This week, we are featuring, Dr. Megumi Moore, Associate Director for Graduate Student Life and Wellness. Dr. Moore was recognized via iteach.msu.edu's Thank and Educator Initiative! We encourage MSU community members to nominate high impact Spartan educators (via our Thank an Educator form) regularly!
Read more about Dr. Moore’s perspectives below. #iteachmsu's questions are bolded below, followed by his responses!
You were recognized via the Thank an Educator Initiative. In one word, what does being an educator mean to you?
Share with me what this word/quality looks like in your practice?
To me, the most important part of being an educator is showing up and creating an environment where everyone’s humanity is recognized and valued. That is the foundation for any experience to be meaningful and for it to be potentially transformational. In terms of content, I think it’s important to talk about things that are humanizing. External expectations set by institutions, disciplines, cultures, etc. often teach us to attach our sense of self-worth to our products and our performance, a mindset that has a dehumanizing effect on us. How can we remain connected to our true selves and live out of them consistently even when our environment is compelling us to do otherwise? Being an educator means providing opportunities for people to be connected to others, to themselves, and to ideas in a way that affirms and reinforces who they are while inviting them to bring their best and true self to the work they are doing.
Have your ideas on this changed over time? if so how?
My ideas on what education is and how it’s done have definitely evolved over time. I used to have a very limited understanding of teaching and learning, focusing on formal educational settings and academic products like grades and term papers. The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize how ridiculously inadequate that idea was. My experiences in formal and informal education settings have continued to shape my own practice. The more I am in humanizing educational settings, the shaper my ideas and practices become.
Tell me more about your educational “setting.” This can include, but not limited to departmental affiliations, community connections, co-instructors, and students. (Aka, where do you work?)
I am the Associate Director of the Graduate Student Life & Wellness office. I lead workshops on well-being and leadership for graduate students and occasionally faculty and staff as well. I also mentor several graduate students who work in my office and provide consultations for individual students to help them find resources or address challenges related to their experience as grad students. Many of the programs in my office are led by graduate students for graduate students, and my role in those programs is to support those leaders. Graduate students have so much to offer the institution and each other, and I am a firm believer in giving them platforms to operate as full partners in our work.
What is a challenge you experience in your educator role?
Like many others, I have really struggled in the virtual world we live in at this point in the pandemic. I miss in-person workshops and meetings for the energy and creativity that comes from being in the same room with other people. I’ve been surprised by how much quality connection can happen while staring at a set of screens, but it’s a constant challenge to not be discouraged by all that is lost when we are remote.
Any particular “solutions” or “best practices” you’ve found that help you support student success at the university despite/in the face of this?
I have found it helpful to begin workshops by verbally acknowledge the limitations of the virtual environment and setting a very authentic tone. I am also intentional about sharing my own frustrations with our current circumstances – it is unique to all be going through something like a pandemic together, where the stressor is the same for everyone. The impact of that stressor is incredibly different for everyone, but I have found that starting with the commonalities has helped create a meaningful sense of community. I’ve also spent more time creating workshop series where the same group of students will be together for 4-6 weeks so that folks have a chance to build community together.
What are practices you utilize that help you feel successful as an educator?
It’s really crucial to get feedback in many forms and in many ways! It’s important to keep pushing myself to learn and grow as an educator. Everyone has a distinct style of communicating which works well in some settings and with some people, and I’m constantly trying to modify my own style while still being true to myself. I think the best educators are those that can read the room and make adjustments to connect with many different kinds of people. I also try to prioritize my own wellness and well-being so that the best version of myself shows up more often than not. If I let myself get run down or tired, I am more likely to miss things both in preparing for workshops and in facilitating. Good group facilitation is a very immersive experience and I need all of my senses and skills to be sharp.
What topics or ideas about teaching and learning would you like to see discussed on the iteach.msu.edu platform? Why do you think this conversation is needed at msu?
I only familiar with a few pages on the iteach platform, so I am not entirely sure what is there. I’d be interested in topics like the role of emotional intelligence in teaching and learning and how to develop some of the “invisible” skills of being a responsible and responsive educator (e.g. reading a room, setting the tone, knowing when and how to diverge from your plan).
What are you looking forward to (or excited to be a part of) next semester?
Like everyone, I’m hoping for more in-person options! I’m also excited as it will be my second year in this position. The first year of any job is exploration of the role and learning what it entails. The second year, you’re able to build on the foundation you have explored. There is still so much to learn but the learning curve is not quite so steep.