Finish the Term Strong: Redux

This post is all about suggestions for student success. As a former Undergraduate Advisor and an instructor, I am supportive of student success. I have one more week in the term and due date are looming, but I realize that many of my colleagues have one to two more months left. This post will speak to some suggestions for how students can finish the term strong

1. Go to class

2. Read the syllabus

3. Go to office hours

4. Review points one through three

Seriously, I am not kidding about the above as they are extremely important to student success. As I told a group of librarians today, I might as well say that the sky is blue; however, it is key to emphasize the obvious. There are moment when we need reminding about what is the obvious Beyond the absolute obvious, I also suggest that during the last part of the term that students manage their time well. Now is the time to focus on ending on a high note. It is to easy to finish with the best that you can do in that moment, but that will not make you stand out above the others. I encourage you to become a hermit during the last week or two as you write your papers.

What else can you do? You can visit your Writing Center and then ask if your professor is willing to chat about your draft or to review your draft. Please note that most professors will not copy-edit your draft. Please remember that your professor may have 30-400 students that term, so don’t be too hard on your professor if they are only willing to chat about your paper. If you have a Teaching Assistant, by all means go to her or his office hours. Own your education. Take charge and act like you care. Acting like you care about your education and success really does count for something.

My last words of guidance are about reading the assignments and following directions. I am always surprised and frustrated by the number of students who do not read the syllabus and think that this is not important. A student approached me recently saying, “This is a 12 point font.” I responded, “Yes, it is but it is not Times New Roman 12 and is a huge font. Please review my syllabus.” Following directions is the first part of an assignment and reflect attention to detail. Good luck with the last few weeks and your papers and final!

Graduation is a mere two months away and I can’t wait to sit on the stage and witness this momentous event. Until then, I send positive energy to my students as they wind down. Finish the term well!

 

 

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Reactions to Working

As a parent you learn lots from your kids, and I had one of those moments a few days ago. My teenage daughter is in her second year of working. We were are on our way to an event and she noted that she was not looking forward to seeing some people. Why? Apparently the fact that she is working, is an issue to some of her friends and other parents. The reactions vary from not understanding why she would bother to work, why she chooses to work, how could her parents allow her to work, and curiosity and support for her work. Unfortunately, the last response is less common.

I was surprised. We chatted about the ways that she responds to these comments and I dropped her off at the event. I drove away thinking about how I started working the day that I turned 16 and how I have not stopped. Is it really odd that she’s working? Nope. I was chatting with our family doctor and his daughter is the same age and is also working. And, I have chatted with other parents who have kids in high school and their kids are working, too. When I have chatted with other parents we talk about how our kids are learning life skills–dealing with people, coaching younger kids, organizing workouts, and getting familiar with work and life balance.

When I was walking around campus the yesterday I was thinking about this conversation with my daughter and I also thought about the countless office hours that I have had with students who have an empty or virtually empty resume. Yes, I am relating this moment that I had with my daughter to my work as a mentor and college instructor. I think it is important that young people are giving ample opportunity to work and develop their resumes. Work opportunities provides a chance to mature, learn time management, and make money. I also think that working offers you a chance for maturity and resiliency.

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Mentoring

I am rounding out my two months of Spring Undergrad Advising for the department and thinking about how I help my students. I’ll place these thoughts in bullet form.

  • I want to help them find out how they are doing with the course of their studies
  • I enjoy giving them good advice
  • I offer them advice about their course choices
  • I inform them of any resources we have on campus that they might find useful
  • And, the most important thing–is that I listen

I do prefer to advise face to face; however, more of my advising and mentoring is taking place online via email and on different platforms. For students enrolled where I teach, I can do some of the fact finding via email, but there are moments when a face to face is needed and I point this out and then it is up to them. The photo below is of turtles sunning at Cedar Hill Golf Course trail.

 

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The Way You Work

Academic work requires so much solitary work and this makes it flexible and at times impossible. Work always beckons and the to do list can become burdensome. We are at the start of Summer, and it is the perfect time to think about how you can re-focus on the way you work. What works for you?
Right about now academics are thinking about the long list of things to accomplish during the Summer. Honestly, though, how do you work?

I find that I need some white noise when I am doing certain tasks and other tasks requires quiet or music at a low volume. At the day’s end when I am completely alone this is the time that I listen to music set high. I like to chunk out as many tasks as I can during these evenings alone at work. My job requires lots of meetings and this means that two times per week, I need to work later days to catch up from meetings.

