agile academic 1.3 Karen Costa

Transcript and Embedded Show Notes

Rebecca Pope-Ruark (RPR): On this episode of the agile academic podcast, I talked to Karen Costa faculty developer and online education champion about how the pandemic is impacting teaching and learning what it means to practice trauma informed pedagogy and how to be a higher educator. 

Hello listeners, welcome to the agile academic, a podcast for women in and around higher education and its first season. I talked with our special guests from all over academia, about a wide range of topics from teaching and research to writing and speaking to career by tally and burnout and everything in between. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Pope.

So I’m very happy to have on the show. My friend, Karen Costa, who does some amazing work and right now doing some great work in trauma informed pedagogy. Um, she has a book out on recording lecture videos successfully. So thank you for being with me today. Karen.

Karen Costa (KC): Thank you. It’s good to be with you because you know, we’ve been missing each other and this was a good reason to finally get us together. So I’m looking forward to just hanging out mostly.

RPR: Yeah. Agreed. Note to listeners. Like now’s a great time to just chat with someone just 20 minutes. Zoom call, just to say hello and have a cup of coffee or something, or record your friend for a podcast. That’s good to start a podcast. Start a podcast. Okay. So Karen, do you want to just tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and the work that you do?

KC: Sure. So, um, a fun thing about me is I’m not sure I’ve ever given the same introduction. So let’s see what I come up with. I work in higher education. I am a higher educator. I’ve been working in higher ed in a variety of capacities since 2002. So for, for quite a while, my focus now is in online pedagogy and trauma aware teaching and faculty development. I also teach, I’ve been teaching since 2006 and teaching online since 2007. So I continue to teach as an adjunct. I teach fully online. I teach college success strategies, type courses, first year experience type courses. So that’s a big part of my work. I, I love my students. I need to be in the classroom in order, I think to do my best job supporting faculty in the work that they do in the classroom. 

So I kind of split my time right now between those, those two big buckets of teaching and faculty development or, or what I, some, I don’t really love that phrase, faculty development all the time. So I sometimes say supporting faculty learners and said, I live in Massachusetts. I like to read you might’ve figured that out. Rebecca can see the books behind me or anyone who’s seen my videos or come to a session. I like to do arts and crafts. Um, and I’m a mom probably worth mentioning, which is, um, my son’s learning online right now. Um, so that, that is, um, part of my work as well. And my joy part of my joy in my work.

RPR: Yes. And that’s important, right? We have to identify those things. And as we were recording, it’s, uh, late October, early November, um, in the middle of the pandemic. So I think identifying joy is, is crucial to keeping us motivated and keeping us moving through these difficult times. And we are also like four days from the election as we’re recording this. So all that fun stuff is happening in the world.

KC: I look forward to when this comes out. Um, and, um, just, I allow myself 15 seconds of optimism per day because that’s just, uh, I just, other than that, I just really, I’m just holding on as I can, um, to getting to getting through every minute. So, um, hopefully we, on the other side of this, um, things.

RPR: Yeah, definitely, totally agree. Scooting back a little bit to what you were saying in your introduction. I loved how you used the term that you’re a higher educator. I’ve never, I’d never really thought about it that way. So I work in higher education. Um, I was a faculty member for years and I always thought of myself as a teacher, but never as a higher educator. What does that term mean for you?

KC: Yeah, the, the word, the word higher in higher education. It does mean something to me. And you know, I, I know we might touch on purpose, the topic of purpose today. I think sometimes I feel like we’ve lost our way a bit in higher ed and I wish we talked more about what are we doing here? What is our, why, what is our purpose as higher educators? What is the word higher mean to us? For me in part it means helping our students to become happier, healthier, more fulfilled people, not just moving them into careers and jobs. Although it’s, I know that my student, many of my students that is a big motivation for them to, to improve their lives and the lives of their families to access greater employment opportunities. So I absolutely believe in that, but I also think that it’s something we could talk more about.

So I, I do, I do like to consider that word higher and its meaning and what it means to me and, you know, it’s, to me it’s about doing better. It’s about aiming to really, I guess the big thing for me is to create a more humane, higher education. That’s what that word means to me to be more humane that’s, you know, informs a lot of my work with the humanizing movement and online learning and the trauma aware teaching piece of things is to create a more humane, higher education where that word higher actually holds some meaning. So that’s, that’s where I am today. Yeah.

RPR: I love that. Cause we, we can talk about purpose, um, a lot, but if it’s not connected to something, right, if it’s not connected to some sort of ideal, some kind of some driving inspirational values, um, that keep us kind of grounded in what it is that we do and why we do it. Yeah. We’re in the middle of the pandemic right now. But even before that higher ed was in some struggles and trying to, trying to find it again and the culture that we have now. So I think we’re trying in higher ed to figure out kind of who we are and what it is that we do for our students. What is the identity of a university? What is the identity of university affiliated folks who work outside of necessarily the traditional, um, faculty role, right? Because we know that that’s a huge portion of our population. 

