Whine Weds

I’ve seen the #wineWeds and #whineWed tags on Twitter and both have made me smile. Although I do prefer the sarcastic #whineWeds tag. Lately, I have followed the #wellnessWeds tag on Twitter and other social networking sites. I am trying to spend any extra time thinking about the positive and surrounding myself with people who really bring me joy. Yes, I have read Marie Kondo’s books and I have decluttered lots in my house, and other parts of my life. There is something truly liberating for me to be able to protect my time.

Recently I was at a regional conference in my home discipline and I took special care to protect to my schedule, and outside of conference commitments I was very careful with any extra time that I had. I brought along some work and I needed to take care of it. I read reports, and graded in the sun, and kept up with my email. I also attended fewer obligatory receptions, and I am fine with that. I was in charge of my time. I did get some networking in, but it’s not the feverish networking of someone who is looking for work and trying to make all the connections. I’ve been there.

I am hearing from vendors or other partners about the need for a conference call and the one to three day warning for the meetings is not enough. The emails that note ASAP are not a priority for me and my time. The people who I work with regularly and have access to me and my time do not need to flag the message as important. It is often the vendor or someone who has not planned their time well, who uses that flag or note.

I need to balance my work and it is getting easier for me to offer a polite no and suggest the call or meeting for next week or the week after. So, on this #wellnessWeds I lift up my coffee and say, “Protecting your time, protects you.” It is perfectly acceptable to say, No. No, I am not available. No, I will not engage with you. No, I will not respond to your passive aggressive email with a passive aggressive response. No. But, always say yes to Tacos.

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Do Not Glorify Busy: Friends

This post is revised, but provides a timely reminder. Our lives are not about competing with one another about how busy we are. No one wins the busy olympics. Do not glorify busy. Do not proudly say, “I am triple booked.” One-upping does not make you more important. We are all busy.

My mantra for 2013 was: I will not glorify busy. This mantra deserves its own post, but I will speak to something more specific here. I continue to not glorify busy, since I know that everyone is busy and it’s relative to our lives. I will not make myself more busy than I need to and pass on social situations that I have to “phone in.”  This does not include work meetings or commitments, as that is different since I have to attend these meetings. I had a loved one in my family go through a major health crisis a few years ago and it was a wake-up call for better life balance and here I am thinking about things. I am better at taking time off. I have not perfected it, but I am getting better. One of the things that I am more cognizant of that is extremely important that I take care of myself. I am not talking about the basics: food and shelter. No, I’m referring to a more nuanced way of taking care of myself. If I have better balance in my life, my family benefits. If my family benefits, so do my friends, and then my co-workers and students. When my family was in crisis, I saw which friends were available and offered help and more importantly I also saw who I wanted to spend time with during my down time or me time.

I want to surround myself with people who are good friends. I want to spend time with people who are not vampires–you know the ones. You might refer to them as emotional vampires. Now, that I am trying to take better care of myself, I am more careful with my free time. Friendships are important and I am surrounded by some wonderful people in my life. But, I took stock during the last nine months and have forged some stronger friendships with some friends and have walked away from some other more shallow friendships. Surround yourself with people who have your back! This post is germane given that I am off to BlogHer and will surround myself with like-minded people. My hope it to make some new friends and finally meet some “old” ones in real life.

This post is reposted with a few things added. Overall, the sentiment is germane. Do not glorify busy. You will not get a gold medal or cookie for being busy. Take care of yourself!

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Do Not Burn that Bridge: Collegiality

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I am in the throes of letter writing and giving job references for former students and staff. This post is not a book review of the book in the photograph. I took the screen shot and of the book and add my post as a suggestion for a job applicant or new employee. One of the things that I have heard from prospective employers is the ways in which a candidate or hired employee fails miserably and burns a bridge. In my line of work as an instructor, advisor, mentor, coach or supervisor, I also occasionally see a student or staff member burn a bridge. Occasionally this is done with a positive attitude or the expectation that rewards are instantaneous upon merely doing the job.

I have heard repeatedly that a good attitude can help a new employee. If you are new to a job that you are not sure about make sure that during your shift you act like you care. This job could turn into something else for you and it is hard to shake off a bad impression. Be careful with social media. Do not post negative statements about your employer or co-workers. Nothing is private online and the worst thing that you can do is make you or your employer look bad. Likewise, if you have some terrible customers you also do not want to post information about them. Be careful and smart.

Make sure that you are dressing in a way that fits the environment. If there is a dress code, follow it. If there is not a dress code, ask your immediate manager what she or he suggests. There is nothing more embarrassing than having a manager speak to you about your clothing. In my early twenties, this happened to me twice and I never wore that blouse or the skirt again. Both seemed fine with the ensemble, but giving further thought I realized that they did not meet the conservative norms of that work place. I always suggest to my students who have job interviews to think about the dropped pen exercise. If you have to pick up a pen, will you feel comfortable as you lean in to grab the pen. Bend with your knees–not your back!

Other hints for looking for work–keep in contact with people who are well-connected or who you might want a reference from at a later date. This might be a bi-annual email that updates or an occasional hand written note. Make sure that you keep your circle of references up to date with all the wonderful things that you are doing. Related to this, be careful on social media. There are numerous examples of poor use of social media. I imagine that the communications staff at one East Coast university spent part of this last Monday chatting about a student’s racist post and the follow up posts that only made his original tweet worse. While his Twitter account is now deleted, many screen-shotted the tweet. Plus, the response against his racism was swift. That original tweet could haunt him.

