Teacher Talk

Teacher Talk: Three Things to do Mid-semester

Oh, the dreaded mid-semester mark.  The major holidays are over and everyone is looking down the barrel of the weeks left in the semester.  Instructors are having midterms and midterm projects.  We have inevitably fallen behind the schedule and are trying to play catch up.  The weather is starting to warm and students are looking to revisit their Spring Break rather than their textbooks and notebooks.  So, what to do to keep momentum going and students from rising up?

midsemester meme

Really, we don’t plan these things as instructors, but it would be much more enjoyable if we did.  Especially if we were all followers of Dr. Evil…

But, alas, we are not.  So, here are some things to do:

  1.  Figure out if you can cull anything from the remainder of the semester.  I have started to really question everything I teach each semester now.  It used to be that I taught whatever was in the textbook.  And sometimes there was much more in the textbook than there were days in the semester, but I would try to shove it all in there anyways.  When I switched to not using a textbook in one of my classes, I really had to ask what I NEEDED to teach in order to reach the learning objectives.  After all, the textbook is not often written with our learning objectives in mind, yet, we teach it, without question and often without purpose.  So, no more of that.  This semester we may have a week long strike, so the culling becomes even more important.  Some things are must-haves others, my students can probably live without and still achieve all learning objectives.
  2. Switch it up.  Go somewhere new for class – a computer lab, outside, the student union.  Just get out out of the rut that has become your classroom.  If you can’t do that, switch up the classroom a bit for one or two sessions.  Move desks around or have an activity where everyone has to stand and walk around (I have what I call “public speaking cocktail parties” where people mill about, introduce themselves and talk about their speech topics – no alcohol is included).  Have a guest speaker come in for a class.  Show a Ted Talk.  Anything that will get your students (and you) feeling like everything old is new again.
  3. Start planning for next semester.  It seems kind of counter-intuitive to start planning for the next semester before you’ve even finished this one, but I’ve found if I wait until its all over, I forget what happened in the first half of the semester.  So, I’ve started doing a little “mid-term review” of my own.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What did I want more of and what did I want less of (or even none of)?  It helps to note all this somewhere and it makes me start to feel a little more positive as I can look forward with fixes rather than looking back with disappointment.

So, those are my three things to do mid-semester.  What about you other teachers out there?  What do you do mid-semester to keep the momentum going?

Simplicity Sunday

Simplicity Sunday #12 – The Other Side of Fear

other side of fear

Yes.  Everything I want IS on the other side of fear.  On this Easter day, I realize that I need a little resurrection of my own.  Resurrection of some dreams and goals and aspirations.  I’ve been doing pretty good for the past decade.  I am extremely happy that I made the choice to come here when the job opened up almost 10 years ago.  I love where I live and I have had a great experience in my job.  But, I’ve become comfortable and I’ve avoided taking opportunities for more when they’ve come along the past few years.  The Community College by me has had three jobs in the past six years and I’ve applied for none of them.  When I originally finished my Masters program, teaching at Community College was what I wanted to do.  But, when this job came along, it was a good compromise.  There was no “tenure” to be had, but it was stable in a good program with good funding, and it was my alumni program.  I make decent money and I don’t have an overload of teaching responsibilities.  So, I have resisted change.  I’ve made a lot of excuses – my parents’ illnesses, my daughter’s illnesses, health insurance concerns (legitimate in our situation, but after looking into it, seems to be pretty equal), retirement concerns (again, legitimate, but seems pretty good).  And because of these, I’ve given up what could have been six years of consistent raises – instead of I’ve received one raise in the past nine years and we may be going on strike next month, so things are looking good for future raises either.  And even if I get the raises we’re striking for and the one I applied for, it would still be a ceiling for many years to come.

In addition, I am in a position where although I have a lot of stability, I am not a “regular” faculty member.  I do not really feel part of a professional community.  And that takes its toll.  Especially when things get stressful or I want to try new things or I just want to be able to talk shop with someone.  I don’t have that where I am.  And without a change in position, I will not have it.

