Blogging, college campus, learning, Personal growth

5 Lessons teaching has taught me

Another semester is winding down. As exam week nears, I’m prompted to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned through teaching college students for the past few years.

I should preface this by saying, I never imagined myself in a teaching position. Getting a last minute request to help fill in for a professor on family leave, I agreed. Little did I know how much I would love it. I quickly realized the opportunity and honor it is to positively impact the lives of so many young people.

Honestly, I often feel like a student myself. I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. The discussions and questions posed by students in classes force me to think deeper, consider opinions I haven’t, and help me to see things from beyond my own perspective. The following list includes some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow with every class of students.

5 Lessons learned from teaching

  1. Have an open-mind. Students are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in. Knowing this helps in understanding how and why they think differently.
  2. Everyone can be successful, if they want to be. Passing my classes is not hard, it requires commitment. Most students have it, sadly some do not.
  3. Listening takes practice. Learn to listen, I mean really listen and not think about whether you agree/disagree and how you’ll respond. Biting your tongue and focusing are a lot harder than you think.
  4. Recognize your personal biases, and get past them. We all have them, but we don’t all recognize them. Once you do, you will no longer judge others. An important step — in teaching and life.
  5. Be humble. I may have years more life experience than my students, but I don’t know everything … not even close. Every day students open my eyes to things I never knew and would not know if not for them teaching me. This keeps me humble and grounded.

Before entering the classroom, I received a piece of sage advice from a long-time mentor and now fellow colleague. It’s something I remind myself of regularly … “you can only teach the ones who want to be taught”. This relates to lesson #2 on my list above … they’ve gotta want it. This stands true in all of life, actually. You know the old saying … you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. It is true.

This is perhaps the hardest of all lessons in teaching, and one I can’t say I’ve “learned” yet. It’s hard to not feel responsible for every student. And, I tend to take it personally when a student does not do well.

Admittedly, I need to get over feeling whatever a student does in my class has to do with me. If they’re on their phones, laptops or have earbuds in, I feel disrespected and frustrated. But, I remind myself as hard as I work to reach every student and present lessons in a way that is relevant and interesting — I can only teach those who want to be taught.

I know I will continuously work on learning this lesson. If you are or have ever been in a teaching role, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned.D

Blogging, favorite things, happiness

5 things to love about being snowed in

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The polar vortex, along with record-breaking frigid temperatures have resulted in 10 snow days in the past two weeks. Stir crazy and cabin fever don’t begin to describe the current situation. Normally, I don’t mind being cooped up in my own house, but that’s when staying home is my choice. Snowed-in is different.

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Being homebound does have its advantages though. (Trying for a “half-full” attitude here). The time indoors has allowed me to appreciate the true comforts of home. I am adding these to my list of favorite things.

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Comfort #1 — Head bands and pony tails. The hair goes up and off my face immediately upon getting home. Admittedly, not my best look but I’m home and it’s comfortable.

Comfort #2 — Sweat pants or leggings. At home, an elastic waist is mandatory. The second thing I do when coming through the door at the end of the day is change into comfy clothes. These are also known as “little clothes” in our family, according to my father-in-law.

Comfort #3 — Slippers. My husband calls them my “work shoes.” Working from a home office, slippers are definitely my preferred foot ware. I wear slippers more than any shoes in my closet. (Not admitting to the number of shoes in my collection).

Comfort #4 — Make-up free days. If it’s truly an at-home day, I take full advantage of the chance to skip the make-up.  On partial at-home days, I opt for partial make-up which typically means eye-liner but no mascara.

Comfort #5 — Afternoon tea. At exactly 3 p.m. everyday for as long as I can remember, my eyelids get heavy. If anyone checked up on me at this time of the day, they’d be sure to find me sitting in front of my computer screen with my head bobbing. To combat the fatigue, I brew a strong cup of tea … green tea, following doctor’s orders.

I could probably add a few more to this list. What would you include on your list of favorite things in your home sweet home? Please share.

