Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Why We Teach

By Janet Mizrahi

Phew! What a time we have been through. Even the most dedicated of us have likely considered early retirement. So as we head into summer break, the time is ripe to recall the reasons we have slogged through the last 15 months on Zoom, learning new ways to reach and teach our students while we worry about our families, our jobs, and not least of all, our health.

For me the answer to why I teach doesn’t take much rumination. I feel exhilarated when I pass along what I’ve learned as a writer. I love watching when students “get it” and then receiving notes years later telling me that what they learned in my classes has helped their careers. Knowing that what I teach truly helps my students gives me a surge of pride that helps mitigate the hard times, this past year in particular.

Another reason I love to teach is because I work with a group of the most dedicated group of smart and caring people I’ve ever met. When I posed the question Why do we do it? Here’s what my colleagues said:

I enjoy the process of trying to kindle students’ interest—cognitively, emotionally, socially—in a subject I hold dear. When those sparks eventually ignite, even if rarely and inconsistently, teaching and learning reveal their grand ability to produce understanding any skill that may extend well beyond the current subject matter or course, maybe even throughout a lifetime. In that sense, teaching is truly an honor.                                                         –Jeffrey Hanson

I teach to stay in touch with young people and to learn from my students, whose energy and drive often impress me. Teaching right now and slogging through extra work, stress, and discomfort feels like an act of hope.                                                          –Nomi Morris

I teach to ensure the future. I teach to arm students with the hard and soft skills they need to excel in a competitive workplace. Skills deliver self-confidence. Self-confidence promises success.                                                                                                            –Gina Genova

I love the energy in the midst of a lively discussion; that moment when we finish a good class and the students recognize that something special has happened; and of course, the e-mails I get years later, when students share how their experiences in class now help them in their current job.                                                                                                     –Craig Cotich

I’ve taught business communication for 27 years! Even after all this time, it’s still a joy to teach a class that students feel is useful. I’ve always believed that the skills developed in business communication classes serve students throughout their careers. The students seem to agree.                                                                                                                                –LeeAnne Kryder

So, as you head into summer to rest, relax, and finally see friends and family (hopefully in person), we, the members of the Guffey Team, hope you’ll also remember that you have a great job to return to in the fall—one that touches others’ lives and enriches yours. Happy Summer!

Using Our Humanity to Connect With Online Classes

In normal times, the student-professor relationship may not be foremost on instructors’ minds. But these times are not normal, and when we log in to class rather than walk through a door, it’s easy to name what’s missing: the emotional connection we develop with our students, and it is sorely lacking in remote learning.

Connecting with our students on a human level was easier in the pre-pandemic days when we might greet our charges in the halls or chat with them before a session. We’d welcome them as they entered the room or perhaps we’d stay after class to answer their questions. All this casual interaction came naturally when we shared the same space.

Covid changed that dynamic. Nevertheless, research supports the importance of the bond between learner and teacher, which is integral not only to student engagement but to retention rates. Instructors can, however, take steps to do something about it. The tips below can help develop the warmth and friendliness that is one key to the student-professor bond.

Use students’ names. The simple act of recognizing students as individuals can help them feel that their instructor cares enough to see them as more than a square on a screen. Using students’ names is a powerful tool to facilitate connection.

Conduct short one-on-one meetings. Taking the time—and it is extra time—to meet individually with students, especially early in the term, sets the stage for engagement. It is harder for students to feel disengaged if their professor has talked with them about their goals. Likewise, instructors feel more attached to students when getting to know more about them, forging that desirable bond.

Provide feedback regularly. Showing students how they are doing illustrates that the instructor is actively teaching and responding to students’ work. This sparks a positive feedback loop between instructor and student.

Maintain high expectations. Encouraging students to work hard is critical to their success and engagement. Despite the difficulties online learning presents, instructors can be a motivational force by expecting students to push themselves.

