This time of year I enjoy thinking about elements to be thankful for in my life. My contemplations this year have turned to the Extension legacies that inspire me. In the last week I’ve expereience three important Extension legacies. The first is Pat Swanson’s work with personal and family finance. We held a unit retirement celebration for Pat last week and her legacy was shared by all. Many people live more successful lives due to Pat’s work. The second is Don Broshar’s work with leadership development. I recently became the ISU liaison for the NCR NELD program. Last week Don gave me a three foot stack of files on NELD. What an amazing legacy he has left working with NELD’ers, Elder NELD’ers and many other Extension staff to help them be successful leaders. The third legacy is SFP 10-14. I’ve been spending some deep time with PAHO/WHO staff learning about how the Spanish translation of SFP 10-14 has been used across Central and South America. I followed up with a visit with Virginia Molgaard and Beth Fleming (two of the three founding mothers of SFP 10-14) to learn more about this important work. All of these wonderful legacies full of public value were created by humble Extension workers who strive to make life better for others. It makes me contemplate my Extension legacy. How might I strengthen my skills and work to better contribute towards the issues for families, youth, and communities today? What is your Extension legacy and how does it add to our public value as an organization? Happy Thanksgiving and legacy contempation!
It is World Food Prize week here in Iowa. I enjoyed engaging with students with their posters on research and education on food systems and hearing Dr. Daniel Hillel the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate speak here on campus. Some of his opening comments made me think more deeply about our work. He said, “Specialists know everything about nothing. Generalists know nothing about everything. Instead we need to know more about more. This is difficult since it requires collaboration in an integrated world so we need to broaden and deepen our view.” This seems to answer the question about the ongoing debate in Extension about whether or not we should be a cadre of educators who are generalists or specialists. From Dr. Hillel’s perspective of the world, generalist is winning out. He suggests the driving forces are increased population, industrial dependency, globalization, urbanization, environmental degradation, technology, and energy use that require increased collaboration. So how do we learn more about more? He tells us to collaborate more with others who are different than ourselves, reach out into the larger community rather than crawl into our comfort zone and to do things better than those before us. It made me realize how important reading widely, thinking widely, and doing widely can improve our work by knowing and experiencing the issues and trends that affect our learners on a daily basis, participating in professional development outside our specialties, and engaging in new partnerships with people around common goals rather than common subject matter. What else do you do that helps you learn more about more?
I recently attended the National Outreach Scholarship Conference. There were wonderful speakers and workshops on engagement work with university faculty, staff, administrators, students, and community partners. My favorite speaker was James Joseph, professor of Public Policy Studies at Duke University and former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa. He shared three important components of civic engagement that we are all responsible for instilling in the people we work and live with: 1) civic values (being), 2) civic knowledge (knowing), and 3) civic habits (doing). He reminded us as educators that we get what we reward, that our role is to put knowledge to work in service of society, and the community in service of knowledge (engagement is a reciprocal, not an expert-based relationship). He asked us to think about how we build community, how we help the marginalized speak for themselves (not on their behalf), and that it is important to examine not how we are engaged with civil society but what we are engaged with. My favorite phrase from his talk was, “You must have the right look in your eyes” to be successfully engaged. This all made me think deeply about our work as we try to determine what our core programs should be, the best delivery methods, who to partner with, and who should be our students/clients. Are we spending enough time thinking about the civic values, knowledge, and habits integrated into our educational opportunities and teaching methods? Do we have the right look in our eye to make a difference with Iowans?
I recently had a delightful conversation with Dr. Katia Balassiano from the ISU College of Design on her research in Perry, Iowa with Rosa Gonzalez and others. They are trying to discover where Latinos in Perry go to discuss community affairs so they can more fully engage them in citizen participation. Here is what they found from 82 participants, including 54 Latinos in 8 workshops where they indicated places they go to discuss community matters on aerial photos and street maps: 1) Latinos comprise 35% of the population but 45% of the school-age population in Perry, 2) few Latinos hold positions in public office or attend public meetings, 3) the top three places to meet to discuss community matters for Latinos and non-Latinos were municipal parks and recreation facilities, schools and non-Latino-owned businesses, 4) 30% of non-Latinos use non-Latino-owned restaurants for discussion of community affairs compared to 9% of Latinos, 5) a higher percentage of Latinos use Latino-owned businesses, low-income households, community festivals, and entertainment to discuss community affairs compared to non-Latinos, and 6) the characteristics of places where Latinos discuss community affairs include providing information, help, and services; being children and family friendly; accommodating both formal and informal gatherings; having food for purchase or being able to host catered events; and facilitating a sense of togetherness or community.
I believe this research tells us alot about where to conduct our educational offerings for Latinos and the conditions that help these efforts be successful. Have you found other places and conditions that help our work with Latino audiences be successful?
Earlier this week I attended the Iowa FCS Educators for Progress conference. One of the speakers, Angela Meiers helped us think more fully about what matters in our work. From her experience as an educator in Iowa for over 20 years she believes our work is about the hearts of our learners. She suggests we are most successful when we help learners be passionate, courageous, curious, and confident – not just follow the scripted curriculum, show a powerpoint, or check off tasks to teach. We need to so fully engage the passion of our learners that they can’t wait to be with us again! She has also discovered (as we all well know), that when our learners are passionate, so are we and we become even better educators! She says, “if our learners don’t go home excited, we have not done our jobs!” Here are her five tips for engaging passion in our learners (notice the first letter of each one spells “heart”):
- Hope and hopefulness is at the core of learning especially during challenges
- Elevate our learners, ourselves and our profession
- Awareness of our own genius needs to be infused into our teaching
- Risk taking is needed to make sure learning is not a passive act to promote innovation, creativity and bravery
- Take action personally, professionally, and collectively to fuel our learner’s passions
What do you do as an educator to engage and fuel the passion of your learners? Angela says, “Don’t be scared to be excellent. You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.” May every day be one where we feel the passion of our learners!