Blogging, Habits, Personal growth, Podcasts

My top 3 favorite podcasts. What’s in your ears?

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I am a big fan of podcasts. Some might say I’m obsessed. On headphones or on my handy little portable speaker, a podcast is almost always playing. Someone talking in my ears has replaced the sound of music.

I could blame my oldest daughter for my latest obsession. A few years back when picking her up from law school for a holiday visit, she introduced me to “Serial”. The NPR podcast series was red-hot at the time. After consuming a few consecutive episodes,  I was hooked.

The attraction to podcasts can probably be traced back further. As a child, we all loved to have a story read to us. Podcasting is storytelling at its best. I have a renewed love of a story and appreciation for how many stories there are to be told.

Podcasts are not new. They started as an outgrowth of Apple’s iPod. It was an effort to bring original programming to MP3 devices. Back then, getting access to most podcast shows was a pain, not nearly as easy as it is today. Listening to your favorite shows no longer requires the laborious steps of downloading to your computer, plugging in your iPod and then transferring.

Smartphones have made it easy to access podcasts and has grown the audience by leaps and bounds. New apps allow the opportunity to listen to shows directly. Cars equipped with Bluetooth connections play audio from smartphones through car speakers without plugging in.

The popularity of podcasts is definitely growing. Edison Research says podcast consumption is surging. People listening to podcasts every week listened to an average of five programs per week. I count myself in on these stats. 

Certainly, room to grow the audience. Asking my journalism students, who has listened to a podcast recently … or ever, only a few hands raised in response. Forcing them to choose a show to give a listen, I heard lots of positive comments about talk versus music in their ears. Perhaps the audience of podcast listeners has grown, just a bit.

The library of podcasts on my phone continues to grow. Here are a few of my top three  current favorites. I highly recommend adding each to your library and giving talk versus music a try. I’m eager to hear what you think. If you’re a podcast listener, I’d love to hear what’s playing in your ears.

#1 Reveal – 

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As stated on its website — “The Center for Investigative Reporting’s award-winning journalists hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety. We consistently shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

Their mission is noble — “We engage and empower the public through investigative journalism and groundbreaking storytelling to spark action, improve lives and protect our democracy.”

Launched in 1977, the organization has been serving as a watchdog for more than 40 years. Voice of REVEAL’s podcast, Host Al Letson takes his job seriously and it shows in every broadcast.

Favorite episodes: 

Where criminals get their guns

This episode: “Across the country, criminals are arming themselves in unexpected ways. In Florida, they’re stealing guns from unlocked cars and gun stores. In other places, they’re getting them from the police themselves, as cash-strapped departments sell their used weapons to buy new ones. On this episode of Reveal, we learn where criminals get their guns and what cars can teach us about gun safety.” – REVEAL

Rise of a movement

This episode:  “While covering Sunday’s “Rally Against Hate” in Berkeley, California, today, Reveal host Al Letson witnessed a man being attacked by a group of protesters. The man was balled up on the ground, fending off blows from several people. Al jumped in front of the batterers, protecting the man from further injury. On this special episode of Reveal, Al talks about what happened and how the battles between right- and left-wing protesters are playing out.” REVEAL

#2 – How I Built This with Guy Raz

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Guy’s voice alone will reel you into this podcast. His interviewing style and genuine curiosity about everyone’s success story is infectious.

As described on website: Guy Raz dives into the stories behind some of the world’s best known companies. How I Built This weaves a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.

Favorite episodes: 

Starbucks: Howard Schultz

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Five Guys: Jerry Murrell

“Jerry Murrell’s mother used to tell him, you can always make money if you know how to make a good burger. In 1986 — after failing at a number of business ideas — Murrell opened a tiny burger joint in Northern Virginia with his four sons. Five Guys now has more than 1,400 locations worldwide and is one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in America.”

