How My Failure as a Teacher Began to Teach Me Lifelong Lessons.

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

photo-1453847668862-487637052f8aDropped out

I was a 2nd year teacher drop-out. I felt like a failure as a person and as a professional. Most of all, I felt like I had failed my high school science, biology and chemistry students.

It was November and I had been working long days trying to keep up the pace of lesson planning, grading and attempting to maintain some balance in my new professional life as a teacher.

I remember getting many warnings in my college days about the difficulties of being a teacher and especially in the first year, but I overestimated my abilities to keep pace with my own standards of perfectionism.

Burned out

Let’s be honest. I burnt out. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to resign half way through the year leaving my students stranded and the high school scrambling to find a replacement. I put my resume out to nearly any job I could find but the market was nearly as grim as my own outlook.

You know what the worst part of it was? I loved education and I loved my students. How would anyone hire me in the field when I resigned from a full-time teaching appointment? I figured I wouldn’t be able to ever work in education again.

Substitute teaching

So I decided to start subbing.

Yes, that’s right, I was a substitute teacher right after quitting a full-time teaching job. Being a substitute teacher is hard enough in and of itself, but being one after being a teacher drop-out is excruciatingly humiliating. But I knew I needed to swallow my pride, focus on my own health first and then re-build myself as a professional from the ground up.

Things I learned

It was difficult times, but I had amazing family, friends and professionals who supported me through the dark night. I wouldn’t wish the circumstances on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade the lessons I learned at the earliest days of my career for the world.

I was blessed with hard life-lessons on understanding my own limitations, on developing a healthy work-life balance, on understanding myself on a fundamentally human level vs. viewing my own self-worth through the lens of an externally professional reputation.

Still learning

Do I still struggle with these things?


Have I arrived?


Am I making any progress?

Every day.

Silver linings

And you know what?

I still am an educator.

Mostly, I get to work every day as a human being helping other people through the difficult and important work of teaching and learning.

*I am forever grateful for the many people in my life who have believed in me even when I haven’t believed in myself. I wouldn’t be here without you and I stand on your shoulders as I do the meaningful work of believing in others around me. 

Which gym would you join?

There once were three friends who’s names were all Jim.

Each of the Jims owned their own Gym.

  • Jim #1 tracked each client’s stats. The membership fees and the workouts completed.
  • Jim #2 tracked each client’s opinions. What worked and what didn’t and how did they feel?
  • But Jim #3 was unhappy with this whole operation. Business was fine but the community was ill.

So he decided to ask his clients what their fitness goals were.

He then grouped them together.

They made up a game for the fun of the order, with leaderboards and prizes, events and bling-bling.

Soon, teams were competing for the prize of their own fitness and were inviting their friends to join all the fun.

Which gym would you join?

Online Learner Success Resources (OER)

If you or anyone you know is interested in these kinds of resources, this is one on the topic of Online Learner Readiness worth your time thanks to the Creative Commons sharing by the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative.


Award icon
License: Creative Commons (Attribution 3.0 Unported) By

Just the other day I was in a faculty workshop in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University where we touched on Quality Matters as a resource for all of MSU faculty. One of the questions that arose was if there were resources that were general enough to apply to any online learner in terms of preparing them for the online environment no matter what college or learning management system was being used. I mentioned that there were some valuable Open Educational Resources out there that can be remixed at will to any college’s needs.

Helpful modules

If you or anyone you know is interested in these kinds of resources, this is one on the topic of Online Learner Readiness worth your time thanks to the Creative Commons sharing by the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative.

Please bookmark it if it is something you could build off from (again, it can be remixed freely with attribution of course) or share it with someone you think might find it valuable. I believe deep down that good things were meant to be shared.

Thanks to all of you everywhere who promote student success!


This was another quick quiz my colleague Susan Halick shared with me from Lansing Community College on the topic of “Are online courses right for me?” and my friends over at Michigan Virtual University also created similar resources for new online learners through a tool called OLOT (Online Learning Orientation Tool).

If Trump Led Our Public Universities…

Red wall iconLet’s build a wall in education.

No-one can be admitted unless they meet our carefully crafted requirements.

The ones who don’t get through we will make pay for it.

That way we can only admit the people who are like us so that we can make more and more of us and trample out the masses.

…or let’s not.

Bridge icon

Instead, we will build bridges for the brilliant and beautiful public.

We will work toward setting them up for success so that they can learn from us and we from them.