You mentioned when you talked about being in the teaching online, since 2007, you refer to it as the classroom, you said you love being in the classroom, which I think people don’t might not necessarily consider. So I think that’s a great way to think about it. So how do you consider those online spaces or how do you kind of mediate those spaces? So they feel in classrooms to you?

RPR: Yeah, I can only, I can only laugh because where we sit right now with this movement into the emergency remote teaching, um, there has been this huge backlash, I would say against online learning. There was an article in inside higher ed this week where it w it was presented as if online learning is the cause of, uh, current meth, the current mental health crisis in our students, rather than we, you know, we are learning online during this pandemic, you know, social upheaval, everything going on with the election, but, you know, it’s online learning’s fault rather than recognizing that because of online learning, we’ve been able to provide this continuity of instruction for folks we’ve been able to still see one another and learn together. It was presented as, you know, the cause the cause of our issues, rather than something that’s been helping us to get through it.

And, you know, just the, the clickbait articles we’ve seen way too many of them about online learning stinks yet. You know, we have tons of data now that went on. Well, I always that’s, that’s the caveat when done well, online learning is incredibly effective. Um, it’s not always done well. Um, so let’s do a better job at it. But for me, the, the online classroom is a very rich and connected environment. That is a huge part of my work. So I, I, with my students all the time, uh, we might not be in the same place, you know, at the same time, but I am with my students five days a week. I am emailing with them. I am chatting with them in discussions. I am making videos with them. And in some cases, yes, I am spending time synchronously in zoom. I’ve been doing that for years, but that is, as I like to say, the, the ketchup not the meat.

That is a little, a little dash of synchronous added into my primarily synchronous courses, but it apps it. Absolutely. I couldn’t think of it as anything else than a classroom. And I feel as connected, if not, sometimes more connected to my students online, then I did, I did teach for, I think, five or six years in whatever we’re calling it. Now, the fit, sometimes I’m calling it the physical brick and mortar, whatever it’s frustrating when people who haven’t been given the appropriate support and who don’t really understand online learning, criticize and trash it and blame it for everything. So, you know, the best I can do is stay the course, you know, to do my best with my students and to, you know, in the faculty development work that I do, I will say something I’ve noticed is that in addition to the specific information that, that I share with faculty about great online teaching, the one thing I hear from them the most is they’ll say to me that the, you know, they learn the most from seeing me do it.

They learn the most from seeing me model, how to create a humanizing learning environment, how to be caring, how to be, you know, sometimes we use the phrase, a warm demander, right? So balancing challenge and flexibility and supporting them in that space. They learned by seeing me do it, they didn’t realize that was something that could be done online. So I just, you know, I stay the course. Um, I challenged those, those critics when I can, and I continue to do the best work that I can with students and faculty, but, you know, there’s, there’s a battle going on there and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.

RPR: Right. And I think a lot of, a lot of those folks who write those articles, you know, you said they haven’t had the training, but I think they, a lot of them refuse the training or assume that they don’t need it, that they, that everyone else has a problem. And not them knowing how to do something. So yeah, you’re not going to do it very well if you’re not taking advantage of opportunities to learn and to be open to the possibilities that there are certain things that work very, very well online. And there are certain things that work well face-to-face, but there are also things that don’t work well face-to-face there are things that we do badly in a face-to-face classroom, just like we might do badly or do great in, in an online.

KC: Yeah. You know, my, my take on that is that I think, you know, we, I think we have somewhat of a, I don’t want to use the word crisis cause we, we have too many crises going on, but there there’s a real problem in the faculty development world. I think in that we put forth, I mean, I, I have been in so many death by PowerPoint presentations where I was told how to teach, where I had no voice where I had no agency and where someone was just reading slides at me. And I have reached, I reached the, in those where I say, I’m not going, I’m not going to that. You know, if I have any, if I have any choice in the matter, I’m not going to go to that. So, you know, I think one of the things that we can do is think about creating conditions, where people are eager and do look forward to learning more about their teaching.

And I think we have to get away. We have this deficit based model where we tell people how to teach. Well, that feels like crap, no one wants to do it. So, you know, the, the, the, the faculty development programs and institutions that I’m involved with are very much strengths-based. They are, you know, celebrating what faculty are already doing well and helping them to build on that. They are interactive and engaging. Um, they treat faculty as, as professionals and respect their, their professional experience and respect their humanity. And I, in my experience, faculty are, are hungry for that. And they are looking for more of that. They are looking for spaces where they can show up as real people, not as, you know, being told, being told how to fix their teaching. Cause I mean, I’ve been told how to fix my teaching and it is, uh, it is a crappy, crappy feeling.