Rent The Runway: Jenn Hyman

Jenn Hyman got the idea for Rent the Runway in 2008, after she watched her sister overspend on a new dress rather than wear an old one to a party. Jenn and her business partner built a web site where women could rent designer dresses for a fraction of the retail price. As the company grew, they dealt with problems that many female entrepreneurs face, including patronizing investors and sexual harassment. Despite these challenges, Rent The Runway now rents dresses to nearly six million women and has an annual revenue of $100 million.

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#3 The Daily

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This daily rundown of current news is a great way to stay informed on the latest happenings. Part of the New York Times news network, The Daily is hosted by seasoned journalist Michael Barbaro. The 20-minute podcast focuses on a top story of the day, bringing in the reporter who covered the story for an insider view. This leaves the audience knowing a bit more than most people. Each episode ends with a brief rundown of other news you need to know. Worth 20 minutes of your day.

Serial – best of the best

If you haven’t listened to a podcast yet, best place to start … Serial – season 1. There are 12 episodes. Trust me you’ll want more when done.

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Blogging, learning

Three lessons learned from my favorite tree falling

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I’m not necessarily the tree-hugging type. Although these days my husband and a few family members might disagree. Having to cut down a big beautiful tree in the front yard of our cottage touched me in ways I didn’t anticipate.

A huge limb randomly fell from this beloved tree the other evening. Sitting on the patio, we heard a strange crackling sound. We turned our heads to watch a big branch break away and fall onto our neighbor’s roof and yard.The sound was startling, the falling limb frightening and the experience one I won’t soon forget. Thankfully no injuries to report, however it has left a very obvious void in our yard.

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Viewing the decay causing the limb to fall, it was apparent the tree had to go. The process was not going to be simple. The Box Elder tree was enormous and tucked tightly between cottages in our yard. A crane was required for the job. The four-man tree removal crew included a guy who’s job involved riding up with the crane into the tree and repelling to cut limbs for the crane to lift onto trailers. It’s a skill the young guy in his 20’s learned from the 70-year-old owner of the company, who was up in a tree himself repelling and cutting within the last year. Owning the tree company for 40 years, John has climbed lots of trees and cut many limbs. Only a few years ago he began employing the help of a crane operator to expedite the removal process.

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Cutting down and removing the entire tree, which they estimated to be more than 60 years old after counting the rings in the base, was an amazing process to watch.  I never realized such equipment existed to do these kind of jobs and the type of skills and training required. I have tremendous respect for the crew involved in each part of the removal process, from limb cutting, log loading to stump grinding.

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As the “family photographer” I recorded the entire procedure and shared photos with my husband while he was stuck working. Included below is a collection of photos of the tree removal experience.

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Along the way, I took away a few lessons that I never expected. Here’s a rundown of what I learned from the loss of our favorite tree.

  • Embrace change … of every shape & size. I consider myself a change agent. I typically welcome change. However, when it involves removal of a tree, particularly a tree that has a very long history, that tends to strike a different nerve. Following the tree removal, I admit to appreciating the additional sunshine in our yard. I’m coming around and getting used to it being gone. .
  •  Don’t get too attached … probably easier said than done. In the case of our beloved tree, it served as our umbrella over our fire pit and shaded our yard. However, the sunshine is nice and we shall buy big umbrellas to keep on hand,
  • Appreciate good service … the tree company we hired was a small local guy, referred and highly recommended by a neighbor. Good idea and good job done! With 40 years experience, it’s easy to see how this 70-year-old has built a solid business cutting down trees. His knowledge, experience and care for doing the job all the way to the end is clearly why his business has thrived for all these years. And he has hired and mentored an enthusiastic crew.
  • Crane operating is great business … in watching the entire process it hit me — the guy who owns/runs the crane has a pretty good thing going on. He was young, maybe early 30s, had purchased the crane (a very big investment), was trained in operating it and subcontracts himself and his crane out for hire. Not a bad gig, considering John our tree cutting owner says he’s given this crane operator about $68,000 in business in the last year, and he’s only one of the crane operator’s clients. Heads up to all the young guys (or gals) out there wondering what major to choose in college.

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