Sure, it will be messy work and hard work, but it is our job as a public university. It is what we are payed to do by the public we serve. We will likely even have to actually pay for the bridge construction.

But which kind of learning organizations do you think will make a better world?

Ones with walls? Or ones with bridges?

These are the questions we face in our organizations.

Spartan helmetI am proud of being part of a public university reputedly building bridges. #SpartansWill

Truly and astonishingly, these are the questions we face in our world, today.

(I probably goes without saying, but anything I post on my blog having anything to do with politics or opinions in general are not and should not be considered a representation of any organization I work for, but are my own alone). 

People Trump Technology

Image of Robin Williams, 1951-2014
Robin Williams, 1951-2014

“Before the internet there was just a man running around saying, ‘I know, I know” – Robin Williams

This morning, I came into work and was glad to see Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf using our new open office working space here in Wills House. Her recent campus open office working tour has been so fun to lurk behind to find new nooks to study and collaborate. Thanks, Leigh.

So, I walk in the door and she asks me if I know anything about birds. These are my favorite kinds of delightful questions.

I know a couple things here and there just due to personal interest. I have sat in on a college ornithology course once and I have met up with our Jackson Audubon Society on random occasions over the years.

Lucky for me, she had recorded the sound of the call that was distinct to her as she was walking to our building. She played it back for me. I thought it was an Eastern Towhee possibly, but I just had to get to the bottom of it.

Black-Capped Chickadee
Black-Capped Chickadee

So, I turned to my friend, Google. After grueling seconds of not getting anywhere due to having a hard time figuring out how to identify a bird on the internet with only the call sound in my head, I realized that a much more efficient searching rout would be to call up my friend Gary Mason who I used to work with at Spring Arbor University. Gary is heavily involved in the Jackson Audubon Society and knows more about Michigan Birds and other natural wonders than anyone I know.

So, I did what anyone frustrated with the limitations of technology would do. I used an older technology of the telephone land-line to give him a ring at his desk. He not only answered right away, but was able to identify the bird immediately even with my own botched attempt at trying to make the sound over the phone.

It was the Black-Capped Chickadee.

I was way off.

A funny looped scene from Dumb and Dumber where Loyd and Harry mistake the last name of the girl they are looking for with the brand of the suite case they are holding.

#ET4online Reflection

Eight years

MSU Group Picture at #ET4online 2015That is how long I had been wanting to attend a Sloan-C (OLC) conference.

This was the year to make it finally happen. Thankfully, this was just in time to catch the last Emerging Technologies Symposium in Dallas Texas.

It was so good. I would even go as far as saying it was possibly better than the barbeque.

I’m late to the blog reflection thing, but when I read Michelle’s, Phil’s, & Patrice’s, I knew I had to dust of my blog again and say a little something. I will share a couple highlights and then end the post with a picture gallery of the trip.

Why was it so good?

MSU ShoesWell, it would have been good if I had only attended the conference on my own, but there were eight of us that were there together who came all the way from East Lansing’s Michigan State University.

That’s right, eight. It was awesome. We presented multiple times and represented MSU well, I’d say. Dr. Jessica Knott (@jlknott) even wore the shoes to prove it.


Jess, Michelle and Dave SelfieOne of the highlights of the trip was that I finally was able to meet Michelle Pacansky-Brock (@brocansky) in person. I have attended many of her sessions virtually in the past. Because Michelle is an expert on humanizing your online courses, I felt like I knew her already. So, a hearty thank you not only to the internet, but to Michelle who helps me learn how to use it for good rather than be used by it.

This was the first session Nate Evans (@nateevans) and I attended. Michelle presented along with Jill Leafstedt (@JLeafstedt)  and Kristi O’Neil (@kristi_oneil)  from California State University, Channel Islands. Their session was filled to capacity, had lively discussion and even provided the best one-page session infographic handout I have experienced to date at any conference. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the likes of @brocansky. My favorite takeaway from this session was the epic quote: “Don’t be a robot.” Duly noted. That advice is probably far deeper than it might appear on the surface. Am I wrong?

If you want to see more scrambled thoughts on the session, you can explore my feeble attempt to invite publicly collaborative note-taking from attendees of the conference.

Technology Test Kitchen

People interacting with technologyBetween sessions, it was convenient to network and connect with others naturally at the constantly running technology test kitchen which was organized in part by my office roommate, the infamous and aforementioned Dr. Jessica Knott (@jlknott). I was pleased to have grown my personal learning network through this by connecting in-person with people like Laura, Ben, Amy, Michael, Patrice, MahaAlan, Bonnie, Eric, Phil, & Gardner!

