Thankfulness Challenge

365 Days of Thankfulness – Day 3

I was going to try to stay up late and get some grading and cleaning done tonight, but after waking up around 4:30 a.m. this morning, it just isn’t going to happen.  The time change has really thrown me and I’m afraid my sleep patterns are really off.  I am exhausted tonight, so I’m hoping to go to bed early and get up early and get some grading and cleaning done tomorrow.  But, before hitting the bed tonight, I wanted to be sure to get my 365 Days of Thankfulness post in (and my 3rd day of the Nablopomo as well).  For my first two 365 Days of Thankfulness posts you can go here and here.

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Today, I am thankful for enthusiastic students who really enjoy learning.  I tend to get caught up in the drudgery of grading and prepping and just getting through classes and I don’t take enough time to really connect with students and their interests.  I realized today that by teaching that way, I miss out on a lot that students have to offer.  Not all students bring a true enthusiasm and interest to learning, but the ones that do make up for all those who do not.  This semester, I’m teaching the writing class for our major and we are just starting on the final papers and the students are coming up with their topics.  Some of them are really excited about their topics and that excites me.  When I was a student, I loved doing research and learning more about things.  I sometimes feel like my students don’t have that same enthusiasm.  But, some do and I need to figure out more ways of giving them the chance to really explore those interest areas.  I also want to make them lifelong learners, so teaching them how to find information, how to interpret and then how to use that information is really important.

So, today I am glad that I did not cancel my class (like I thought about all afternoon) and instead was able to talk one-on-one with some students about their topics (while having them do some peer feedback groups).  I am glad I was able to see the enthusiasm in their faces and hear their interest in their voices.  And I am excited about some of the emails I have received about their topics.

Teaching is a very social activity, but too often, I let it become a somewhat isolating activity.  I need to get more social and get to know my students and their interests and their likes and dislikes.  That will make me better at what I do and also more enthusiastic about my own job.

 

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A College Professor’s Five Suggestions for Success in College

I’ve been teaching college classes for some 16 years now and I’ve learned a few things over the years, both from my own experiences but also listening to other college professors talk (and reading their blogs, of course).  And I have a few suggestions for college students who want to be successful from the start and maintain success throughout their college career.  Some are REALLY easy.  Some are a little more difficult.  But, all of them will make you MUCH more likely to be successful in your college years.  So, here goes – my suggestions for success in college, from a professor’s perspective:

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 1.  Do NOT fly under the radar in classes.  I have heard many students refer to their approach to classes to “fly under the radar” or go unnoticed.  I will admit that my being a professor in Communication Studies makes this less likely (our majors like to communicate theoretically), I still have students in my GE classes who come to class, do the work, but never really approach me as an instructor or seem engaged in the class to any degree.  It is true that this will “keep you out of trouble,” but it will also make your understanding of the material much more shallow, will make it close to impossible to ask these professors for letters of recommendation later (I am always struck when students come in and ask me for a letter when I didn’t have a personal conversation with them for an entire semester) and will not provide you with a networking opportunity for future contact.  My suggestion for making your presence known, even if you are an introvert:

  • Go to the professor’s office hours! We HAVE to sit in our office during office hours.  It is boring when there is no one to talk to.  Sure, we will sometimes try to use this time for grading, class prep, etc. but I’m never annoyed when a student comes by to chat with me.  I became a professor because I like students and this gives me a chance to have one-on-one conversations with students.  Something that is difficult in a class setting.  You don’t have to go every week or even every month, but I would try to go once early in the semester to introduce yourself and ask a question or inquire about an assignment.   Then go again mid-semester, maybe right before those mid-terms.  Again, ask a question about the material for the exam or discuss something that you’re looking into for the class.  These meetings do not have to last long.  Finally, go at the end of the term.  This is a good time to ask if the professor is willing to write letters of rec in the future and to say something you enjoyed about the class (we so often only hear the complaints).
  • Engage in class sessions.  This is harder in some classes where you are in large lecture listening to a professor talk and talk and talk.  But, even then you can engage by taking notes, sending an email to the professor about something that was said during class that intrigued you to ask for more information, giving the professor non-verbal feedback or just simply saying hi before the lecture begins or good-bye as you leave the room.  For those smaller sections, be someone who asks questions, answers questions and participates (productively) in discussions.  Stay on topic in small groups (I am always amazed at how many “what did you guys do last night?” conversations are loudly held when the groups are supposed to be talking about ethics).  Finally, do your work when it is due (or before) and then read and USE any professor feedback you get on papers, exams or during discussions.  I love these students in my classes!