So I think we if we want to get better at online faculty development, we have to really think about getting away from that deficit based model and making faculty development fun. And, you know, the other piece is the time, the time, right? If we’re going to add things to people’s plates, if we’re going to say, Hey, guess what you need to do now, you need to learn how to teach online. That’s a huge endeavor. What are we take? Is that a course release? You know, is there a stipend, like how are we giving people time to do this? That said, I’ve worked with probably several hundred faculty in the past six months who didn’t have any time freed up in their schedules and who just use their nights and weekends to come and learn about online learning. So faculty are, are incredibly dedicated, and I think they’re hungry for this, but I think we’ve got to think about how we’re delivering it and the models that we’re seeing.

RPR: I found that, um, in April and over the summer, that, and I think one of the things that was unique about the current situation that we found ourselves in and the move to emergency remote teaching was that suddenly everyone had a teaching problem, right. For the most part, because it’s a very small population who are very skilled at working at teaching online classes, developing and teaching online classes, and they have amazing expertise. But for most of us, you know, it might be a discussion board or something like that. And, you know, we’re not even that comfortable with our LMS. So how do we, how do we do that kind of work? But it’s, you know, we had so many faculty members that we hadn’t seen before coming to programming, whether it was from our center for teaching and learning, or from professional education in our, at our Institute, there were people coming out of the woodwork, people who really wanted to be able to say, I don’t know what’s going on, but I feel comfortable and vulnerable enough to say that because you don’t know what’s going on either.

KC: You know, and the good news about that, here’s some good news. Cause I feel like I haven’t shared any good news. So let me share some good news. I, one thing I’ve heard from faculty who were, who were new to online and who, who did some training or got some support who position themselves as faculty learners. And, um, they use these strategies in their classrooms and they started teaching online. Whether, you know, they call it emergency remoter online or whatever. We’re calling things. They’re now saying to me, I am forever changed by this. So if I, whatever happens in the future, if I do go back to a physical brick and mortar classroom, I’m going to be using these strategies and I’m going to be such a better teacher because I’m going to be creating more engagement. I’m going to be using more technology to support my pedagogy.

I’m going to be more, you know, a huge thing I’m hearing is that professors who might otherwise have been more rigid around things like deadlines and expectations are opening up to the reality that we are complex human beings that experienced stress and trauma, and they are introducing flexibility to balance out challenge and that’s happening in spaces that weren’t, we weren’t seeing before. So the good news is I think when we, you know, my hope is that we get on the other side of this pandemic and that folks can go back to the physical classroom that we’re going to see that there’s been a real transformation in teaching in higher ed.

RPR: That’s so powerful to think about. And it sounds like those folks who are coming to you, their, their kind of purpose or the driver for the way they teach has shifted. They’ve realized that there are different ways that they can engage with their students. And they see the value in that. Now maybe they see their students learning differently, learning quote, unquote, better, whatever that looks like in these different environments. So if you had a crystal ball and you were happy with the way things turned out in a couple of years, what would, what would a traditional or, or a well, a traditional at that moment in the future kind of course look like?

KC: You know, I get myself in trouble. I, I think we got to really take a hard look at the reliance on lecture. And I really want to quickly say that I’m not saying that we are to eliminate it, but I do hear stories about three hour lectures, which are our brains, just do not learn that way. They just do not learn that way. So when I, when I hear folks who are faculty come to me, who rely on lectures, I understand that. And I, I also understand that, trying to get someone to shift out of that and to really weave in a lot of active learning during a pandemic when they themselves are experiencing stress and trauma is, is a lot to ask. So I do nudge people to think about, can you, can you break up your lectures? Can you, can you lecture for 10 minutes and then do a quick formative assessment?

And you know, if you’re in zoom in the chat, if you’re in a classroom, you can pause and do a quick activity. So I really hope that we see less lecture and more of getting students to do and talk and create and less of the Sage on the stage, more of the guide on the side, or sometimes I say the Sage on the side, because I think faculty expertise is important, but more of that facilitator model and less of the lecture or model, you know, it’s, it’s wild to me, there’s a lot of people in higher ed whose title is lecturer like that. Every time I see it, I like it trips me out. I’m like, Oh, okay. But, but what we know about how people learn is that that’s not, that’s not how people learn, but that’s their job title. I would love to see more.

Um, I have a crystal ball, right? Or like a, I have a magic wand or something. So, um, I’m going to change that, those titles to like learning facilitator or a facilitator of learning experiences or creative Sage on the side, I’m going to get rid of that, that title and have more active learning, boredom in the classroom is something that is, uh, or any learning experiences really excruciating to me. And I, I love to learn. So I love when I’m engaged and I can be active and I can contribute and I can share my voice. And for me to be, to sit and be lectured at is just the worst thing. So I, I don’t want it for myself and I, I don’t think it works for our students. So I, I hope we get away from that.

