complicate these assignments and, and try to change them. I mean, we designed our own like little thing, um, with our own reflections and questions that we had about the assignment. So I think that's, at least, it's been fun. Because Yeah, I think, I think for me, sometimes, let's see, when we went online, that was the second time I was teaching that curriculum. So I was getting into a groove, like I at least knew what to expect. And then we went online, and I'm like, grades don't matter. And, um, and then knowing that we were going to be online this year to, that's when we really started and it was for roses first year teaching, and it was like this space for, for me to like, think of the context differently, like, okay, these are new students who didn't get to like graduate high school, they, from what I gathered, don't really feel confident than writing because their classes just stopped their senior year. So I've gotten a lot of like, those anxieties from them. And so because it's like a, you know, writing 101 class, like what it is like that space of like, welcome to college writing, but let's do all this stuff to make sure that you feel confident in, in using the tools that were like teaching you to like research to ask questions to do all this other stuff. Um, that I don't know, having someone to work with, who's like, starting out and asking all these different questions was like, very helpful for me to also help like, my framing of the curriculum.
And yeah, all of us semester was like, tears of learning, like I was teaching my students. And then I was continually reflexively coming back to Nissele. And it's like, Can you explain the core values of both this class? Like, what are our learning goals in this project, I was like, this is I get in the thick of it, right? Like, we'd be halfway through project one, or halfway through project two. And it'd be like I am once again, in a very muddy place as to where we, where we started with our learning goals, where we are now can you like, and we just do continual re grounding, which is really cool, right? So it's like tears of learning and student like, they're very intertwined in that.
Yeah, and I'm like, drawing, not just from like this curriculum, but I'm drawing from like past curriculums. And being like, here's what I learned my first year. And here's what I learned my second year, and here's what worked and here's what didn't, that doesn't mean it might work here. But this might be an idea we can like try out. Um, and so I feel like I've relied more on like the past experience with other curriculums over, like, my experience as a student. My experience as a student, I think, comes in in terms of like, learning styles and like accessibility, because that's where I feel pressure as a students, like, if I see a syllabus that says, like, you know, we value community and all this stuff, but then it's like, all of these assignments that you got to turn you're thinking of like, like long writing assignments that are really not considering, like students schedule, stuff like that. But I'm like, if it's in your syllabus, but then through word of mouth, we're gonna value community then I'm very confused. Um, because why not just write it in the syllabus. from the get go, so I think that those are the main moments when my experience like as a student starts to value starts to like, sorry, the word of the day. starts, like, helped me reflect on on who I am as a teacher.
I think one of the main takeaways that I'm kind of getting from you, from both of you is you share this kind of story. And at first Rosa, I thought you were talking about tears as in like TEARS, like, just shedding tears of learning, like what am I doing?
on the down low?
Yeah, of course. Wait, yeah, we're talking about tears, but we're also talking about tears, right. But know that because they're shared, right? And so as we've been exploring value and really centering ourselves as a Instructors on what do students value, I think it's really important to have other people that we're building with. And I've helped a lot of faculty members through this transition, and there really is a marked difference between those who are trying to go at it alone versus those who have a community kind of practice to. And so I think there, there's a lot of value there that we we haven't really been, we haven't been looking at so much. So I really liked that perspective that you guys have brought.
Yeah, having colleagues is amazing user testing, because like you were saying, like to understand where someone else might get stuck in an assignment that I wouldn't have anticipated, is so helpful. And I think that is something that is like such an affordance, of grad school in the humanities, because it's so cohort focused. And then I think once you leave and are in a faculty position, if you go that more traditional route, you faculty haven't necessarily taught to collaborate in that way, or like it's not rewarded in the same way. So I do think grad school is really unique in that regard. And there's such a dual position of grad students, my own experience, and then working with ta is like teaching is so overwhelming. But I really think grad students are such good teachers, because of what you're naming like, you're close to that student experience still. So you value things that you value as a student. And I think that can get farther and farther away, as we get further away from having been a student. So I think that's interesting. Like, I might have had the least experience when I first started teaching, not my definitely, I definitely have the least experience. But I also was ready to continually change my practice. And I think that's something that is really important not to lose any final thoughts, or questions or advice that you might give to instructors or students and thinking about value?
There's no objective, right? So like, everything is going to be from our own subjective experiences, it's teachers there, how do we be intentional and thoughtful about that, I think is a key way if we're thinking about values, right? And like, we say, and I agree. But you know, what is the past year where we collaborated? And come on? collective statement?
That's no, that's great. And I think that is one of the scary things as people try to like, Oh, I'm gonna let values inform my teaching. That's scary, right? It is subjective. It's not easy. So just having that from the, I liked how you were talking about Rosa, like, you get halfway through an activity and you're like, why am I here? What am I doing? It happens to all of us. But even when we think about values and what we create for people, there comes a moment. I've had a couple this semester last semester where I'm like, What am I doing? Why am I even teaching Who am like this, this? And I have to kind of tuck myself back down into reality and like, Okay, this is hard, but we're gonna keep going. And there's a lot of reward to that.
Very resonant. Yeah.
Cool. Well, thank you guys so much for joining us today and sharing your experience.