Exam Jam!

9 05 2011

Alyssa Chmura ’12, English Content Tutor

On Thursday May 5, 2011, the CAE undergraduate Content Tutors held the first ever Exam Jam at SJC. Catchy name, right? The idea was inspired by the silent dance parties held at Carleton College during exam week as a stress relief technique. To see what Carleton does, watch the video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKhDmAAiE0E.

Exam week is definitely a stressful time because everyone wants to succeed, but it’s important not to get too overwhelmed and to take some time to have fun, even if it’s only for an hour. After watching the video from Carleton College, we decided to offer a similar program coupled with extra study tables for certain classes in order to both help relieve stress and offer extra help for students.

We started off the Exam Jam listening to some music (not while silently dancing…maybe next year?) and having some food (thank you, Student Affairs!). After some time was spent just hanging out, eating and listening to some quality music, students broke into study tables and one-on-one tutoring sessions for various classes. We had tutors present for help in CHEM170 (Organic/Inorganic Chemistry), CHEM240 (Biochemistry), MATH160 (Precalculus), ENGL216 (Major American Authors), PSYC220 (Child Development), ENGL 230 (Short Stories), ACCT205 (Managerial Accounting), HIST121 (The American Scene from 1865), and FIAR135 (History of Art II).

For the first time doing the event, we had a great turnout! About 30-35 students came to take advantage of the extra tutoring services (and the free food) offered right before the beginning of finals week. Students who came really seemed to enjoy the Exam Jam and appreciated both the short period of stress relieving and the extra study table.

Look out for the return of the Exam Jam next year!

Independent Study…Is it for Me?

26 04 2011

By Melissa Lauretti ’12, CAE English Content Tutor

  In between completing classes for one’s major and fulfilling general education   requirements, many students often have the opportunity to diligently study and research topics of their choosing.

 At first, the idea of embarking upon an independent study can be intimidating: you do not meet with a class of your peers each week, there are no exams and smaller papers to keep you on schedule, and you are pretty much in charge of your own success. To some extent, the skills that you learn through the independent study process are just as valuable as your final product…and being able to talk about completing your own research only bolsters your future grad school and employment applications.  

 Within the College’s honors program, one of the options available to students is completing an independent study under the tutelage of a faculty mentor.  Thus, for the majority of the fall semester, I worked on crafting my 26-page thesis on the Salem Witch Trials and the role of the young accusers in perpetuating this tragedy. 

As a professional procrastinator, I was slightly apprehensive about the whole independent study experience.  However, the thought of how much stress I would be under if I just let that paper sit on a back-burner until the end of the semester seemed to motivate me to get a head-start.

The other major concern that I had was selecting a topic. While it’s exciting to be able to study any topic imaginable, I wasn’t exactly sure which of my interests I wanted to pursue as I didn’t want to end up disliking the subject by the time finals rolled around. Originally, I believed that if I spent an entire semester looking into one event or phenomenon, I was going to never want to read another article or engage in a conversation on the subject. Surprisingly, although the memories that I have of sifting through primary source materials evoke some feelings of frustration, I still enjoy learning about the Salem Witch Trials – I even watched a pretty cool episode of Ghost Adventures about Salem just a few weeks ago.

Having dispelled many of my concerns about independent studies through my experience in the fall, I was more than willing to sign-up for a psychology independent study this spring. Currently, I’m in the process of designing my own study, which I am hoping to run next semester.

I would say that one of the most important skills that I have learned through this course is applying research design techniques to actual research. While students can demonstrate their comprehension of the advantages and disadvantages associated with various research techniques and the different tests for statistical significance on exams, actually applying these concepts to new research requires an even deeper level of critical thinking. In this case, an independent study is the perfect tool in helping to ensure understanding of previously-learned concepts.

If you ever have the chance to pursue the independent study, definitely take advantage of that opportunity during your undergraduate career.

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Select a topic that you are already interested in or a topic that you would like to learn more about. (You will be spending far too much time seeking out source materials and writing lengthy drafts to study something that you find dull and dreadful).
  • Be flexible. You may need to tweak your original idea or your research may take you on a different path than the one you had originally intended – don’t worry, your paper or project will still be a masterpiece.
  • Plan ahead! Take full advantage of the summer months or winter intersession to get ahead on your reading and note-taking.
  • Create your own deadlines. Think of the independent study as any other class and give yourself a due date for your thesis, your rough draft and any other tasks.
  • Don’t let procrastination get the better of you…stick to those deadlines.  Trust me on this one.
  • Use your resources. Make sure you address questions with your faculty mentor or advisor and ask for help when you need it, rather than struggling alone.
  • Also, don’t forget that the CAE is a great resource throughout the entire process.
  • Have fun and share your research. Talk about your research with your friends, professors and other people. Not only will you become more comfortable discussing your work, but you may also discover new perspectives and opinions that you had not previously considered.

