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New blog celebrates inspirational student experiences


(L-R) Mandy Cook and Noreen Golfman are featured in a new blog celebrating teaching and learning at Memorial.

 

By Heidi Wicks

Memorial University's dedication to exemplary teaching and learning in all shapes and sizes is now celebrated via a new blog featuring written stories, photos and videos that highlight enriching student experiences. The videos will be posted regularly on the blog, departmental websites and social media channels.

Dr. Noreen Golfman, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and Mandy Cook, (BA '00) communications co-ordinator at Memorial and the editor of this newspaper, are featured in the premiere video.

Ms. Cook says ending up in Dr. Golfman's first-year requisite English 1080 course was "happenstance."

"You talked to us like we were all friends," she tells Dr. Golfman in the video. "You were always in a great mood, you always had a great outfit on and you referenced pop culture while teaching us classic literature. It was fun to go to your class and you inspired me to perform well."

Dr. Golfman, humbled by the comments, adds that the quiet students like Ms. Cook were often the most intriguing.

"As a teacher you're always questioning the insight you get from really fabulous writing because you think, 'What was going on in that mind?' Because you don't know, you're trying to read your students," she says. "I love teaching graduate students because they're terrified but more confident, but first-years don't necessarily choose to be there. You're already up against resistance. I learned from those professors who had a sense of intimacy with us and who respected us, but who were also critical in ways that were encouraging. So it's really important to have as healthy and natural conversation in the classroom as you would at your best dinner parties."

Dr. Andrea Rose of the Faculty of Education echoes the sentiment. She believes that her awareness of the diversity and range of students' ways of knowing and learning encourage her to develop relevant and innovative strategies for teaching and assessment.

"One of the many mantras that inspire my own teaching and learning contexts – which I always share with my pre-service music educators – is Ignacio Estrada's quote, 'If students can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.'"

Dr. Georg Gunther, a professor of mathematics at Grenfell Campus, remembers trying to articulate what teaching was all about in his 1977 interview for the position he holds to this day.

"The metaphor that came to me was that of a chrysalis – that magical stage where a caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself, undergoes a profound metamorphosis of form and purpose, and emerges some time later as a butterfly," he says. "As a metaphor, it's a bit naïve and idealistic, but the underlying idea has directed my activities in the classroom ever since. For me, teaching has been about transformation -- and building relationships."

The blog is currently housed at www.blog.distance.mun.ca/teachingandlearning so be sure to check in regularly for new stories, reflections, photos and videos.
Comments and story ideas are encouraged from all units. If you have an inspirational teaching or learning experience you'd like to share, please contact Heidi Wicks, communications co-ordinator, teaching and learning) at wicksh@mun.ca or (709) 864-6256.

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