I have blogged previously about the importance of having good work and life balance and boundaries. I know that this is extremely important, but the reality of work is that some months are more busy than others. I am working through a busy period as we transition from one Learning Management System to a newer, better version and this is keeping me extremely busy. I am also trying to think about the way I work and what keeps me organized and able to get things done. I love coffee and the entire process of making and savoring it. This ritual is part of my morning and reading the papers. I also realize that the caffeine is necessary some days.

I need desk time to plan and think. I use early mornings for this and evenings. I occasionally walk around the building or across campus and use this as desk or thinking time. I will talk into my phone and dictate notes from a meeting or send myself emails to update. I also use this time to clear my head and plan for the next meeting, task, or day. I need some alone time to organize my day. The photo below is pulled from Twitter and is a perfect. Work and life balance can at times feel Game of Thrones-ish!

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Sustaining You

Who makes you feel safe? Friends and others who know you are safe or some might say: home. When I think of people I trust and respect, this networks of friends, family, and inner circle at work are supportive, good listeners, and are honest with their advice. I do not want a nodding head and mere agreement. I want someone to listen and then comment–especially if we disagree or if the friend has something to add. Again, a big part of this is listening. Try to stay away from emotional vampires who just take, take, and take. These people are exhausting to engage with on an ongoing basis. I find that I am controlling my time more and putting more distance with the emo vamps, as those conversations are usually not two-way conversations.

Affirm the good relationships and spend time with the people who add to your day. Remind your network that they are important collaborators, friends, and people in your life. These people challenge you to be a better person and they deserve reminders that they are important. This makes me think of places where I feel at home or safe. I’m thinking of the places or things that add to my day. The smell of coffee definitely makes me smile, and then the taste, well. I love coffee. 

When I think of where I feel safe or comfortable, I often think of the classroom. As a natural extrovert, teaching feels like home. I am not referring to talking at my students, but rather leading, facilitating, and listening to them. I want the classroom to embody a place where we can discuss, challenge, disagree, and grow. Do not assume that I mean that I expect the classroom to not be a place of contentious conversation–it is. But, when I walk into a classroom to teach or to give a presentation, I feel like I am at home or in a good place that I am comfortable.

What caused this stream of thought? This quote from George Eliot, “Oh, the comfort. The inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person. Having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words. But pouring them all out. Just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.”  Keep and nurture. Blow the rest away.

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Mentoring Graduate Students

I am assessing the last year and thinking about my mentoring of my Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants (RAs). While I need them to grade and facilitate the tutorials, the other thing that I want them to do is learn. I am a firm believer in giving them ample opportunity to learn and lead. And, a major part of this is trying to get them used to project management and working with people. Another key thing is to help them have better work life balance. It is easy to get caught up in the “flexibility” of our academic jobs and to work all of the darn time.

One thing that I set up with my TAs is that any email sent on Friday at 5pm through Sunday is considered a Monday morning email. They are not on call to me and I want to have productive boundaries with them. I also set up with them the guidelines for responding to emails from me Monday through Friday and from my students. I think it is important to offer clear guidelines for working with me.

It was hard to let go and give more freedom for how they lead tutorials, but somehow this is easier for me. I have to trust them and that they will learn what works for the group of students in the tutorial. The art of letting go is important to offering the TAs a chance to get comfortable leading discussions and learning how to work with a supervisor. What have I learned? Some of my TAs are dedicated and others have different skill sets that will serve them well elsewhere.

My most successful TAs and RAs are the ones who take direction well, are organized, and think ahead about the course material or the project. These graduate students are generally more receptive to feedback and have a willingness to learn and do more. These particular graduate students take pride in the work and do not act like the job is funding—they treat the work, like a job. I am thankful for them.

Learning Commons at UVIC

Students will be hard pressed to complain that no one is helpful at UVIC. Between faculty, TAs, the workshops at the Counseling Centre and the Learning Commons they have help at their finger tips. OK. Maybe at their toes, as they will have to walk to these offices. I walked around the library this morning and was really excited with the Learning Commons. So, excited that I made a 90 second video on my iPhone just on the fly. Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/26lvel7 

And, this does not include the International Commons! Don’t forget that near all of this are the desks for the Help Desk (satellite) and Reference Desk. The Library is the place to be to get help, study, research or grab a latte in the Biblio Cafe. Seriously, get into the Library. This is an old post of mine, but too good to not add to and share that there are even more resources dedicated to student learning. What are you waiting for?

 

Those TPS reports won’t write themselves. 

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