Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #23: Summer Send-off for Students

In earlier tips, we provided suggestions for messages you might send to students before the formal start of the semester.  This tip will serve as something of the “other bookend” – suggesting things you might do to sustain students’ engagement with the course beyond its official end. In this way, you may provide opportunities for students:

  • to deepen their knowledge or appreciation of themes and issues you touched on during the course
  • to remain excited about and engaged in their academic pursuits
  • to find connections between the material you covered during the course and their “summer world” beyond SJSU
  • to share their interest in these topics with the people they spend time with outside of school
  • to be(come) life-long-learners.

“Books for the beach.” Bring to your students’ attention to a selection of books, periodicals, blogs, podcasts and the like that they could take up over the summer, wherever they are and whatever they are doing (at the beach or otherwise).

  • You might begin with sources you used as you constructed your course, as these will give students the chance to delve deeper into issues you covered in class.
  • Alternatively, you might suggest materials that will provide food for thought and help prepare them for other courses in your department that they are likely to take next year.
  • Or you might suggest materials you have found worthwhile for any of a number of reasons not necessarily connected to your course or your department’s offerings.

You could certainly add layers to this, by creating online discussion boards or others ways to check in throughout the summer.  Or you could just keep it simple, and provide the list of items you recommend and let your students take it from there.

You can view the entire Faculty Matter Teaching Tip series on the Center for Faculty Development website. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.


‘Disability at Work’ Panel Teaches Students to Expand Their Horizons

Attendee Rosse Strda poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Vincent Tsaran at the "Disablilty At Work" Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

Attendee Rosse Strda poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Vincent Tsaran at the “Disablilty At Work” Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

By Riley Wilcox and America Yamaguchi, Communication Studies students

On May 5, San Jose State University students hosted a panel on “Disability at Work. Students enrolled in Communication Studies 132F Dis/Ability Communications with Professor Bettina Brockmann coordinated the three-person panel event that was open to the public in the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Library. The event was widely publicized, with invitations going out to the entire Communication Studies department as well as all Accessible Education Center (AEC) registered students, and a Facebook event post that made it clear the event was open to the public. The panel’s purpose was to inform the audience about employment and accessibility difficulties for people with disabilities.

The speakers included Vincent Tsaran, technical program manager at Google, Karo Caran, who also works in accessibility at Google and is an  accomplished author, and Joseph Fox, senior vice president at SAP Ariba.

Tsaran and Caran presented together, speaking on their experiences growing up as vision-impaired children in Ukraine and Poland respectively, and the differences in their experiences in mainstream and specialized education programs. Tsaran and Caran both work with Google to increase the accessibility of the user interfaces for Google and Google Play. They concentrated on perspectives in ableism for people with disabilities, and the similarities between ableism and other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism and homophobia.

Dreams became a theme that emerged throughout the event. Caran pursued a dream of studying Chinese that early instructors had hesitated about due to her vision impairment.

“I work in the business of dreams,” Tsaran said. “I had a few dreams—I wanted to teach history at my school of the blind. But [when I came to the United States], my dreams expanded as my horizons were expanded.”

He noted that his university’s dedication to accessibility created a capacity for dreams he had not had before. Working in the tech industry, the pair also spoke on how computers are “great enablers,” that allow people to speak, get their point across and have a sense of self. Caran explained that because times are changing, and so much of the world is now accessed through an electronic platform, society must more than ever make sure that computer technology is accessible for everyone.

Joseph Fox, who also works in the tech industry, is the parent of four children, three of whom are on the Autism spectrum. Fox spoke on always having a “parent view” before having a “business view.” He said he has found as a father, as an employer and as a student, there were many challenges for people with disabilities. Fox presents frequently on the benefits of hiring a neurodiverse workforce, informs parents of resources for their children, informs young adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder on toolsets and programs to aide them, and highlights for employers the best ways to incorporate accessibility into the workforce. Some of his key advice includes self advocacy and the benefits of finding peers and mentors who can help young adults to obtain the accommodations they need. He also recommends employers to develop hiring processes that do not involve interviews because people who are capable of the job may not always be impressive during interviews. Under Fox’s leadership, SAP Ariba announced in May 2013 a goal of having one percent of its global workforce represented by those on the Autism Spectrum.

After Fox’s presentation, the floor was opened to audience questions. Some of the key messages were that accessibility development requires trial and error, and that the best way to reduce ableism is to maximize exposure by reading and meeting more people with disabilities.

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #22: Helping Students Assume Responsibility

Classes are almost over for the semester, and you have done your part: You’ve introduced material to your students and sought ways to help them understand and find meaning in it. You’ve created opportunities for them to explore and learn. You’ve supported and encouraged them and provided constructive feedback along the way.  With final exams and project due-dates around the corner, it is time for OUR STUDENTS to step up to the plate, to consolidate what they need to pull together, and demonstrate what they are taking away from your class.