2. Use a planner system that will work for you.  I am someone who loves a good paper planner, but will forget to look at it for days in a row.  So, I get that the lovely University branded planners they give you at orientation may not work for you to remember the assignments in my class or when we had an office hour meeting scheduled.  But, you also probably have a smart phone (I know that is a generalization, but a majority of my students do).  Set up reminders.  It is sometimes laborious to input all the information when a meeting is scheduled, but those notifications popping up on my phone have really saved my rear end at times.  So, paper calendar in a notebook, University branded planner, moleskin notebook, smart phone calendar, computer calendar (I love my Google calendar and it syncs with my smartphone)…one of them will work for you.  Figure out which it is and then use it.  Religiously.

3.  Do not try to do everything in one semester or even one year.  College is a typically AT LEAST a four year commitment (some can do it in a shorter time, many take a longer time).  Do not try to do every activity, every club you are interested in, every sporting event, etc. in your first semester or even your first year.  And this is coming from someone who is in charge of one of those activities.  But, I want students who are setting aside TIME to actually participate fully in the activity, not spreading themselves so thin they are unable to do anything well or engage fully in any activity.  I think this is a problem for many Frosh who have been over-involved their entire high school career and think they will be able to handle the same level of activity when they get to college.  But, they forget many things are different:  (1) Mom or Dad isn’t here to cook for them, wash their clothes, do the grocery shopping, etc.  It may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference to have to do all of that yourself.  (2) For some, the level of academic expectation is boosted up quite a bit over what they experienced in high school.  This is not true for everyone, but sometimes it may take a semester or so to figure out how to best manage your classload.

In the opposite extreme:

4.  Choose to show up.  You do not HAVE to do anything anymore and that’s quite the freedom.  When I did the new student orientation before this semester started we finished the department advising orientation and I walked the students across campus to their next location (the WREC for a party) and dropped them off.  One of the girls said to me, “Do you know what we’re doing at the WREC?” At the time, I didn’t but it was the WREC so I said, “No, but its probably something fun.” and she said, “Will I get in trouble if I don’t go?” and I laughed and said, “No, you’re officially an adult now!  You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”  I just thought it was hilarious that she was in that frame of mind still, but it is a huge change and a lot of students really take advantage of it.  They stop going to classes on a regular basis.  They sign up for things and then don’t show up for them, because “Hey, there is no one for them to call and tell on me.”  When you sign up for something, whether it is a class or a co-curricular activity or a club, show up!  Be present and be involved.  It makes a huge difference when you are able to see that although you won’t “get in trouble” for not being there, you will be rewarded for showing up.

5.  Find a group of people with similar goals and work and play together!  This is important for multiple reasons.  Let me list them for you:

  • This will make you more successful in your studies.  If you care about your grades, being in a group of people who also care about their grades will make you more likely to study, provide you with good people off of whom to bounce ideas and give you constant access to people to read papers over or listen to a speech/presentation or look at an assignment to make sure you’re understanding it correctly.  It is so much easier to study and do well in classes when others are heading to the library with you or pushing through that late night paper-writing process with you.  And you’ll be a help to them as well!
  • This will help your overall well-being.  Studies show that those with a core group of good friends are less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and even physical illnesses.  Feeling a part of something is important to us as humans.  Joining a club or an on-campus sports team or even the Speech and Debate team (shameless personal plug), as long as the other members have similar goals and interests as you will provide you with a safety net for those days, weeks and sometimes even months when you struggle with knowing who you are and what you’re doing.  Simply having friends is not enough, though.  Because if the group isn’t really cohesive, it is easy for members to fall through the cracks when going through a rough time.  You have to have a set of friends who knows you, knows your goals and knows when you aren’t yourself.  So, when joining something, following #4 makes it much more likely you’ll grow close to other members.  Roommates can serve as close friends, but you want to have a handful of people who care about you and are willing to stick out the rough times with you.
  • This will help you stay safe.  I teach at what is widely considered to be a “party” school.  I also attended this same University and I partook in the bar scene and parties while here.  But, I honestly don’t remember ever worrying that I would be left alone somewhere by my friends OR that I would be allowed to leave alone by my friends with someone one of us didn’t know.  I am always amazed when I hear stories or even see people (women or men) walking down the streets in the party area of our city after 10 or 11 pm, obviously intoxicated by themselves.  I always wonder “where are their friends?”  So, my suggestion is to talk to your friends before going out and have a plan.  If someone is really that “nice” and “good looking” when you’re out at the parties, get their number and call them in the light of day.  If your friend wants to leave with them, get their number for your friend and say you’ll have your friend call them in the light of day.  So many attacks (again, male and females are both victims of attacks when out by themselves – inebriated or not) could be avoided if people would only travel in groups of three or more after a certain hour.  Crowdsource your safety in real life!