RPR: And if mean, if you think about the word professor too, now I stand up there and profess things that doesn’t,

KC: I haven’t thought about that before. So thank you for giving me something else to be upset about

RPR: Kind of like develop our own institution. Right. We need to know all of the things that we did at one time. So I think about it when we start that.

KC: No, that’s a great point, right? I’ve never, I’ve never thought about that. So now that will bother me again.

RPR: Sometimes when people ask me what I do and, and when I was a professor or you say you’re a professor, and then you kind of think about it. I’m like, well, I don’t really profess, right? I’m a very active teacher. I, you know, my students are very engaged and doing large projects and working for communities partners. So I don’t really profess anything. And that would be antithetical to everything that I believe in. So how do we make a title, like learning facilitator have the same power. So thinking about traditional lecture versus other ways of doing active learning, let’s talk about your book (99 Tips for Creating Simple and Sustainable Educational Videos) a little bit and how that maybe helps the faculty that you work with. Think about those things differently. So tell us about it.

KC: Sure. Yeah. So, so the book came from this model that I created that I’d never thought of as a model, uh, which is to create humanizing videos and videos that have a low, uh, a, you know, very, I’m very clear about this low production value there. I sometimes use the phrase, not fancy anti fancy, um, nothing fancy about any videos that I create for my learners. I don’t use my videos for lecture, and I don’t really talk a lot about that in the book. I use my videos primarily to humanize the online learning experience and to build connections and relationships with my learners to as Dr. Laura, Ron Don would say to validate my learners. So a common thread of videos is you can do this and I’m going to help you. And I also, in, in videos, I use videos to help students manage their executive function skills and plan their learning and the online learning environment.

So that’s a, and that’s a big thing we’re seeing now is that students are really struggling with that shift from the more structured physical environment to what is sometimes less structured in terms of how to plan your time, if you have more flexibility in the online learning environment. So I do a lot of what I call video tutorials. So explaining to them how to post to a discussion, rather than assuming that they know how to do that and how to respond to peers in a discussion, rather than assuming they know how to do that, how to use a rubric rather than assuming they know how to do that. So I think that’s, we’re thinking about active learning and engagement of students. We have to recognize, I think we carry a lot of assumptions about what students already know. So a big part of my teaching and kind of overlaps with my, my background or my work in yoga is the idea of keeping a beginner’s mind.

So if we assume that learners know how to do all these things, and we just tell them they need to do it, we’re going to have, they’re going to immediately disengage because some, some the rare student who’s maybe has, has built those skills or maybe have support in other places that rare, student’s going to say, well, you didn’t explain this. How am I going to do it? But I think most students, particularly perhaps our new traditional students or first generation students are going to say, I don’t know how to do this. There must be something wrong with me. I don’t want to expose myself as not belonging here. So I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and they’re either not going to do it, or they’re not going to do it as well as they could. And you’re not actually measuring their, their learning. You’re measuring their ability to understand how the discussion board works. So I think it’s really important. One of the ways we can use videos is to sort of demystify the higher education environment to D to explain what a syllabus is, right. And to bring down some of those barriers, to learning that our students experience to help them then engage with the course content and

RPR: To Karen’s book in the show notes. So you’ll have access to wonderful videos for your courses as well. She has excellent advice in that book. I have it on my Kindle and I just kind of float through the pages when I need something. And it’s just always great. 

KC: Well, that was my hope. You know, I, um, attention is, is something that is, is very interesting to me. And it’s, it’s challenging to me. And I know that I start and stop. You know, a lot of the books behind me, um, are brilliance, but I just are written in such a way that I’m not always able to engage with them. So I wanted to write a book with these short tips that somebody could pick it up on their, you know, five minute coffee break and read something and have this nugget that they could immediately use in their teaching. Even if they didn’t pick it up again for another week, that it would feel like they have accomplished something, you know, something that was not a huge, I know faculty are so busy, so not a huge time ask it. Doesn’t take a lot of concentration or attention when our, when our brains are going in a million directions and give them something meaningful to think about for them and for their stuff.

RPR: I still believe in that when writing books as well, like I, as a, as a user of books and a lover of books, like I do want to get something out of them when I’m, especially when I’m thinking faculty development or career development, things like that. I want to be able to do something quickly. And that’s the way I wrote my first book, agile faculty, that the table of contents is very in depth because I want you to just be able to hop to these different activities. And I’m thinking about that now, as I’m ready to burnout book, the faculty burnout books, like where, where can folks just jump into someone else’s narrative and feel validated that they’re not alone? Where can they jump to find some reflection, questions, or reflection activity, the books that are the most useful, don’t always have to have this in-depth literature review that, that tries to justify itself all the time.