Millennial Musings

14 04 2011

By Alyssa Chmura ’12, English Content Tutor

 Those of you reading this blog must think that fellow CAE tutors Melissa Lauretti, Ashley Briglia, Michelle DiPinto and I are always together and partaking in one adventure or another – from the Ethics Bowl to the founding of the Edgar Allen Poe Society and so on. Unsurprisingly, then, this post is all about another one of our escapades.

Last Friday, Ashley, Melissa and I ventured to Trinity College for a conference titled “Teaching Millennials in the New Millennium: A Conference on the Theory, Challenges and Opportunities of Teaching College-Age Students in the 21st Century.” What a mouthful, right? The conference aimed to explore how generational differences affect college learning and what to do about it. Since we fall under the category of millennial students (being born between 1982 and 2000), this conference was extremely relevant to us and how we learn in a college setting.

 Scholars from Trinity and other colleges from around the country presented on different facets of the issue. The morning panel was devoted to defining the characteristics that describe the millennial generation.

 The seven characteristics typically associated with the millennial generation are:

  • sheltered
  • achieving
  •  “special”
  • conventional
  • team-oriented
  •  pressured
  • narcissistic

 Those traits don’t exactly paint a nice picture of millennials! Personally, I could identify with some of the characteristics (pressured especially), but saw no concrete evidence that these “traits” could be applied to an entire generation of people or that the characteristics could be chalked up to more than just individual preferences. I found it difficult to label an entire generation of people by one word.

Many of the later presenters, notably the panel of Trinity students who spoke in the afternoon, brought up this same issue about the ability to accurately classify people by broad generalizations. Regardless of my purely conditional belief in the theory of millennials, I found the discussion fascinating. The description of the millennial traits was only the beginning, though; the main focus of the conference was in determining how these characteristics have an impact on the college classroom.

Conclusions made by the majority of presenters were that the college system should not be completely revamped to suit the needs of this new generation of multi-tasking, pressured, “special” students.

Completely understandable.

 How ridiculous would it be if teachers and professors had to switch up their teaching practices and style every time a new group of students came to the college? There is definitely value in offering a variety of approaches to classroom activities (varying between lectures, discussions, projects, presentations, research, etc. rather than just one), but it seems as though some take the “customer service” mindset regarding college classes a bit too far.

Yes, professors should take the initiative to provide multiple opportunities for a diverse student body to connect to the course and its concepts (it’s called differentiation in education-lingo), but students have to take the initiative as well!

This idea came across best in the student-led panel, which I thought was a great addition to the conference. The conversation between students and professors that occurred at the conference was valuable because each got a glimpse into the other’s world and crossed generations. Although no definitive conclusions were made about the link between millennial characteristics and classroom changes, the discussion sparked by the conference was one that will undoubtedly affect education in colleges.

I was glad that Melissa, Ashley and I decided to go to the conference. It was a great opportunity to:

 1. Get off campus.

2. Do some outside-of-the-classroom learning about a relevant topic.

 3. Be around and engage in conversations with professionals and students alike about an issue that affects our lives in a big way.

Attending a conference on an issue that is interesting is an experience I would recommend to any and all students!

On Connecting the Dots. . .

28 02 2011

Melissa, left, at Edgar Allen Poe's birthday party. Scroll down to find out more about the Edgar Allen Poe Society, which Melissa co-founded.

B y Melissa Lauretti ’12, English Content Tutor

Where Do My Interests Fit?

“Make sure that you get involved on campus.” During my own college search process, I cannot tell you how many times I heard that phrase, and now, in my own interactions with incoming students, I’ve found myself offering the same advice. Although it seems like these are “standard” words of wisdom, I, for one, can’t imagine what my college experience would have been like if I had not attended events and club meetings and made an effort to explore all of the opportunities available on this campus.

Involvement with on-campus organizations is not only great for networking and relieving academic stress, but your role in these groups can directly enhance your academic performance. You’ll inevitably learn time management skills as you juggle various club meetings, paper deadlines, and study table commitments. Also, through these clubs, you receive opportunities to attend conferences, lectures and other events (I was able to meet Ryan Cabrera at a conference…that was definitely a perk for meJ).  Moreover, you can market the skills that you learn through these positions in the future…what better way to get “real-world” experience that future employers will love while making new friends and having fun?