So, I’m taking a leap.  I am applying for the fourth job at the local Community College.  It is another year where I have plenty of excuses NOT to – my DD’s pacemaker placement is stressful and could interfere with interviewing.  We have a strike coming up possibly, which will also wreak havoc on my semester possibly.  So, I could have easily passed up the opportunity with my usual “it just isn’t the right time”.  But, you know what.  It IS the right time.  And although it may not happen, it is an opportunity I need to at least step up to and take a chance.  So, here goes.

We had a friend visiting this weekend and she said she had made 2016 the year of saying yes for her.  She said she says yes to opportunities unless there is a really good and important reason to say no.  I have kind of been on the opposite focus lately.  But, I think I need to say yes to opportunities that COULD BE really good and important to my future.  And this is it folks.  So, I’m stepping out and doing it.  Wish me luck.  I can’t say I’m feeling totally confident in my decision at this point.  But, I feel confident that I will regret NOT doing it.

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday -Who’s to say?

“Who’s to say what’s good today?”

Today is one of THOSE days.  You know, the days you seem to notice all the things that are wrong with your life and your house and your job.  Some days my pessimistic side shows up and I can’t get it out of the way to let me see what is good about the day.  So, I started thinking about the way I often allow others to decide what is good about my day rather than doing it myself.  I do this with my life by looking to others to compliment me on my choices or by hiding things that I think others will be judgmental about.  I do this with my house by worrying about what others will think rather than considering what I value and need in a home.  Finally, I do this about my job by focusing on what I’m NOT doing well rather than what I am doing well and how that sometimes is the reason I’m not doing other things well.

Everything is perspective.  Today, I happen to be one of those negative perspective positions, but I realize that is a choice.  So, hopefully, by the end of the today, I will be back looking at things through a slightly rosier lens!

What about you?  Who/what do you let determine what is a good or bad day in your life?

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday -Alive

I am joining the Five Minute Friday crew over at Kate Montaung’s blog Heading Home again this week.  I hope you’ll consider joining them as well.  It is a wonderful group of supportive writers sharing their perspective on a prompt each week.


This week’s prompt is “Alive” – here goes:


That is my daughter.  The picture is from July 3, 2009, four days before her transplant.  She had not opened her eyes or been awake for days, maybe weeks before that.  She had been on a paralytic in order to keep her from fighting the ventilator and all the other lines she had going into her little, tiny body.  She had just been moved from the PICU to the CVICU because the PICU doctor had basically given up on keeping her stable after days of changing medication levels, plunging blood pressures to elevated blood pressures, bad labs, etc.  The CVICU is typically reserved for those who have already had heart surgery, but they moved her there, I think believing that if she didn’t get a new heart within a few days, she would need to have a Berlin Heart.  Either way, she would be in the CVICU soon enough anyways.  She was probably as close to death as a baby can be without passing away.  It was terrifying and exhausting and depressing.  But, she held on.  Day after day.  Through what had to be painful and frightening situations.  I must admit that I sometimes wondered if we were doing the right thing.  Putting her through all that. But I had to believe that keeping her alive was better than the alternative.

Bean post transplant one month

This photo was taken one month after her transplant.  The difference is pretty amazing.  In four weeks she was off the ventilator, smiling, had lost the puffiness that had been there for months before.  She was taking formula from a bottle.  She held fingers and loved to watch a mobile over her head.  She was ALIVE – not just at the basic level she had been before, but at the WHOLE level.  She was aware, awake and active.

I am now confident that we did the right thing putting her through everything.  She has thrived in the past seven years.  We have had our medical bumps and rough spots, but overall we’ve had it good.  We’ve had great times and we have wonderful memories and wonderful friends and being alive is good.  It is important to remind ourselves of that when things get rough.  Babies even know it. But sometimes life’s hard hits can make us forget that knowledge.  In this season of new life, remember that being alive is a gift.  A gift to us and a gift to others.