Right? And I think if you are interested in writing some sort of books for faculty, or for folks in higher education, think about how you can do that. It doesn’t have to have a traditional structure that a research book might have, right? It doesn’t have to have a structure that a textbook even has, but what are some ways that people can drop in and out of the text and get the practical knowledge or the practical skills that they want to get out of it, those are extremely valuable. And we, I think we all have something that we’re good at in that sense that others might, might benefit from. And whether that’s in a book format or even a blog or something, we, we can be sharing those things, but there’s so much that we’re learning right now that we can be kind of keeping track of and sharing and finding ways to get that knowledge across quickly. Um, I don’t know what that would look like, but it would be kind of a really interesting project to, to harness all of that. I think

KC: I love that. I, you know, I’ve thought about doing things like workbooks and that are more hands-on and active rather than a traditional book. So I hope people will try new things and think about how to writing a traditional book is one of many ways to, to engage with, with readers and with learners. So I hope people will explore new options.

RPR: And I think people need to make sure that they know how valuable those kinds of books are. That not everything is best covered in, in a book of that traditional format that it’s. So there’s so much that we can just dig into that, especially from a faculty development lens, especially that we can dig into that we can talk about that we can share strategies on. So I want to switch a switch a little bit over. So, you know, in the podcast, I like to think about kind of the four pillars that I have of vital faculty life and career. And those are purpose, compassion, connection, and balance. And one of the words that you’ve said over and over again, or variations of the words that you’ve said over and over again, are humane and humanity and humanizing. Those seem to me in the way you’re using them very much about the purpose for what you do and for what faculty, what you hope faculty will do as well as a compassionate angle, right? Compassion for our students and for each other, as we, as we go through these times together,

KC: Purpose is fascinating to me. I have spent many hours down the purpose rabbit hole. Um, there’s a lot of interesting research on, um, the purpose in life and its impact on our health and wellbeing and the importance of having a clear purpose in life. Not something I think we talk enough about in higher education. Um, so per and, and, you know, on a personal level, it’s, it’s something I think about probably almost constantly, um, you know, what am I doing? Why am I here? What, what is the purpose behind this work? And for me, you know, if I, if I had to write it in a sentence, it, this work in higher education, I would probably say it’s to create a more humane, higher education. And that in many ways, for me, I think that has kind of zoned me in more on working with faculty in that I have, I used to be what I call a student success evangelist.

I actually had my title was director of student success at one point. And I really believed that our job as educators was to sacrifice ourselves, to do whatever we had to do in order to, to make sure students could succeed, you know, sacrifice our time, sacrifice our health, sacrifice, our wellbeing, do whatever we had to do to make sure students would succeed. I got burned out in doing that. It’s probably not as strong. It doesn’t work and left that role left working full-time as, as admin and ended up over many years, ended up where I am now, which is, is teaching as an adjunct and working with faculty. And what I’ve come to realize over the years is that if we want faculty to be able to care for students in these classrooms, where we have learners who are struggling with mental health issues, who are new to the college learning environment, who need to be validated as college learners to be told that they belong, you know, and on and on, if we want faculty to do all those things.

What I, what I realized is that we were kind of treating faculty as a means to an end. It was like, you need to do all these things. We, we don’t care about you, but we want you to care about your students and that doesn’t work. So a culture of care, I think by definition means that everybody is cared for in that environment. And that’s, you know, faculty, students, admin staff, everybody is cared for. So I see that happen a lot. I see faculty treated as a means to an end and as if they’re, they are meant to sacrifice themselves for students. And I think a big part of my work is pushing back on that and just saying over and over, if we want to care, if we want faculty to care for students, then we have to care for faculty. And to me, that’s, that’s kind of like the specific place in this work that I can make higher ed more humane, because I feel like if we do a better job at taking care of faculty, then it will be good for faculty. It will be good for students. It will be good for institutions. It will be good for administrators that will be good for communities and so on and so forth. So that, that is kind of where I’ve narrowed my purpose. Believe it or not, I kind of know what I’m doing. Um, it does not always look like it. That is, that is PR you know, that is my primary focus. And I think my purpose here in this space

RPR: And you’re right, it is sometimes paradoxical that faculty development is the ultimate focus is the student, right? Yeah. Which is great, but we need a mix. We, and we talk, we talked so much now about the student mental health crisis. Yes. But, you know, in dealing with that and working with our students on that, especially when we’re not trained counselors or trained coaches, right. That’s going to lead to some secondary trauma for faculty. How do we, how do we support that? How do we take care of ourselves? So as not to take on a student’s trauma, those are important things that we need to think about. And we need to be offering programs as well through our institutions or through consulting and coaching externally. So that faculty have access to those things. Okay.

