Contract and Employment Questions

Welcome new BYU-Idaho instructors.  I am thankful that you are here and are preparing to start teaching in the coming weeks and days.  This experience will be a blessing in your lives, and will be a blessing to many students as well.

As you explore your online instruction community and your course before the semester starts, I invite you to pay special attention to our instructor standards...not only because these are the criteria by which we are all evaluated, but because I feel these standards can guide your efforts in becoming a fabulous,  BYU-Idaho-style online instructor.

This week in Devotional we heard from our university Human Resources director.  He shared a story from his son currently serving a mission in Brazil that made me think of our efforts with students.  He described a scene where his son was to baptize a couple new converts, but no water came from the font tap.  Ward members all pitched in and scrambled to find anything and everything to fill the font from water sources all over the church and grounds.  Little children ran with individual cups between the kitchen and font.  Slowly, but surely the font was filled in time for the cup at a time.

So, what might that story have to do with us?  As I listened, I thought this is similar to our role.  We are helping students fill their spiritual and intellectual reservoirs*...and it doesn't happen all at once.  Students take multiple classes from different teachers, and are ready for different things at different times.  In our brief time with these students, they may receive from us a cup-full, or a bucket-full.  I'm not sure that we control the amount, but we can be sure that if we're prepared to teach in the Learning Model style, and have the Spirit with us, that we will have contributed meaningfully and all involved "may be edified". (D&C 88:122)

I know it may be too early to know, but I'd love to hear some of your ideas on either of these questions:

  • What do you expect will be your personal biggest contribution to your students?
  • What is your value add to the online course BYU-Idaho has prepared for you and your students? 

*We have to be a little careful with this metaphor as President Uchtdorf reminded us a few years ago about our role in lighting fires in students, rather than filling buckets [heads] with knowledge.  That said, the one-cup-at-a-time metaphor still struck me as poignant as I listened to it in relation to our influence with students.

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  • That is a great question.  At this point, early in my experience here, my focus is to continue to build community and camaraderie as though it were a real classroom where discussion and dialogue take place.  Therefore, I'm making extra effort to respond with a personal note to each of my students comments.  I don't think I can do this forever but I want to do it early on to help them get to know me and feel comfortable with me.  Once we have established a more "personal" relationship, then I feel I can start to challenge them in new ways and give them the feedback they might benefit from.  My ultimate goal will be for them to say that I was one of their great teachers because I challenged them and loved them simultaneously. 

    • Elinor, 

      That is a great idea.  First impressions and establishing early the right tone and level of communication in your class is critical and well pay off throughout your semester.  The intro weeks in our online courses are often thin to support you reaching out to students individually.

      I'm happy to say your goal is reachable.  I've heard many a student say the teacher x was one of their favorite teachers at BYU-Idaho (online or face-2-face!).

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    • Thanks Karen. What a really important lesson to walk away with from a byui course! What wool you be teaching?
  • Hi Joel,

       I'm Emily Kunz and I'm teaching the online pilot for Comm 130. It's an overwhelming experience coming into a new course as a new instructor, but I can already feel the Lord helping me answer my student's questions and concerns in a timely and effective fashion. I enjoyed your message so much and I do hope and pray that I'm giving a "bucket" to my students, but I'd also be ok with just a "thimble" for this semester. My hope is that these students leave empowered to tackle visual communication problems and if not, that they feel prompted to approach the Lord for help. Time will tell what my value will be, but I have walked where these students are walking (the course I'm teaching was the very first course I took on the subject as a BYU-I student many years ago) and I believe I'll be able to understand their struggles and commiserate having been in their shoes myself. Thanks for your words and I'm looking forward to being a part of this community.

    Emily Kunz

    • Glad to have you aboard Melissa and Emily.  You gals sound like you understand well why you're here and hat your role is as instructor.  Thank you.  I don't teach this semester, but you get me excited to teach again this Fall.  I hope you have a great semester.

  • What a great message! I think we have a great impact/contribution in our students' lives, especially because we have the ability and responsibility to teach with the spirit and apply the gospel in our specific teaching area. I personally love the class I'm teaching because we talk about influences effecting society and can apply several gospel principles into our weekly discussions! Hopefully I can be one that adds to my students life 'one cup at a time' this semester! :)

  • Hello, Joel,

    My name is Ian Weaver. Spring semester will be my first semester teaching online with BYU-Idaho. I earned my BS in English here in 2010, so I still feel a strong connection to what BYU-Idaho offers and strives to give its students. 

    I'd like to answer your first question. I expect to contribute what I was given as a student at BYU-Idaho. My English instructors helped me gain a strong desire for two things: 1) maintaining and growing my faith in Christ, and 2) making learning an in-and-out of classroom, lifelong priority. As a student at BYU-Idaho, I was anxious to see what school was like at a university not sponsored by the church. I quickly learned in my Master's and Ph.D. programs that the connection between faith in Christ and sincere learning is not just a good idea that BYU-Idaho promotes. Following Christ is the purpose of this life, and learning, no matter how important this world makes it seem, does not overtake the need to maintain and grow our faith in Him. The times I have forgotten this as a student are the times I have struggled most. The times I have prioritized my life in this way, things seem to go well and I am able to learn a lot more. These two elements and how they relate have become central to my life as a student, teacher, husband, and father.

    I suppose I came to BYU-Idaho as a student thinking that the two were separate, learning and faith in Christ. I hope to help students see the connection and embrace it. I remember being concerned that perhaps my education was different than other students at other universities. I remember thinking that in some way or another, learning and living as a member of the church should be separated. I guess what I am getting at is that learning and faith in Christ have become an important part of my identity, and the two never were separate like I thought they were. As such, though I am teaching English, I hope to help students see a connection between all types of learning and the real purpose of this life.

    How will I do this? I'm not sure yet. I learned to appreciate language on my mission (though I did not learn a new language) through studying the gospel. I see this connection intensified as I continue my English studies and faith in Christ. So I hope I can find a way within the structure of my class.

    I'm grateful to be on board here; it's an exciting time.

    Ian Weaver                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

    • Thank you for that testimony Ian.  I hope you do find very concrete ways to hare that with your students.  That definitely is a (the key?) value-add we can bring to our students.  We all seek growth in this life by exercising faith--exercising faith to learn new things of this world that we didn't know before, exercising faith by following commandments more exactly and gaining a stronger and more personal testimony of them. 

      Thank you for coming back with BYU-Idaho so soon after leaving (graduating) and am confident you'll share that Spirit of Ricks with your students.  Your return really reminds me of the story of the 10 lepers, and the one who returned...we have many more like you that return to give thanks and give back through teaching online for BYU-Idaho.

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    • Joel, thanks for the thoughtful response.  I'm sure your experience will shine through in your feedback to students and in discussion boards.  I find it fun bringing in Gospel insights...often not directly related to course content for the week, but simply something that inspired me, or I was prompted for some reason to share.

  • Hello New Instructors,

    Joel shared this message this morning as a Spiritual thought in our Home Office Team meeting. I couldn't help but relate my personal experience with the atonement. I would love to "drink" the entire "bucket" of what the Savior offers through the atonement in one gulp. I wonder if how the Savior wants me to know him, and appreciate what he has done for me is actually little by little, (as the sacrament is) one sacrament cup at a time. That precious ordinance is such a gift to me as I take this one-small cup-at a time opportunity to build knowledge.  What I have found as I've sought to get to know my students, is that building a relationship of trust allows them to share little by little who they are and how I can support them and seek to build their testimonies.  

    You are going to love this! 

    Sister Leah Davis, Online Community Coordinator

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