So, there you have it, my five suggestions for success (and safety) in college.  I’m sure there are many more things that can help you out, but from a professor’s vantage point, these are the ones I would say are the most important.

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday

First week done, only sixteen more.

When I say it like that, it doesn’t sound like such a long time.  And really, it isn’t.  Halloween will be here before I know it and then Thanksgiving…then the semester ends and Christmas is here.  Yikes!  But, really it is four whole months.  Isn’t it funny how a smaller number makes it sound like a longer time?

I am much, much more prepared this semester than I have been…well, probably since I started teaching.  I think I’ve finally (16 years later) figured out what (1) I am capable of doing well and (2) my students find to be engaging and educational and (3) what I can realistically let go of during the semester.  And, I’m really looking forward to this semester and giving my students my best.

I’m sure there will be weeks when I fall behind and/or get frustrated with the students or myself or my home management skills (that often are distracting me from my work responsibilities) or am exhausted from traveling with the Speech and Debate team (which is huge starting out this semester).  But, I am hoping I can manage those frustrations and delays much better than I have in the past.  We’ll see…

How about you?  What is your Fall looking like?

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday – Self Control

Semester end is drawing near…quickly!

I can’t believe that statement is true.  I feel like I just started this semester but I just updated my class schedules through the end of the semester and it is right there in front of us.  Staring me down.  Daring me to continue to be behind.  This semester has been a little rough and tumble.  Some of my classes have been great, but a majority of them have been hit and miss.  Some of that is traveling has required that I miss more classes than usual.  Some of it has been trying to use a new book (why?  why do I do this to myself?).  Some of it has been lack of focus because I’ve been somewhat stressed out about my mom’s health and the puppy and other things.  But, for whatever reason, this semester has not been my best.  But, such is life.  I have done some things better than in the past and others need a lot of work.  But, life is a work in progress and thankfully, I get a “do-over” every semester!  I’ll be making some much needed changes to my classes for next semester and hopefully alleviating some of the other stress in my life as well over the summer months.  The Fall will bring a new start and a better semester.

Despite all that, I do have a handful of weeks left this semester (I will be traveling for one of them) and I need to do my best to catch up with grading and end with a positive note for my students’ sake (and my own sake).  So, that is where I will be focusing my energies in the coming weeks.

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday – Welcome

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I’m once again joining the Five Minute Friday party (#fmfparty) over at katemotaung.com!  Come join in!  It’s easy!

WELCOME

Well, that word has a lot of different meanings, but this week, since I’ve just started teaching a Winter Session class, my classroom is the thing most on my mind.  I want students to feel welcome in my classroom.  I want students to feel welcome to come and speak to me.  I think being made to feel welcome in places is so important.  But it is not necessarily something that happens easily.

I’ve been toying with the idea of changing churches as of late.  It is difficult because they have made my daughter feel extremely welcome, but I still feel somewhat out of place, even after being there for quite a while, volunteering in the children’s programming, attending a women’s retreat and going to a few other events.  And sometimes I wonder if it is my own fault, because we can fight against others even when they are welcoming, but I don’t think that is it.  I think I need to feel more engaged and I want people to have conversations with me, not just smile and nod their head.  I don’t know if that is realistic or not though.  But the other important thing to me about church is that everyone be made to feel welcome and I feel like the church I’ve been attending is going through some changes and those changes are more likely to build up walls than tear them down.  It is hard though.  I feel like I am starting all over again.  But, I also feel like there is a place where I will feel that stronger “welcome” when I attend and if I don’t, I can always go back to the church I’m currently attending.

DONE –

Well, that was not what it started out to be, but that is the beauty of the Five Minute Friday.  Who knows what is rolling around in that brain of mine until I give it some wings and just go with the flow!  What about you?  Stop by over at Kate Montaug and join in the fun of letting your brain and words have five minutes of total freedom!

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday – Grading Edition

 

Grading, grading and more grading. Sigh…

Worst part of my job happens once everyone else is heading into rest and relaxation.  I know people who already have their grading finished.   How, I’m not sure.  They may not procrastinate like I do.  Because I don’t really like grading, I put it off.  I love teaching, I love interacting with students, and I even enjoy the CONCEPT of giving them feedback.  I would love to have one-on-one conferences with my students after every assignment and give them suggestions for improving their work, etc.  But, the actual assigning of a grade and reviewing material solely for that purpose (because students are not going to read my feedback now) is just not enjoyable.  But, it is necessary.

I have streamlined my grading by using a lot more rubrics nowadays.  And it helps.  A lot.  I would not be able to grade the volumes of work I am grading this semester without them.  And it is my hope to have all the grading done by tomorrow or Tuesday and go into the holiday with nothing hanging over my head.  But, realistically, I will probably have some things not quite done by then.  We shall see.