Next April Joye Norris will be on campus as a keynote speaker for our Families Extension and Outreach inservice. Peggy Martin gave me a preview of Joye’s approach to teaching by sharing her book, “The Community Educator’s Little Book of Interesting Ideas!” The tips in Joye’s book were developed from her many years with Extension nutrition education programs. Here are some of her teaching tips that I found especially compelling to maximize our participants’ and my own learning:
- The word “dialogue” means “words between us” not “I speak and you listen.”
- “Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” (Glenda Cloud)
- If we help people learn by doing, we immediately have evidence that they in fact are learning
- People are better able to learn if they know they will never be required to speak in front of the whole group – they decide if they want to speak rather than being called upon to speak
-Give learners many opportunities to show how brilliant they are rather than how smart we are
- Help learners discover their own connections to what they are hearing and discovering to make personal meaning out of the information and interactions
Even though we’ve heard tips like these many times, I still see Extension workers failing to integrate them into learning situations. I attended a conference last week where the Extension instructors believed that lecture style and information transfer was going to result in learning and action. Sorry folks, not for this learner! What do you do in your teaching to create a learner centered dialogue environment?
This week I heard Dr. Calvin Mackie speak. He is a managing partner for the Channel ZerO Group in Gretna, Louisiana. It was delightful to hear an external conference speaker who fully understands Extension. Here are the points he urged us to consider to improve our work:
- give people hope to go where we want them to go. Without hope, they will not take care of themselves or others
- we are living without the wisdom of our elders and need to better integrate them into our work
- we need to feed children and families an educational diet that allows them to thrive
- we need to listen, unlearn, relearn, and then get out of the way of the people we serve. If we don’t change, we are a disservice to the people we serve.
- just because a college or university is #1 in the rankings doesn’t mean it is #1 for the children and families we work with
In closing he asked us to intentionally plan the legacy we hope to leave with our work. He urged us to continue changing lives but also to shape the future of our country, help make dreams come true, to lead, and then get out of the way. What is the legacy you are leaving as an Extension worker? How are individuals, families, and communities better due to our “educational touch?”
I enjoyed meeting with the North Central Region Family and Consumer Science Extension Program Directors this week. How delightful to engage in deep conversations with my peers! We know an important element for transformative learning is critical reflection on our assumptions yet we rarely set aside time to reveal assumptions and then wrestle with them! If we are trying to help others transform, then we surely need to engage in the process ourselves. So why was the time with my peers so beneficial? They asked deep questions about our work (past, present, and future), the time together was a series of conversations about issues instead of checking off tasks on a list (in fact many of our conversations were circular), we shared lessons learned, best practices, and resources with each other rather than being defensive or competitive, we served as “critical friends” in thinking through complex and difficult situations, and finally, we ate and drank in full spirit and deep caring with each other. On my drive home from the meeting, I savored the joy of this special time with my peers. It made me wonder how to save more space in our “check it off the list” lifestyle to help us reveal and critically review our assumptions about our work, and then change the way we see and act in the world. What conditions do you create in your life to ponder in this special way with your peers to improve yourself and your work?
Several of us have been discussing professional development opportunities and systems since the ISU Extension and Outreach Leadership Summit last fall. The need for professional development and related coordinating systems surfaced as a top priority from the summit. Why is this so? I’ve heard from many people that they enjoy frequent and timely updates in their area of expertise whether it be nutrition, finance, or family development. However, what I hear more often is that we all want to be more adept at the processes of our work ranging from team leadership to program evaluation, or program delivery using web based technology. So I was surprised recently when I heard some people articulate, “I’ve been with Extension a long time, I don’t need professional development.” This goes counter to all the research and best practice in our field. Continued learning and professional improvement is the basis for our work. How can we help others learn and change behavior if we aren’t open to doing this in ourselves? We should each have a professional development plan reviewed and updated at least annually that helps us determine the specifics for our learning so we aren’t distracted by every new or interesting thing or fail to grow at all. I encourage you to keep this in the forefront as we work with each other and grow and learn together to improve ourselves, our work teams, our organization, and our impact with clients.
For the last several months I’ve been involved in faculty promotion and tenure, staff reclassfication, and performance review discussions. One theme throughout these conversations has been what competencies are expected of an Extension scholar (all of us who generate or assist with applied research)? I found a great list of competencies for engaged scholars in the most recent issue of the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement http://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/jheoe that fits Extension scholarship perfectly: 1) understanding concepts of history and the literature about community engaged scholarship, 2) familiarity with community challenges, 3) working with diverse communities, 4) negotiating academic-community relationships, 5) developing community capacity through community engaged scholarship, 6) fostering scoial change through community engaged scholarship, 7) translating the process and findings of community engaged scholarhsip into policy, 8) balancing research, teaching, and service while engaging in community engaged scholarship, 9) understanding the relationship of scholarly components of community engaged scholarship and review, promotion, and tenure, 10) grant writing and developing productive relationships with funders related to communicaty engaged scholarship, and 11) mentoring students and faculty in community engaged scholarship.
Notice these competencies start at a novice level and become more advanced. Also take note that even though some of this language focuses on campus-based faculty and staff, we all have a role in this work no matter where we are in the organization. Our audience for scholarship may simply be community-based entities instead of faculty and students. Next time I’ll share my thoughts on specific products of Extension scholarship.