Most instructors have likely experienced this. You get your mail in the department and you have a card from a former student that essentially says the following: I took your class a number of years ago and wanted to say thank you. I thought you were crazy, but now that I’ve been working I find that I think of you and the class fondly. I am sorry for being a jerk. Your class was important. Thank you. I appreciate the thanks, and I also appreciate the apologies for sarcasm or making the class discussion more difficult. These notes are quite meaningful.

Approximately ten times per year, I get emails, cards or Facebook messages like the above from my former students. Funny enough the cards are from an array of students and it is sloppy to say it is from the haters. The cards come from former students who are being honest. Some might think  that they were difficult, but I find that their memory and my memory vary. I can think of two very difficult groups over the years, and I have heard from one person out of that group, and the apology appeared honest at first. I say that, as that former student appeared lots in my social media being rather antagonistic. I wish I could say that the above is pure hyperbole. It is not.

Lately, this has happened more than most years. I think it’s the fact that the numbers of students that I have taught has increased or maybe it is the fact that I just finished my tenth year at the fourth university. They know how to contact me via snail mail, email or social media.

My point here is I have found that the students who send these notes surprise me. I am happily surprised that they contacted me. I am happily surprised with the thanks, and reminded about the privilege that I have working with them in the classroom. But, each card notes that I was approachable, enthusiastic or that my playing devil’s advocate made a difference. My students are not jerks. They are diligent, hard-working, exhausted, balancing lots, and do what they can. They are imperfect. And, so am I.

Great caption, excuse the f bomb


Thanksgiving 2014

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and I am sitting here thinking about the things that I am thankful for with this new school year. In the spirit of brevity I will number.

1. I am thankful for my mostly good health.

2. I am thankful for my sweetheart’s good health.

3. I am thankful for my wonderful family–both made and born. Not a day goes by that I do not think of all my family in California.

4. I am thankful to have such wonderful friends near and far. I know that I can text or email this inner circle and hear from them quickly. Thank you.

5. I am thankful for my job as a professor. As I have noted before, I have the great fortune to mentor young people.

6. I am thankful for my admin gig. I get to help other faculty, staff, and students and enhance their learning environment.

7. I am thankful for my peer mentors. You know who you are. Thank you.

8. I am thankful for my students. I enjoy interacting with them in the classroom, office hours, and the mentoring moments.

I have lots more to say, but I think this is a great start for Canadian Thanksgiving. Smiling. The photo below is from UVIC Communications, Photo Services.


Fri Fun Facts: Thanksgiving

Today is the Friday prior to Canadian Thanksgiving. Given this, it’s an appropriate time to think about what you are thankful for this Fall. I am very thankful for my family, friends, health, and my job. What your thankful for?

Make a list and write down five to ten things that make you feel content.

Make another list and write down where you would like to see yourself in the next six months or the next year. Think about what you can do to get yourself there.

Make a companion list to see what is holding you back from meeting the above goals.

After you’ve made these lists, spend a few minutes thinking about them. Here, I mean mindful thinking. You might listen to music, meditate, walk, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and try to spend these minutes thinking about your goals and your sense of contentment.

It is important to spend time to celebrate your accomplishments and what makes you feel happy. A related part of this is thinking about your goals–this might keep you focused and happy.

But, I ask again–what are you thankful for?

Interactions with Students~

I’m taking a break from the Fri Fun Facts. Instead, Friday will offer short posts about something that is on  my mind.

Working with young people there are many different opportunities to mentor or coach undergraduates. I find that some of these moments present themselves when you aren’t really expecting it. Each year I get cards or emails from students who have taken one class from me or have seen me in office hours and are graduating or transferring to another university closer to home. And, I’m always a little bit surprised to get the note or email that thanks me for a good class or for some help.

The reason why I’m surprised is that these particular students did not see me lots and only took one class from me. Given that I teach several classes most are apt to have had at least one class with me. My point here is that at times you can make a difference in a student’s experience in a class or in the office and not realize it. I always follow up the contact with an email or face to face chat if I can.

After I started the post, I cleaned up my home office and found a stack of emails or notes from students from 2002-2009! I read each one and remembered the students. I’m thankful that they took the time to contact me. What all of this reminds me is that we have moments in our offices or classroom, when we make a connection with a student. And, sometimes we are not even aware of it.

Thanksgiving Monday

What are you thankful for in your life? On this Thanksgiving long weekend in Canada, many are thinking about great meals and time spent with family. And, we are reminded to reflect about thanks. I’d like to think about education. I’m thankful for my education and to have a place in my students’ education. I’m also thankful for the great education that my own children are afforded (OK, it’s not that affordable, but that is another post) here in Victoria.

During the last month, I have received the annual array of Facebook messages or emails from former students. These contacts share one major theme: thanks. Now, I’m not going to make this about me. Instead, I want to focus on how these former students are thinking about their university educations and how they are thankful. This puts a smile on my face for numerous reasons. One month into the school year they are reminiscing and somehow reminded that they are thankful for that education and that they miss it–warts and all (assignments/deadlines, oh my).

Well, I’m thankful for the contact. That they remember me and that they look back fondly at their time during university. But, if anything, I am also reminded that an education is a life-long process. And, we all should know that education takes place in other places than the classroom. My education cup runneth over and I feel content.