BOT Letter #10

Sent: Saturday, May 03, 2014 5:36 PM
Dear Board of Trustees Members,

I enrolled as a student at Washtenaw Community College (WCC) when I was 19 years old, and was excited to be a part of a new experience in education. I did not finish my program then, but over the years I never forgot WCC, and was determined one day to return and finish. Thirty years later (1996), I returned. I will never forget the role that WCC instructors played in my development as a student, even though I was older than most of them. Being at WCC was a breath of fresh air for me, and I believe this was because the instructors were at liberty to be who they wanted to be: teachers and helpers for students of all ages, races, and cultures. They concentrated on teaching, and getting better and better at it. Any roadblocks that occurred were dealt with quietly between the president, vice president(s), deans and faculty. I say this because the students were never privy to the fact that roadblocks even existed. Discretion was the order of the day—then.

As a student, I was privileged to win the Liberal Arts Network for Development (LAND) Competition, a creative writing competition for students. At first, I did not want to submit my essay because I did not think that my writing was worthy of a contest entry, but my English instructor, Dr. Daniel Minock (Dan), who I will always credit as being the most important person in my college career, encouraged me to submit the essay, convincing me that it was good enough, and that I needed to prove to myself that I “could” when I thought “couldn’t”. After winning the contest, I was invited to attend a Board of Trustees meeting to be congratulated by the Board and Dr. Gunder Myran, former president of WCC. I asked Dan to be there, and when the Board took the time from their busy agenda to congratulate me, and then asked me to tell them about the essay and how I came to write it, I introduced Dan and explained that it was because of my instructor, his teaching, and his encouragement. Afterward, Dan said that he loved teaching students at WCC. From my perspective then, it appeared that to teach at WCC was a joy for the instructors.

I was privileged to get to know Dr. Gunder Myran, who was the president of WCC for 23 years. He often walked around campus, stopping to say hello, and asking students their names, what they were studying, and what they hoped to do in the future. He had been known to come to classrooms to just sit in, and the instructors seemed happy to see him. Sometimes, when instructors would give handouts to students, he would ask for one, and get involved in discussions. Students seemed comfortable around him, but most of all, the instructors appeared to be just as comfortable. During these years at WCC, students felt free to communicate with instructors, instructors seemed to feel free to communicate with the department chairs, chairs seemed to feel free to communicate with the deans, deans seemed feel free to communicate with the vice presidents, and the president was available and willing to communicate with whomever. Of course, all of this “freedom” resulted in a more relaxed environment for everyone: especially students. Oh, during this time, instructors were introducing students to new information, new methods, new concepts, and new technology. Ah, change.

When Dr. Larry Whitworth became president of WCC, there were noticeable changes made, and many of these changes were not necessarily well-received, but communication was open. I was a tutor at the Writing Center, having enrolled at a nearby university, but also taking classes at WCC. In 2001, I became a part-time instructor, and in 2002, I became a full-time instructor. To teach at WCC was a dream come true for me. During this time, I met Dr. Whitworth. He, too, would walk around campus at times, and I met him while walking to my car one afternoon. I introduced myself and he took the time to ask me how I came to WCC and what I was teaching. After a few moments, I invited him to sit in on one of my classes when he available, because I knew that many of my students (those students whom Jason Davis so compassionately described) may never meet a college president and I wanted him to meet them. He said he would, and he did. He was very gracious, shook hands with everyone, got involved in discussions, learned some of my students’ names, and encouraged them to continue their education and not give up. My students were ecstatic. Many of them wrote about meeting him for an in-class writing. This in no way meant that the atmosphere at WCC, then, was perfect and that the entire faculty and administration agreed about everything, but it does mean that the president of the college took the time to talk to an instructor, show genuine interest, and took the time to come to a class and meet students. Oh, the next time I saw him he commented me (and most WCC instructors) for my teaching methods, combining visual aids with handouts and the digital technology of the day. In other words, changing with the times (???).

I have attended and/or taught at WCC for 18 years, not because it was the only college that would accept my application, and not because it was the only college that would hire me, but because I wanted to be here. I still want to be here. I have listened to opinions and read emails and letters about the “vote” that took place on Thursday, May 1st. I am sorry that the vote was needed, but it was needed.

Afraid of change? Not wanting change? What a choice of words. How can any teacher teach without keeping up with the technology of the times? When I learned to write letters (in Kindergarten) it was in a two level, two floors/two room school (with a great fire escape). I wrote on a piece of wide-lined paper, and used a big pencil. No kindergartner learns that way anymore. Teachers must update technique, technology, and gain more knowledge in order to teach today. At any rate, here at WCC, with SOQs being what they are, an old-fashioned, no changing with the times, no visual aids, no power points, no internet, and no present-day technology and methods instructor would certainly be noted. I am from the teachers spending one-on-one time with their students, students solving division problems the old way, and teachers making sure students had the skills they needed before being promoted generation. And yet, this is not the way anymore, and unless teachers add to their methods the ever-changing technology, they will not be allowed to teach at most schools. Change? Keeping up with how our students can learn best (which seems to change every day) is what we do, but we have been accused of being afraid of change.

It is not one person who makes the rules that governs a school, business, or even a family. It is communication regarding the needs of all that will result in the heads of schools, businesses, or families making announcements about what will be and what will not be. Yes, even after discussions, one person (the one ultimately responsible), based on communication with others, must make a determination as to what to do. This is understood in education and in business. However, it seems that WCC instructors, who have had years of education in their fields, and, in most cases years of training (as well as on-going training that occurs every day), have been brazenly ignored when it comes to making any contributions regarding decisions about what is good and right for the students they are responsible for teaching.

None of what caused the need to vote “no confidence…” is imagined. None of it. It is all very real.

M. Givens-Green, Instructor

(reprinted with permission)


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