Faculty Development

I was reminded of the importance of partnering with offices of institutional quality and improvement at Robert Rivas & Julie Lyon’s session. They presented on Creating an Online Teaching Certification Program for Faculty Development which they had done from Odessa College’s Global Office. The results they shared of retention numbers alone they had tracked was compelling enough to listen to what they had to say. Great work, friends.

Critical Thinking for Online Teaching

Dr. Weiland giving his sessionAnother major highlight was seeing that Dr. Steve Weiland was going to be presenting at the conference on “The Problem with Best Practices: Critical Thinking for Online Teaching.” Dr. Weiland is an MSU faculty member who teaches in the HALE program in the College of Education. I will leave you with a couple of prominent quotes that stood out during his talk.

“This field is in its adolescents.”

“Take a scholarly step back from the assumptions.”

“The written lecture in an online course has incredible advantages that are rarely talked about in EdTech worlds.”

“You don’t get to quality instructional products if you think the very people you are working with are dopes.”

“The second subject of any online learning is the nature of online learning itself.”

“Gain some distance from our habits and assumptions and help students to do the same.”


Of course, there were many other highlights and experiences I had at the conference that I could share, but I will let the following pictures speak for themselves.

What about you? What things stood out to you at #ET4online? Do you plan to go to OLC Innovate next year? I would love to see you there!

Born ReadyTechnology Test KitchenRow MSUStephen, Dave and Nate Present on A11yNate talking about camping in the winterDave and EricDave Presenting on REALJess, Laura and DaveIMG_4997.JPGIMG_4998.JPGIMG_4972.JPGIMG_5013.JPGDave and Gardner

Faculty Focus Link on Online Course Development Tips

Bulb License Free for commercial use (Include link to authors website)  Designer Webdesigner Depot - http://www.webdesignerdepot.comOne of my favorite go-to blogs that I enjoy tweeting about from time to time is Faculty Focus. There are consistently strong contributions from a variety of disciplines about pedagogy and research-based best practices that are practical for multiple learning environments. There was a post today from Rob Kelly who references Dionne Thorne on the topic of Nine Online Course Development Tips. Although I would contend with some of the points made for the 8th tip Thorne lists, there were solid recommendations in the concise post that may make it worth a mouse click.

Wiley on OER and Open Course Frameworks

In it, Wiley mentions that, “The biggest barriers to OER adoption are the time and effort it takes faculty to find resources, vet them for quality, and align them with course outcomes.”

Commons, Creative icon | Icon Search Engine | Iconfinder recent post by David Wiley will be stirring a another good conversation with interesting links that I couldn’t resist sharing here:


  • Open Course Frameworks: Lowering the Barriers to OER Adoption | iterating toward openness
In it, Wiley mentions that,
“The biggest barriers to OER adoption are the time and effort it takes faculty to find resources, vet them for quality, and align them with course outcomes.”
He asserts that Open Course Frameworks can help solve these problems by helping institutions adopt evidence-based approaches to using OER for eliminate textbook costs and improving student success.

Preparing learners for the online environment

Cube, Online icon | Icon Search Engine | Iconfinder was an interesting article supporting the need for preparing students for online instruction. A noteworthy quote: “Through well-developed orientation courses and other online student support services, we can equip students with no prior experience with the skills to learn online.”
Concerning Online Learning: Experience Matters « WCET Frontiers

LearnDAT Farewell Post

Together, each member of the LearnDAT team makes up an amazing pool of talent, creativity, knowledge, skill and experience in the field of distance education.

LearnDAT Holloween Party 2012
LearnDAT Halloween Party 2012

For over the past year, I have had the privilege of working with the incredibly talented instructional and educational media designers at LearnDAT (this is a picture of some of us at our 2012 halloween party). Together, each member of the LearnDAT team makes up an amazing pool of talent, creativity, knowledge, skill and experience in the field of distance education. I will miss them very much.

Friday is my last day in LearnDAT as I have accepted a new instructional design position at Jackson Community College. I look forward to venturing into this new role that is closer to home and plan to stay in touch with my colleagues here at Michigan State. Thank you, for everything!

The team assembled here is so innovative, creative, collaborative and effective. Since being here I have learned so much from each person. There is a rich history here and notoriety not only in the MSU community, but in the field of instructional design and instructional technology in general. It makes me incredibly proud to have been able to contribute to a handful of the ongoing great things going on here.