Preface to
Letters from the Picnic Table in an Ivory Tower"

Comments from the Picnic Table in an Ivory Tower
      My office desk is a picnic table. Students might sit at it across from me or next to me to work on homework, retake a quiz, or have emotional dicussions about grades and life choices.
      It is, to the best of my knowledge, a unique piece of faculty office furniture and, though such tables are found in tutoring centers, faculty use office desks.
      My work at this desk, in my classes, and on occasion over my home phone, differs from that of many colleagues. Students are required to speak to each other and discuss answers after each problem or problem set is completed.   I face my students directly though their eyes are on their written work, or looking at other students' eyes or other students' work while in discussion, or at the wall to my side or behind me where class notes are projected from my lap top on which they are created.
      My perspective is different.

Empowerment, Not Remediation
      The primary goal of this text is to prompt a regime change at my home institution, and at other institutions similar to it. I wish to encourage the administration to rethink county college remedial education in light of the perspective of a professor who is very much a teacher. This goal can not be achieved unless the perspective of teaching is elaborated upon, described, perhaps defined.
      The secondary goal of this text is to discuss in detail the craft of teaching, the teaching practices learned through nearly 40 years of experience in a classroom, and the perspective acquired in "teaching" components of "nonteaching" experiences such as motherhood, denmothership, and committee chairmanships.
      This is not a college text on how to teach, a text used to earn one's teaching license. This is a text on the craft of teaching, the experiences and skills one acquires after the license is earned.
      The goal is to provide food for thought, suggestions, stories to explain why what "we" are doing at the county college does not constitute "best practices" or a "thorough and efficient" system and to stimulate positive growth in teaching.
      A drivers license is required before one is permitted to legally drive. Experience comes after the license. A Coast Guard license is required before one is legally permitted to captain a boat for hire. Experience comes after the license. A teaching license is required before one is permitted to to teach, except of course at a college, county college, or institution of higher ed. Any one may teach as long as they have a degree saying they have expertise in an area of study (and even this is sometimes waived). One need not ever have considered how to teach at the college level, or remedial college level, as long as an appropriate subject matter degree is obtained.
      This text is written for one who has had some experience in a "teaching role." Here teaching is a craft, not an art, not an academic topic of discussion, a craft with techniques and tasks which may be learned and practiced and even improved upon. Experience sets the stage for understanding.

From My Mother's Kitchen Table to
      the Picnic Table in an Ivory Tower Office
      This page is an attempt to entice one, without providing a resume, to consider my experiences of value.
      Discourses related here comes from experiences
  • as my father's daughter, watching him grade papers and listening to him speak of his day's events,
  • as my mother's daughter, watching her help us with homework,
  • as the eldest of 8 who eventually helped younger brothers and sisters with homework,
  • as my father's daughter, listening to him speak of issues and events in his work as guidance counselor and high school vp,
  • as an FTA president in high school,
  • as a Student NJEA president in college,
  • as a student, watching both good and bad teacher in my coursework as an elementary, then high school, then college, then graduate, then county college, then maritime student,
  • as mother of a wonderful male child,
  • as the officer and president of two professional math teaching organizations,
  • as a full time classroom teacher for students in 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades,
  • as a full time remedial college and college teacher,
  • as a faculty member in many, many department and professional day meetings,
  • as an audience member listening to many, many wise and experienced teachers,
  • as an avid reader for 40+ years of works relating to teaching, to science, to history, and to how people learn and what prevents learning,
  • as one who has since 1980 been an outspoken and active opponent to the way remediation is conducted at many county colleges,
  • as an author and webmaster, and
  • as a recognized leader as evidenced by presentation of many, many, workshops and papers.
      Keep your dopamine high. Hope you enjoy the book.
                             Agnes Azzolino
                             Keyport, NJ

© October 2010, A. Azzolino craftx.htm
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