LMC attempts to reimagine the classroom

Teachers adapting to help their students

Aliyah Ramirez, Staff Writer

From an outside perspective, a student’s education has been defined by a single-letter grade and based on a multitude of assignments and tests. However, a grade does not measure the academic and personal learning teachers strive to incorporate in their classrooms. 

As Los Medanos College continues to embrace a diverse environment, the Institutional Development for Equity and Access (IDEA) Committee collaborated with the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Student Life, and the Pedagogy Innovation Project (PIP), to put together a workshop addressing culturally relevant teaching practices. As many as 70 participants joined the digital workshop on Zoom Jan. 18 to learn through mini-presentations and breakout room feedback, and to hear voices from both students and staff on adapting teaching styles. 

With each presentation, participants focused on answering two questions. How does this presentation promote culture and identity? How would this presentation make you feel valued in a learning space? 

Professors who were allowed to present addressed their teaching styles and introduced topics to create changes in education. 

English professor Stacy Miller centered her presentation on the “pedagogy of care” where she evaluated the importance of care for teachers and students. As professors tailor their curriculum to help students in the classroom, Miller emphasized the necessity of making her courses better accessible for individual learning. Her courses follow an “ungrade” practice where grades are based on completion and effort; with reflections throughout the semester to result in a collaboration between Miller and her students to determine the grade they deserve. 

Sharing a similar motivation in making her coursework more interactive for all students, the professor of chemistry and MESA faculty adviser, Mindy Capes presented her process with students to make educational texts more comprehensible and build skills in efficient note-taking. Capes introduces the idea of “scaffolding reading” as students interact more with the text through steps of annotations and guided reads, construction of an outline, worked examples, visual representations, and exploring which method works best for the student. 

“I agree with all practices that are student-centered,” said Capes. “While some may be more suited for one area or discipline more than others, anytime students’ voice, self, knowledge, background, and culture are at the front of a practice it is worth looking into.” 

In addition, presenters spread awareness for gender equity in education and the workforce. Professor Jill Bouchard who also co-chairs the biology department shared her teaching style through a lecture demonstration and a spotlight on transgender scientist Ben Barres’s story of inclusion in the STEM field. Barres’ story reminded participants and her students of the ability to overcome any learning challenge despite stereotypes of gender in the workplace. 

Reinforcing the importance of gender equity, English and social justice studies professor LD Green shared their sabbatical work findings on queer and trans inclusion at LMC. Their presentation shared statistics of queer and trans youth to spread awareness of hate crimes and laws targeting LGBTQ+ youth. With their findings, Green introduced to staff and students Canvas resources to learn more about inclusion and unpack the themes which will be featured in their graphic novel, addressing similar topics of the gender conversation. 

“I was also glad to connect with a student who resonated with my presentation,” said Green. “Even in the supposed queer and trans bastion of the Bay Area, a lack of safety can persist, emboldened by hateful rhetoric and violence, sometimes closer to home than we’d like to admit.”

During each presentation, the discussion was followed by feedback within breakout rooms. Third-year student Julianna Anastas hopes to see Canvas as a more accessible tool for students and would like to see assistance provided on how to balance a heavy workload and personal growth throughout the semester. To incorporate these changes into the curriculum, Anastas believes it is only possible when similar events can involve all voices on campus.   

“I think such events are important because not only is it interesting to understand the other’s perspective, but it also helps encourage a new philosophy to life outside of LMC,” said Anastas.

From these discussions, students and teachers were able to share their honest reactions to the topics presented and reflect on how to create change in their learning. With more related workshops coming up throughout the semester, staff and students are encouraged to attend and voice their opinion. 

“We want all students to feel heard, welcome, included, and safe so that they can get the most out of their experience at LMC and really thrive as they pursue their goals,” said IDEA Committee Co-Chair Catt Wood.

To ensure a student’s success can grow both inside and outside the classroom, teachers are continuing to adapt their curriculum to be inclusive and remain student-focused for each individual.