Many of us struggle with what our roles should be during this final period of the semester. Should we be “on call” 24/7, available to answer students’ questions? Should we read last-minute drafts of their work before they turn them in for grading? Should we meet with them to fill in missing class notes? Should we provide individualized attention as they come to us in a panic because they missed too many classes?  Although we should take care to be in step with the policies and practices and of our own departments, for the most part, this is an individual decision.  Here, in the spirit of the idea of TEACHING students to fish rather than GIVING them a fish, are a few suggestions you might find helpful:

  • Make sure that instructions – including details about assignment expectations and due dates and procedures for turning things in – are clear, and posted somewhere students know to look for important course information.
  • Make sure students know the details about your availability for consultation:  where, when, what kind of assistance you are able to offer, turn-around times, and the like.
  • Remind students to prepare for the end-of-semester crunch, including confirming the dates and times of their exams, creating a sensible calendar and timeline for the next two weeks, stocking up on necessary supplies (paper, printer ink, etc..), and anticipating any special arrangements they need to make at work or at home.
  • Urge THEM to be as resourceful and self-sufficient as possible.  Some faculty have rules such as “3 then me – ask three people, or check three sources, and if you still can’t figure out the answer, I’ll be happy to help.”

Then step back, and let them take responsibility…

You can view the entire Faculty Matter Teaching Tip series on the Center for Faculty Development website. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.


Alumna Leaves College of Education $1.2 Million

Edna Harrison

Edna Harrison

San Jose State University’s Advancement Office has received a $1.2 million estate gift from Edna Harrison, ’51, Recreation with a Specialist in Reading Teaching Credential, which will benefit the Connie L. Lurie College of Education.

After completing her education at SJSU, Harrison devoted her life to teaching, including a stint working at an elementary school in Germany that afforded her the opportunity to travel around Europe and the Middle East. When she returned to San Jose, she taught in the Alum Rock School District for many years while living in the Willow Glen area with her husband Richard, a niece and two nephews.

“Through her gift to our campus, Edna will continue her legacy of supporting education for a new generation of teachers,” said Paul Lanning, vice president for University Advancement. “The generosity of donors such as this allow us to provide an exceptional experience for our students and this is especially important in our College of Education as our graduates have a wide reach through their service in K-12 schools throughout our community.”

Faculty Matter Teaching Tip #21: Home-stretch reality check and re-grounding

The end of the semester is fast approaching – where have all of those weeks gone?  Now might be a very good time to RE-engage students who seem to have meandered off course or who could benefit from help reconnecting and refocusing. Skim the list below, and consider what might be useful for you and your students.

  • Reach out to students who seem to have disappeared from view. Check your records, see who has fallen behind in their assignments or who is simply not showing up for class. A quick email asking them to check in with you could mean the difference between them getting back on track and them failing the class. If possible, schedule extra office hours (in person or virtual) to have the chance to speak with them. Show you care. Urge them to try. Help them craft a plan to catch up, as much as is possible, given the structure and requirements of your course. Familiarize yourself with university and department policies about granting students incompletes, in case this becomes appropriate. Be careful to be consistent and equitable in any accommodations you extend to them.
  • Be prepared to help students figure out their standing in the course. You have likely spelled out how grades are determined in your syllabus. You may have set things up so that students can track their points and scores.  But I am always surprised by how many students still ask such things as “What grade am I getting so far?” or “How well do I have to do on the Final to get a C?” Students who become discouraged by how they think they are doing are particularly likely to avoid seeking you out and having to confront what they fear their status in the course to be.
  • Consider asking your students to write a letter to the next group of students who will take your class. Have them include a few sentences about how the course relates to their academic or personal interests, about how something they have done or learned in the course has been significant for them, or about the study strategies they’ve found most helpful. These letters may be useful and informative for future students, and interesting and rewarding for you to read. But the ones who may benefit the most from them may well be their authors: the process of thinking about these prompts can serve to re-engage and re-focus students who have become somewhat disconnected or unfocused.
  • Remind students of the importance of a good time management plan, most especially at this point in the school year. Encourage them to list the papers, projects, exams and other academic requirements they need to complete in the coming weeks, and to create a calendar where they can map out thoughtfully what they need to do when to get it all done. Have them incorporate their non-school obligations into the calendar. Have them share and discuss their calendars with one or more other students in the class. The more specific they can be about what they need to do and how they plan to do it, the more likely they will be able to focus intentionally and constructively.

Now might also be a good time to review the variety of supports available to you and your students through our Counseling and Psychological Services and our Student Health Center. Please add your own strategies using the comment link below.