Make assignments relevant. Students emotionally connect to course content when assignments stoke their interest. In the business communication classroom, content is inherently useful for students’ lives outside the academy, but instructors can make assignments more interesting by using realistic scenarios and cases. Such pedagogical devices add an element of fun and thereby increase emotional engagement.

Foster student agency. The more students feel they have choice in their education, the more they engage with the material. By providing choices in topics or the way an assignment is delivered, instructors help motivate their students, leading to a mutually beneficial learning experience.

When students feel connected to their professor and their course, they feel more than engaged. They are also more likely to remain on our class rosters. In an era when student retainment has become a major issue, this is no mean feat.

Networking for Newbies During the Pandemic

Networking has become the primary way jobs are obtained, and during the pandemic, experts say making professional connections is more crucial than ever. In fact, the author of The 20-Minute Networking Meeting suggests that job searchers spend 80 percent of their time networking, 10 percent contacting recruiters, and 10 percent looking at online postings.

For grads just entering the workforce, however, networking can feel awkward and foreign. Share the tips below with your students so that they can feel confident building their professional contacts. We have summarized this information in a PDF handout (The A-B-Cs of Networking, available at the end of this post) that you can pass along to your classes.

Understand the purpose of networking. Networking plays a critical part in a job search for several reasons. First, many positions go unadvertised, so the only way to learn about them is through contacts.

Second, a high number of employers feel more comfortable hiring people through their networks; therefore, joining a network is a way to become a known quantity.

Finally, networking can help new job candidates learn from more experienced individuals. Fortunately, many seasoned employees enjoy sharing their stories and career trajectories with students and are willing to take the time to pass along their knowledge.

Develop a network while in school. Take advantage of online networking opportunities available only to students to build a network before graduating. Alumni groups and campus career services may offer online networking events during the pandemic.

Reach out to fellow students, family, and friends for potential contacts, too. But most important is building a robust LinkedIn presence, which has become as mandatory to job seekers as a résumé.

Participate in online groups. Look into Facebook or LinkedIn Groups that align with your career goals and interests. Many online job search groups exist, but before joining, follow a few tips:

  • Conduct an Internet search for your name to see what a hiring manager would find out about you, and remove inappropriate material.
  • Never list personal information or post compromising comments or photos.
  • Read the group’s FAQs before joining conversation threads so you don’t commit any embarrassing faux pas.
  • Stay on topic when in an online chat.

Follow industry blogs. Blogs are common ways to share information. Find and follow blogs about the field that interests you to stay up-to-date and learn about possible opportunities.

Set up virtual networking meetings. When you find someone willing to have a networking meeting with you, do all the logistical work. Ask for a specific amount of time, say 20 or 30 minutes, and provide a month-long timeline from which the individual can pick a day and time for the meeting. Also ask the interviewee’s preference of format: Skype, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or FaceTime.

Send an invitation immediately after setting the date and a reminder one day before the session. Be mindful that a networking interview is a wisdom-seeking expedition during which the less experienced individual is listening, not speaking.

Prepare for the virtual meeting. Set up your camera and lighting beforehand. Choose a neutral background and practice with the technical format you’re using if it is unfamiliar.

Prepare by researching the individual’s background on LinkedIn and by conducting a Google search. See if you share are any commonalities—does the person coach a soccer team, which just happens to be your favorite sport? Did you both attend the same university or major in the same field?

Prepare open-ended questions that lend themselves to longer responses such as, How did you break into XX field? How is the field different now than when you started? What advice would you offer someone in my position?

Master the one-minute narrative. Be ready to describe yourself succinctly to a new contact. Develop a story that explains how your education and interests align with the industry you hope to enter. Describe how your strengths and skills could add to an organization’s productivity or ethos, but keep it short.

Follow basic dos and don’ts of a networking interview. Remember the networker’s goal is to obtain knowledge from a more experienced person in a specific industry, so asking about a job opportunity is improper.

Networking is the key to making the connections needed to land a job. Building a network—even during the pandemic—makes a lot of sense.

The A-B-Cs of Networking