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Helping students navigate their future

It’s not uncommon for first-year students to enter university with one career in mind, and leave doing something completely different.

Many of the educators right here at Memorial have formed relationships with students throughout the years that have made a lasting impact on both them and the student.

Dr. Noreen Golfman, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and Mandy Cook (BA ’00), communications coordinator at Memorial, sat in conversation last fall for a video series celebrating inspiration in teaching and learning.

Ms. Cook began university convinced she would go into veterinary medicine, but after being bewitched in Dr. Golfman’s first year English 1080 class, she decided to pursue journalism.

“You talked to us like we were all friends,” she said to 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.”

“As a teacher you’re always questioning the insight you get from really fabulous writing because you think, ‘What’s going on in that mind?’ – because you don’t know, you’re trying to read your students,” Dr. Golfman recalls. “First years don’t necessarily want to be there. So 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.”
Bert Riggs, Department of English, shared similar insights in another video in the series.

“I don’t think of myself as a faucet, and they are glasses, in which all I do is turn and reach and fill them up. If we want to use the water metaphor, I think of myself more as an ice cube tray, in the sense that the water goes in and takes its time to turn into something else,” he said, remembering similar experiences where he had that “a-ha” moment with a first year student. He believes students are on the cusp of adulthood and part of that means being challenged as a thinking person who can give back to any discussion in an informed and intelligent way.

“If students are treated like that, they will treat you like that, and they will get into what you’re doing more so, and they won’t want to miss classes. To get that from a group of people who have been told for the first time they don’t have to attend classes, is vital for success.”
Cameron Campbell (BA, 2011) was one of those students.

“I decided to take English 1080 because it was supposed to have the least amount of work with no essays,” he chuckled. “But Bert really challenged me and I ended up going into a classroom that I thought would be a boring experience, and ended up really enjoying it, and started to think, ‘What other things are out there and what opportunities exist?’”

Mr. Riggs sites Art Schammel and Annette Staveley, among others, as being responsible for giving him a fantastic experience while he was a student at Memorial.

“When I was invited to take part in the Teaching and Learning Framework, I absolutely wanted to be a part of something that was going to ensure that teaching and learning would both be priorities at this university. I want to go in there and try and make sure that every student that I encounter has as wonderful an experience as I had back in the ‘70s.”

Mr. Riggs was heavily involved in the Teaching and Learning Framework process, and introduced the motion to accept the final framework document to Senate in May 2011.

“I said that if I had to leave MUN tomorrow, being part of the planning and hopefully the implementation of the Teaching and Learning Framework has to be one of the highlights of my career, because it is such a positive move for students and for teachers. This is a partnership, we are linked together as a chain, and each one of us is only as strong as the link we are in that chain. I don’t want to see the chain break for any teacher or student. I want us to reach our potential in a way that we can only dream about right now. But I think that is something we can accomplish and we’ve laid the foundation to do that through the various aspects of the Teaching and Learning Framework.”

Please explore this site to discover the array of services to support educators at all stages of their career. If you have an A-ha story to share, please get in touch with us! These are just two examples of the exemplary educators and learners who have passed through Memorial’s doors throughout the year, and we aim to highlight as many as possible!

To view the video with Dr. Golfman and Ms. Cook, visit http://blog.distance.mun.ca/teachingandlearning/2011/10/28/that-one-teacher/

To view the video featuring Mr. Riggs and Mr. Campbell, please visit http://blog.distance.mun.ca/teachingandlearning/2012/07/12/i-dont-think-of-myself-as-a-faucet-im-more-like-ice-cubes-in-a-tray-bert-riggs-department-of-english-memorial-university/

Please explore the rest of Memorial’s Teaching and Learning blog to find more stories of inspiration!