Once you decide to join a club, undoubtedly the next question is: what club do I join? When determining what clubs to investigate further, you can consider your hobbies, passions, and major.

For example, if you have a management major or you’re interested in contract negotiations and talking with outside vendors, you might enjoy serving in a role that will allow you to plan the events for your club. All organizations on campus plan events, and there is frequently one student who will handle reserving the room, contacting guest speakers and managing logistics.  For instance, in my role on the Student Programming and Events Council, I talk with agents across the country to book performers and events that appear on campus throughout the semester.

Are you interested in graphic design, communications, advertising or marketing? If so, you might enjoy serving as an advertising coordinator or publicity chair for a club. Every organization needs to get the word out about their events, so this is definitely a necessary job and the perfect creative outlet.

Do you enjoy dealing with money or managing a budget? Almost every club has a treasurer, and if you are interested in learning more about the financial and business aspects of running an organization and planning events within a budget, this might be a great position for you!

Of course, you can always become a tutor at the CAE!

Without a doubt, the possibilities are endless. While you can get involved with clubs on campus to hone your current talents, don’t be afraid to join a club so that you can also learn some new skills. Take advantage of the time you have in college to find new hobbies, make new friends and build your future portfolio.

My Experience with Tuesday Experience

23 02 2011

Alyssa, on right

Alyssa Chmura ‘12, English Content Tutor

Now in the second semester of my junior year here at SJC, my schedule is busier than ever. I’m taking 6 classes, serving as Advertising Co-Chair on S.P.E.C. (Student Programming Events Council – we bring all the cool events and performers to campus!), working as a CAE tutor of course, working in Admissions as a Student Ambassador giving occasional tours, working part-time at an off-campus job and somehow finding time for homework, some sort of social life and every once in a while, sleep.

Even just typing that sentence listing everything I have to find time to do makes me cringe. Don’t worry though; this isn’t a blog complaining about not having enough hours in the day! This post is all about what makes my crazy schedule worth it in the end: spending an entire day in the classroom for Tuesday Experience.

On top of my English major, I am also studying to achieve my teacher certification in Elementary Education, which spans grades K-6. SJC’s Education Department has an excellent program for Elementary Education students as a sort of precursor to student teaching called Tuesday Experience. Once a week (bet you can’t guess which day!), we spend a whole day in a West Hartford elementary school classroom observing, assisting and teaching lessons.

Tuesday Experience is a great program to help prepare future teachers for the rigors of student teaching and beyond. Authentic experiences like teaching a lesson to an actual group of students rather than peers pretending to be elementary students again are so valuable. Being in the classroom for a full day is extremely helpful and calming before jumping headfirst into student teaching.

I was placed in a kindergarten class for my Tuesday Experience. I was a little surprised since I have always stressed that I want to teach upper elementary (grades 3-5), but I decided to embrace the challenge of kindergarten. A typical day in the kindergarten class consists of assisting the students with math, observing them at specials like music and gym, making sure they walk quietly through the hallways, singing songs and helping out the classroom teacher in any way necessary.

Some things I have learned so far about kindergarten:

1. The kids NEVER run out of energy. EVER.

2. Kindergarten is a lot of work! There is always learning going on, every second of every day.

3. The kids are absolutely adorable and super smart! I think as adults we underestimate the abilities of children in the classroom, not realizing how eager the students are to learn and how much they can learn even at a young age.

This past week, I taught my first lesson in math on using pattern blocks to introduce the shapes. The students had to solve pattern puzzles that were in the shapes of animals and other fun objects using the pattern blocks. It sounds like a simple lesson, but so much went into planning it! I had to first think of a topic, figure out what curriculum standards to tie the lesson to, think about what I wanted the students to take away from the lesson, plan the activity, gather materials, and practice, practice, practice!

Even though the prospect of teaching my first ever lesson was nerve-wracking, it was such an incredible experience. I loved seeing the students so engaged in and excited about what they were doing. I could tell that they had really learned something too – almost everyone’s hands were in the air to answer my closing questions about the lesson. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to teach a lesson in a real classroom thanks to Tuesday Experience!

I’m enjoying kindergarten so much and have already learned a ton. The students are so great and every week reaffirm my desire to become a teacher. I am so glad that SJC offers the chance to spend quality time in the classroom before student teaching; Tuesday Experience has already improved my confidence in my teaching abilities and given me so many ideas about how my classroom will be managed, all of this before student teaching begins.

 Even though my schedule is crazy busy, I look forward to Tuesday every single week because it is so rewarding, educational and, of course, fun.