KC: It’s big, it’s a really big challenge. And it’s not a matter of offering faculty, a 30 minute meditation workshop. It’s just, that’s not, it it’s about workload conversations. And really an anti-racism looking at the differing impacts of the challenges that faculty face for faculty of color and faculty, women of color who are doing, we have data and research on this, a ton more mentoring often in hostile work environments and, and those, the challenges that they face. So this is it’s big, you know, and I, one of the things I kind of get frustrated by sometimes is like, it’s, it’s not the 30 minute meditation workshop. And I, I think meditation is great, but it’s kind of like, uh, the idea that self-care is like, if you take a bath once a week, you, you know, which is taking baths is wonderful, but, um, self-care is, is sometimes about speaking truth to power and doing the difficult work of healing. Like self-care is much more complex than that. So we’ve got a lot of work to do in addressing some of these challenges, but I do believe it will, you know, I’m going to keep plugging away at it. Ultimately, I think it benefits everybody.

RPR: And I think that’s definitely a piece of what I’m trying to do with the burnout work is to, to get those terms out there to normalize it and not in a way that it’s okay to have burnout, but that other people have burnout, right. That the culture can breed it. If we don’t take care of each other. And we don’t, we aren’t paying attention to what’s happening to us physically and emotionally, as we’re working with our students and that it, it happens, right. There’s nothing that you have done wrong. You have, you’re not a weak person. It just, it happens sometimes. And sometimes it’s, it’s almost always some combination of pull of culture and kind of motivations, I think. And how do we, how do we temper some of those motivations, but also think about self-care as not a selfish concept, that it’s not selfish to take time for yourself to have a hobby or a pastime that really does change your perspective. Right. That you’re not always thinking, Oh, I should be writing, right. If I could share a word, Oh, if I could strike, “I should be writing” from like everyone’s vocabulary forever and ever, that would probably be my biggest contribution to the world. I think I would strike the word. 

KC: “Should” I really try? It’s a curse word to me. I try not to use it. Someone presented it to me like don’t should on me. And it sounds like the other sh word. And I, it changed my life. And I, I try, I really, really try not to use it for myself or for others. I often substitute could. Um, and I find that makes a big difference. Um, but what I was going to say to you, I think, I think your work and, you know, I’m a huge fan of your work and excited for your book is so important in that sometimes something I’ve experienced when talking about trauma and stress, I think there are, there are folks who believe that only doctors should talk about that, or only psychiatrists should talk about that. And I think doctors and psychiatrists are fantastic and they should be part of this conversation, but I really believe that every, every human being should know what stresses should be taught about the physiology of stress should be taught about burnout.

I attended a workshop with you last week where you shared, I think it was the World Health Organization, definition of burnout. Why, why is that not something we’re teaching folks? Right. So I, part of my mission with trauma or a teaching is to normalize some of this, to get definitions out, to bring people’s self-awareness and to recognize, you know, we’ve got to be partners in this with, with the medical model, and we’ve got to educate ourselves about what’s going on inside of our own bodies and higher ed is not who. Yeah, I mean, in high, one of the challenges in higher ed is that we don’t, we don’t have bodies, right? We are just intellects and emotions are true. You know, I get this from my students all the time. Someone has told them they should leave their emotions at the door and I’m always like, Whoa, Hey, let’s talk about that. Um, that’s your emotions, aren’t shoes. You can’t actually leave your emotions at the door, but that is a huge message, I think in higher education that we are supposed to, to somehow detach from our emotions and, and set them outside of the office or set up outside of the lecture hall or the classroom. So, um, yeah, talking about trauma and stress and burnout, I think challenges that status quo in a really important way.

RPR: And there are topics that people don’t want to talk about, right? Because we have between that, we are floating intellects. And if something’s going on with our bodies, it’s surely it’s because the body is failing us. Not because our brain is, is taking, is taking too much from our bodies that we haven’t kind of figured that out yet. So I, I agree. And I think people should be looking for the work that does make them uncomfortable. The, the texts that make them uncomfortable. My burnout book is not going to be a comfortable read. It’s not so, but it needs to be uncomfortable because we need to be unsettled to talk about this. I think people, I think everyone should read Sarah Rose Cavanaugh’s book about emotion in the classroom (The Spark of Learning). So the spark of everyone that we should have, we should be doing faculty development around those topics, because it’s not just students’ emotions.

It’s not just students mental health that walk into that classroom. And whether that’s a physical classroom or an online space, we bring our whole selves. It is a human activity. And in some ways, the more we lecture, the more we de-humanize it, I think because we’re not necessarily thinking about what is going to be fulfilling or what is going to be I’m clearly, I’ve been reading Josh Eyler’s book (How Humans Learn) for a while now what’s new and what’s, what’s going to help students really internalize what they’re learning the idea of learning something rather than learning about something, because he said it.

