June 2020 | Volume 1, Issue 11
MVC Reflections by Travis R. Gibbs, Ph.D.
"Man's inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively." – Carl Rogers
One of the basic principles of teaching and learning is to listen and be listened to—both help to relate with the instructor and the material. It took me a while to get it.
After high school, I went to a four-year institution, but in 1966 I dropped out after a bit more than a year. I could not relate to being schooled by being told how much I didn't know. After a couple of years, I went back to college at RCC. I did alright, but college still seemed unrelatable, though at least I became interested in the academic process of learning. Then I dropped out again.
When I returned to RCC in the fall of 1973, I found professors who actually listened, for whom teaching was not about downloading onto others what the professors knew, but about asking questions and encouraging examination. Suddenly, college was relatable. By the time I received an AA from RCC in June of 1975—10 years after graduating from high school—I had made friends, learned much, contemplated more, and was enchanted by interacting with folks who knew more, but listened without brandishing that knowledge.
I did not continue with formal schooling until 11 years later, though I kept visiting those professors who had taught me so much.
I taught my first college class at a four-year institution in the spring of 1991, the year MVC became a campus. In 1992, I was hired at RCC. While I taught classes at both RCC and NC, I wanted to teach at MVC. As a nascent campus in a community much invested in having its own college, I saw an opportunity to be part of a positive contribution. I owed it to those who taught me how to listen and to make myself and the information relatable.
In 1994, I came to MVC, where I remained until I retired this June. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity and for the career, though I know better than to romanticize my predilection and my luck. Teaching and learning are not the ivory-tower position many may think. Both are difficult. And for a professor it is not just the classroom, it is also a contribution to the institution. It is work, and if teaching and learning, listening and relatability are not a vocation, it's likely to be torture for everyone.
For most of my career, a young MVC was in flux and it was not always clear to me where we were really headed. As these present times of division make clear, humans can be on very different pages. Listening and relating can be incredibly difficult for a plethora of reasons and MVC was not above the fray. It still is difficult, but somehow through effort and an unfailing compass heading, MVC has come a fair piece even as it has a fair piece to go. But without community college, without RCCD, without MVC, many would not be traveling at all, many would not feel listened to at all.
Sometimes beauty shouts to be heard, sometimes it waits with aplomb. MVC is both those things. If we listen carefully, we can hear the beauty in the struggle and see the beauty in the place. If we listen carefully, we can embrace stewardship and avoid domination.
As I finished MVC's 2020 spring semester, in the midst of the struggle with a pandemic and with social division, I saw in the virtual graduation, in the efforts of so many, the stories that can help us listen, learn and relate. Those three attributes are what make us both a college and a community.
Moreno Valley College
16130 Lasselle St., Moreno Valley, CA 92551