Overall, be smart while you are looking for work and new on the job. Even if you do not have a probationary period, your first few days, weeks, and months are scrutinized. Check in with your co-workers and manager. If you do not have regular performance reviews, ask if you could have some assessment. Think of it as a work tune up. Reflect and learn. And, if you have questions–ask them.

Fill the Right Cup: Revisit

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Ray Bradbury explained, “We are all cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” This metaphor works for me. And, I have taken care to surround myself with people who fill the cups, and not only take away from you. 

Which cups do you fill? Do you fill the cups of optimism, pragmatism, or pessimism? It is important to think about where you expend your mental energy. Thinking back to my grad school days there were moments when the pessimism cup was the cup that I filled and that was not a good thing, but those moments of overwhelm and impostor syndrome were intense. I have to thank my peer mentors and faculty mentors for helping me fill the other cups.

My networks helped me stay grounded during grad school. Sure, we had our moments when would complain about our workloads and our financial situations, but overall it was pretty fabulous to read, research, teach, and write for a living. My peer mentors were primarily from the cohorts ahead of me and to this day some of my closes friends are from my grad school days. I met both of my best-friends in grad school.

Related to this, peer mentors listened. The listening cup was overflowing and there are times when I miss that interaction–the ability to have long conversations. The cup that we need to keep filling is the listening cup. Listening is an important part of a supportive and honest network. As I am working with undergraduates through graduate students, I am thinking about the importance of them finding good peer networks. I am only one part of the puzzle and know that the rest of the puzzle must include peers.

I knew that at home I had support, and my friends and networks at work in the department and larger academic community helped me through my grad school days. Peer mentoring is invaluable and if your cohort does not feel supportive, seek out peers ahead of you for guidance or go outside of your department. This advice is appropriate for those of us years out of grad school, too. And, if you are years into your career remember to connect your students to other students and to other faculty. Expand your students’ networks–this is part of the mentoring or coaching process.

 Fill the cups! Confer, trust, connect, mentor, listen, and celebrate your success…and by all means surround yourself with your friends and family.

 

Reflections: No Glares

Now that another term has almost ended, I can look over my shoulder at the previous school year and think reflect. Each year I reflect and try to learn from the previous year and then resolve to make some changes in the next year in the classroom, for my professional development or my ongoing efforts to mentor/coach students and peers. What did I do differently last year in the classroom, office hours or other interactions with my students? I resolved for more honesty. I was blunt. I was diplomatic, but more so, I was blunt. I am helpful and professional; however, I refuse to waste my students’ time with circular conversations. I do them no favors if I try to sugar-coat conversations.

What were the repercussions for me, if any? I heard more of these comments:
Thank you for being honest. I’ve never heard this before. Why am I almost done and no one has told me this? I didn’t know that this was plagiarism. Thank you for your time.

I did not have any incidents where someone stormed out of my office or a conversation escalated. If anything, I had meaningful conversations about assignments, interactions, writing, grad school, and other issues. As I have noted on numerous occasions, part of my job means that I have the good fortune to work with young people in the classroom or in my office. I love it. I would not trade this job for another as I get to teach, mentor, coach, and lead.

This last year I also thought more about my time. I strategically chose to focus my time differently. Part of it is that I had to, given a job change, but that is cause for a different post. I was not as available for extended office hours and the world did not fall apart. I expected a few day’s notice for extra appointments. What I am saying is that I established better boundaries for office houring and mentoring students. I had to protect my time thanks to the job change and I was working more. I managed my time effectively and accomplished more. And, at the same time I did not field complaints from my students. If anything, the change was better, as they commanded my full attention at times that were not pressed between meetings and I could listen.

My writing prompt for this post comes from a Swedish Proverb, “Fear less, hope more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less love more; and all good things are yours.” This last school year was filled with so much good and change. I welcome the change with a big smile and an open mind. The 2015-16 school year is half way through and I am in a great place. And, I’ll add that my little Grumpy Cat agrees and has her head on the desk!

Affirmations

What are some of the mantras that you repeat? I love different quotes and use them as power ups, to share or to remind me about positive things. I have a few books of different quotes and refer to them, as needed. On an older version of my business card is the quote, “I believe in women.” My partner had the cards designed for me when I finished my dissertation.

What are some of your favorite quotes or affirmations that you say to yourself before a tough situation? This book is great. It’s perfect for writing prompts or just writing down the mundane. 20140227-173735.jpg

Due Dates

I’ve been a college instructor for some 17  wonderful years. In this time one thing has changed some. I am witnessing more students assume that due dates are a guideline. This is a problem. A due date is set with good reason by most of us. When I am managing a few courses and try to stagger my marking and if 10-30% of the class turns in late work, it really throws things off kilter.

Not only this, but due dates matter. I penalize students 5-10 points per day with late work and this penalty includes the weekends. My philosophy is that the coursework is a job and we don’t normally submit late work to our job. Of course, there will be family deaths, illnesses, accidents and other unforseen situations, but these are quite rare.

This is a post that I have revised. It was four years old and I am re-reading it thinking about how in the last four years I am not quite as agitated about the late work. I have instituted a new policy–I do not accept late work. At first I thought this would cause me problems–it did not. Yes, I am occasionally flexible when a student contacts me about extenuating circumstances, but my newish policy has worked. Minions make me smile and I hope that they do the same for you.

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