KC: Yeah. And I will say on a, another hopeful note that one of the weird unanticipated impacts of the pandemic is that like I’ve been doing the trauma awareness work really on multiple levels for, since I started in this, in this career. And, but in the, the level of interest I’ve seen since March has gone through the roof, like I can’t, I can’t keep up with it. And I, I have friends who are doing that work. So like, I sometimes are shuttling stuff over to them. Cause I’m just one person, right? People want, people want to bring this work to campus. They recognize, Oh, we need to get this to faculty. So because it, because it was this, this experience, what we’re going through is just so widespread and terrible. The good news is that it has opened up this conversation. So again, I do feel hopeful that when we are on the other side of this, that knock on wood, that there will be a greater awareness of trauma in the classroom.

And to that point that I always say my number one recommendation for being a trauma where a teacher is to, to deal with your own stuff and to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you and to do your own work and to do your own healing. It’s really difficult to be a trauma aware teacher, if you haven’t done that. And you know, that’ll look different differently to different folks, but I’m learning to take care of yourself. Sometimes for some of us at a very fundamental level of just, you know, this was something I’ve I’ve had to learn is just to, to throughout the day say, w like, what do I need right now? Like, what do I need to take care of myself? Like when I learned that probably when I was like 35, that was a foreign concept. Like I had not been taught how to do that.

So it’s really, if you’re not doing that, if you’re not taking care of yourself at that fundamental level, it’s really, you know, our students are bringing so many needs into the classroom. It’s really, really difficult to, to meet them there and to, to teach them with all those needs in a, in a meaningful way. I think. So if you’re looking for a place to start for folks who are listening, any work that you can do on yourself in that area, whether it’s reading Rebecca’s book, um, or some of the things I recommend in my workshops, it will benefit both you and your students.

RPR: How did you learn to do this kind of work? The trauma informed work? Was there therapy now, um, what made you feel comfortable to be able to do this and to help other people?

KC: So I have, I’ve long been fascinated by the brain and curious about the brain, but not in the context of like nothing wrong with amp costs. I work with a lot of nursing faculty. So I want to be clear about that, but sort of that applied physiology piece of things, um, my own journey of learning, what stress is, learning, how to take care of myself again at often very fundamental levels and navigating that personally and professionally, and then starting to study trauma on my own so that I could take care of myself, led me to almost immediately, because I always think of things in terms of higher education, start to wonder about, Oh, crap, how’s this showing up in our classrooms, whether for our faculty and for our students. So I don’t remember early on in my teaching, I got exposed to the work of Eric Jensen and Eric Jenson is a little controversial, but he, I think he coined the phrase brain-based teaching, which will send some people through the roof.

So I’m sorry if that happens. He does make some generalizations about like left brain, right. Brain stuff. So, and, and further some neuro myths, but he’s got also got a lot of really engaging content. And that was where, when I first started teaching w whatever, 2006, I think I said, I found his work and it helped me to create a more engaging classroom. So I was like, what else is going on in the brain that I need to learn about? So I started reading everything that I could on, on brains and learning. And very quickly you kind of run into the stress and trauma literature, because we know that those have a huge impact on, on teaching and learning. And then from there, I was, you know, infusing that into my work for a long time and using it with my, with faculty that I worked with for a long time.

And then I think, um, I don’t know, I’m not gonna even try to name dates, but at some point I went and got my recent certificate, um, at Drexel in neuroscience learning and online instruction. And then I’ve since done an, uh, two additional trauma certifications at Florida State University and one at the University of Buffalo. So I know I loved, I love taking classes, my brain likes structure. So even though, you know, I’ve been doing it for a while and some of it was review, it was, it was nice to do it within, within a structure, um, as well. So that kind of coincided with 2020 when everyone suddenly wanted to learn more about trauma in the classroom. So I’ve kind of taken that and run with it. And, um, I’m just kind of following the flow here and there’s, there’s an interest in it and there’s a need for it. And it’s something that fascinates me and helps me in my teaching. So I’ve continued to refine that and, and reach, try to reach more people as many as I can to share that work. 

RPR: And I, this is kind of a side note, but I love the certification kind of aspect of your training education. I think there are so many times where I just sit down and think I should go get a master’s degree in this, and I don’t need another master’s degree. I don’t need to write a thesis. I’m good with that, but I want some depth on some specific topics or wants to be able to support faculty and others in, in different ways. So what recommendations would you have for, for folks who are interested in possibly learning more in depth about a topic or trauma informed or anti-racist pedagogies? How do we look for that stuff?