Tuesday Truth

Tuesday Truth: Fear, Tragedy and Einstein

This Tuesday brings more world tragedy and ongoing fear.  It seems that Europe is the new “front” in War on Terror, which often ends up being more of a war WITH terror.  As I drove my DD to school this morning, I couldn’t help but think that I am glad that I live where I do.  I am not in a metro area.  I am far away from any major airport.  And then, I caught myself thinking that and realized that although I don’t feel it as viscerally as those in Europe are today, I am living in fear.  I think that most of the world lives with at least an undercurrent of fear in their lives nowadays.  But, it isn’t all about terrorism, in the traditional sense.  Some have gunshots ringing out in their neighborhoods at night.  Others put themselves in harms way through jobs with police or military.  Others fear that the color of their skin in certain locations may put them in harm’s way.  Still others are threatened with sexual assault in their day-to-day travels.  The fear is real.  I live in fear of my daughter becoming ill again and not being able to “be fixed” this time.  Fear is everywhere, but it varies greatly from one person to another.  Fear, in itself, is not a “bad” thing.  In fact, sometimes it can be a lifesaver.  But, when fear becomes our primary reason for decision-making and allows us to dismiss other information, that is problematic.  Today’s tragedy drives another stake of fear into the hearts of people everywhere.  And I do mean everywhere.  It isn’t just Europe.  It isn’t just Syria.  It isn’t just Israel or Palestine.  The POSSIBILITY of attack is everywhere.  It is just more likely in certain locations.  And that likelihood must be considered when making decisions.  The way we have dealt with these attacks since 9/11 seems to remain more or less unchanged.  There is an outcry for patriotism and not letting the terrorists “win”.  There is a commitment for “defeating” the enemy, despite the fact that the enemies are not well-defined, but rather an amorphous group that is loosely organized.  There is some “attack” on the amorphous group (now, usually coming in the form of either drone attacks or much worse, an outcry to stop immigration or remove those immigrants living among us who look or sound like those guilty of the attacks) and there is an uptick in security measures, at least temporarily.  But, almost two decades later, we are in much the same place.

albert einstein insanity

I don’t have a better answer, but I do feel like what we have been doing is not working.  And I feel like as fear builds, people become more and more willing to give up their values and their neighbors and their LIVES in order to be “safe”.  And I feel like because we are fighting this “war” against such an amorphous group that is loosely organized, we try to create an enemy where one does not necessarily exist just in order to be able to look our enemy in the face.

I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that we can stop this violence.  But, as of now, I don’t see how it is going to happen.

Simplicity Sunday

Simplicity Sunday #11 – On Space

To go where no man has gone before…


No, no…not that “space”.  But, “space”:

Front Porch

Inviting, comfortable and usable space.  That used to be my front porch, when I first got my patio set.  I loved that space.  Now it looks like this:

porch march 2016

And that, my friends, pretty much is my life in a front porch picture.  I get things cleaned up, looking nice, feeling welcoming and comfortable and usable and then life happens and it is all the same mess again.  And I realize that life is messy at times and I don’t live in a magazine photo shoot, but I do know that others with more kids, less time and more chaos are able to keep their houses at least picked up, without random stray items laying all over the place.  That is all I really want.

So, I’ve realized that a lot of the reason we don’t have that is we have way. too. much. stuff.  I mean, WAY too much stuff.  So, I’ve been trying to downsize.  But, it isn’t easy (as my porch can attest to).  So, I’m trying out some new ideas in helping me clear out…I’ll let you know how it goes.  In the meantime, I’ll be trying to find some space!

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday -Spring Break Edition

Well, Spring Break is officially coming to an end.  It went by so quickly, as usual.  And it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, to be sure.  I’ve adjusted to roller coaster rides over the last seven years and I’m pretty good at putting my arms up and trying to enjoy the fun parts and keep my stomach on the scary parts.  So, today’s Six Word Saturday recognizes that:

Fun! fear! Enjoy the roller coaster!


The fun was early in the week.  We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium and the beach.

Then we went to the hospital.  Not as much fun or beauty there.  But, it is what it is.

I’ll close my eyes, scream and see what is at the bottom.