It’s been a year. A long year. A year of watching my daughter turn 1 year old and start running around the house and shaking a finger at me while lecturing me in words only she understands. A year of political division that has been infuriating. And a year of so, so much more.
To even attempt to summarize everything my 2018 entailed would be futile. I can’t even begin to remember everything. Instead, I feel it is most pertinent to look back at my first semester at Sterling College. After all, it was a dream come true to be able to teach full time at the college level. It was the reason I completed my second master’s degree. It is the career trajectory I have aimed for since I started teaching.
The Fall 2018 semester was eventful. I throughly enjoyed teaching a few writing and reporting classes, and sharing web design with students was fun too. I hope the students got something out of my classes, and I assure you I learned a lot too.
For example, I learned the value of a solid syllabus. I’ve never had to come up with syllabi (syllabuses) before, and I was worried about making the class schedules for my courses because I feared it would eliminate my ability to be reactive to what has happening with my students and in the media world. However, I have learned that isn’t the case. I can still be flexible in my teaching, and a syllabus helps me be more organized. Making those documents forced me to really look ahead and see the big picture of what my goals for each course was. I found them fun to craft.
I also learned how the high school students I was used to working with aren’t that different from the college students I got to work with. They all go through similar issues, come into a class with similar levels of knowledge and skill, and often come up with the same excuses for shortcomings, even if they are super ridiculous.
This taught me a lot, though. I showed me how I want to mold and grow my courses. I now know at least some of the pitfalls I need to be planning ahead for, and I know where I can and cannot bend. In fact, even before the semester was over, I started to make notes about things I plan to change for the spring semester courses, especially those courses I offer ever semester (my lab courses). This is important to me because I don’t want to ever just be comfortable. I want to continually adapt and alter my courses to ensure I am always offering a valuable and impactful class.
Outside of the classroom and teaching, which I love, I was also blessed to be able to work with great colleagues within my department. They make the work even more fun, especially Ryan Corwin. He and I office next to each other and teach all of the media courses offered in our department. It has been incredible to be able to collaborate with someone that understands the subject matter I teach. After all, at the high school level, I was always a one-man show. Of course, I always owe him a sincere debt of gratitude because he is my mentor and has helped me navigate the college and the courses. He has a lot of expertise in this area, and it helps that he has taught all the classes before.
Oh, and I have mentioned my time as a high school educator a few times at this point. By reading this, it would be easy to assume I am no longer teaching at that level. However, that isn’t completely true. I have been lucky enough to also still be teaching journalism courses at Sterling High School. My students continue to produce a monthly magazine and the yearbook. This is a joy to me because my seniors this year have, for the most part, been with me for four years. It is an honor to get to continue to work with them, and I look forward to seeing them finish the year, which includes competing in our annual contests. I will be sure to share our results in that arena when that time comes.
Now, I could go on about my experiences during this semester, but that’s the past. I want to look forward to the future, and spare you too much more of my babbling because I’m positive this isn’t reading as my most inspired bit of writing.
This semester at Sterling College, I will get to teach a few more topical classes in addition to my labs. I view them as more standalone types of subjects instead of the types of writing and reporting classes that build from one to the next. I think they are going to be a lot of fun.
Of course, Spring 2019 doesn’t start until Jan. 24, so I’m currently in the process of getting everything planned and organized for those classes. Because I’m such a nerd, the planning is actually quite fun.
I should be teaching an interterm course right now, but since I’m a new faculty member, I don’t have to this year. Next year I will get a taste of the condenses madness that is interterm.
Also, I’m looking forward to seeing this site grow in the coming year. I’m not big on resolutions because I feel like they only set people up to feel guilty if they come up short due to the entire concept of a resolution. However, I am in favor of setting goals, and one of my goals is to post to this website at least once per week. It will be challenging, but I need to work on writing more. I want to model to my students that such work can be done.
And, as you may have noticed, this site has taken on a new approach in a way. At the start of Fall 2018, I had two sites. This site and www.profvogts.com. The goal of that other site was to be a repository of course-related assignments and resources. However, since Sterling College does have a learning management system, I didn’t really need to have my own. I could just use what was available, and that made a lot more sense since the students were used to using it. Not to mention the fact that I felt my attention was too divided. I wasn’t giving either site the attention it deserved. So in discussing the the matter with my lovely wife, Kendall Vogts, I realized I was trying to lead two separate lives. I had this site that was basically everything expect my teacher life, and I had a more education focused site. But who am I? I am a journalism educator. That is who I am at the end of the day. Journalism is primarily what I write about even on this blog. I also am an author and an entrepreneur, but my primary persona is as a journalism educator. Why have two sites?
The answer was I shouldn’t.
So over the past month or two, I slowly began consolidating everything into this site. I updated the website header to reflect this new focus, altered the navigation to put the emphasis where it should be, and pointed www.profvogts.com at this site.
Now, I have one site to share with the world. It has numerous resources for my students, it still has information regarding my life’s other aspects, and it is my primary writing platform.
I’m personally excited about this. I like the idea of simplifying things in this way. I still normally prefer to keep the streams separate in many ways, but having too many portals on the web has been something that has concerned me for some time because I feared the overall quality was dipping due to the efforts of keeping all the plates spinning at the same time. Now I feel I’ve taken a big step toward repairing that fractured attention. And the timing works well since I was already in a state of flux do to shifting away from being a full-time high school teacher to being a full-time professor.
I still will maintain two Twitter feeds though. My more personal feed (@toddvogts) and my class-orientated feed (@profvogts). This decision was made for more logistical reasons. I will continue to use my personal account as I have, but @profvogts will be used for in-class exercises, assignments and announcements. I will treat it primarily as a message board to let students know what is going on. I feel they are more likely to follow that account and see messages regarding classes than they are to check their email. But, because of this, I don’t want to flood their feeds with my other postings. I want to keep it focuses so when they see @profvogts pop up on their timelines they know it is something important they need to pay attention to right away.
Part of this transition also included converting all of my class assignments and syllabi (syllabuses) to Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word. Starting with Spring 2019, I will be exclusively using Google Docs and will eventually go back and convert my past documents as well.
That’s simple. I found the syllabus has to change from time to time, whether it is to accommodate the need to reteach or makeup for a weather-related class cancellation. By providing the syllabus via Google Docs, the students will be able to see the updates as soon as I make them. I will still provide updated PDFs via the LMS, but students can now always come to this site and see the most up-to-date information.
I have more ideas and endeavors percolating, but currently, these are what are at the front of my mind. As more things come up, I will be sure to share them on here. After all, that will help me achieve my goal of posting weekly, right?
Overall, 2018 was a good year, but I’m super excited for 2019. I look forward to growing and molding my classes, improving myself as an educator (I’m actively looking at doctoral programs to pursue further education for myself), and watching my daughter continue to grow with my rockstar wife at my side. It’s going to be a great year.