KC: Yeah. I love certifications too. Um,  the Drexel one I did was for core three courses, I should say. So that was, and the last one was kind of overlap with the pandemic. So that was really challenging and intense. Um, but I think I finished it within like a year and a half, but it was, you know, it was traditional online courses, but the Florida State one is, is I did level one and level two, uh, professional certification and trauma and resilience, and it’s fully self-paced, which I love because it’s like, you’re okay, it’s Saturday. And I’m, I do feel like kind of sitting down and learning something today. So I’m going to sit down with my coffee from nine to 12, and I’m going to go through, actually, I don’t, I actually encourage people don’t do more than like an hour at a time of trauma stuff.

So I shouldn’t have said that cause you can get overwhelmed by, by things like that. But, um, sit down on a Saturday morning and go through chapter one of the training, and then maybe two weeks, you have two weeks that are just insane. Right? So two weeks later I’m going to come back and I’m going to do chapter two. I was actually thinking about this last night that I kind of missed that. And I was, I don’t want to do a training that has specific times where I have to be there because sometimes that time I’m not feeling like I’m not feeling it. So I love self-paced online trainings that people can do when it works for them and when they’re ready to learn. So I would absolutely recommend that. I, I don’t know what’s coming. I don’t know what’s coming. Um, but I’ve been thinking about this trauma, the trauma or teaching content and how to get it out to people, you know, to go back to our conversation about books and, and this and that.

KC: So I don’t know, I’ve thought about doing a teachable course. I’ve thought about doing an audio based course. I’ve thought about a train, the trainer model. I thought about different things with that because the 60 minute or 90 minute workshop is kind of scratching the surface of that work. I thought about expanding my YouTube channel to do it, to reach more people. Um, you know, videos are something people can do at their own pace and own time. So I don’t know. So if people are interested in that or have ideas, let me know. But, um, I would say those, the, the Florida State is, is general trauma and resilience research and literature. It’s not specific to educators or higher educators of the classroom. Um, it’s a great foundation. Um, and I would definitely recommend that, but we, we do need, um, there’s a, there’s, there’s a gap in, in this content and we need more people doing this work and, um, you know, thinking about how to get it out there and, uh, and do that in a way that I’m not, you know, overwhelmed as well. So stay tuned, I guess, is my short answer.

RPR: I will definitely have your contact information in the show notes. So people will be able to find you and reach out if they’re interested in that. Awesome. Thank you. As we’re wrapping up, that was our last question. I just like to ask one more thing and that would be, if you could give one piece of advice to all women in our associated with higher ed, what would that piece of advice be?

KC: Well, as, as a rule, I try not to give advice, um, unless it’s asked for. So, um, I will say, uh, something I, something that comes to mind today in this moment that I hear from a lot of women is, and folks might disagree with me, but that’s, that’s the norm. A piece of advice is to reconsider imposter syndrome as internalized patriarchy. And I, I hear a lot of women talking about imposter syndrome and I think, uh, I don’t love that phrase. I think it puts blame on the individual. Um, it’s, I feel like it’s deficit based and I just don’t feel like it empowers women. So I, something that has been helpful to me. So I wouldn’t give anybody advice, but I would say something that’s been helpful to me is to re reframe that and to say, Oh, well, you know, what, guess what, when every day of your life, you know, you’ve been told to, um, be quiet and to not rock the boat and to, you know, follow these rules that have been set for women.

And then you step outside of that, it’s going to be excruciating. It’s going to be really uncomfortable. It’s going to create fear or terror or anxiety. Um, and I think renaming that from imposter syndrome to internalize patriarchy helps me to say, Oh, okay, then I’m just, I’m just going to have to move through this. Um, and my hope is that I want to see more women publishing. I want to see more women, you know, moving into the role of the president and higher ed leadership. And I w I really want to see more women in the position of editor at our higher ed trade publications and our academic publishers. I really, really want to see that because there there’s a lot of power held in that space and there are gatekeepers in place. And I really want to see more women in those spaces, which will lead to more women, getting their writing, publish and new ideas and creativity for the, these immense challenges that we face.

So I hope that that is helpful to someone to rename that imposter syndrome as I have done, and that it empowers them to kind of call it what it is, and to use that, to motivate them, to, to put their voice out into the world. 

RPR: Thank you for that wisdom, Karen, as we wrap up. So thank you for joining me today. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you, and we’ll talk against you that hour just went by as promise. I think we knew this was going to happen in one second in my brain. So it was great to talk to you too.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the agile academic podcast for women in higher ed, to make sure you don’t miss an episode. Follow the show on Apple and Google podcasting apps and bookmark the show page where you’ll find show notes and a transcript with each episode, you’ll find the show at Rebecca Pope If you’d like to recommend someone to interview, please just complete the contact form at the bottom of the page, take care and stay well.

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