A New Adventure

wpid-img_20140820_180232.jpgToday marked day #2 of being “on the job” at the University of Wisconsin – Platteville. Today was Orientation Day for new employees. During this time I learned about all of the services that folks can access on campus. I knew that UWP offered a lot for students, but I didn’t realize that there were so many opportunities. I left with a mind full of ideas!

I was able to share some of my ideas with all sorts of groups on campus. It felt great to articulate some of those big ideas that I had kept fairly quiet before. Having creative outlets is so important for professional growth.

On my lunch break, I was surfing twitter and I noticed a few chatting about a blogging challenge (@Jena_Sherry & @jmalphy), and I asked about it. Both directed me to @Akevy613 as the facilitator of a 30 day blogging challenge. 

Okay, seriously, I was just asking for information, but within two minutes I think I was in the group, and while I’ve got enough on my plate, this will be good for me. I will also be supporting a practice I preach to my students.

Blogging really IS good for the soul. I don’t care if anyone reads my posts; writing is just my opportunity to iron out my thoughts. I’ve also been able to incorporate original photography just for fun. Actually, blogging has helped me explain concepts to other people later. There’s something about sorting out concepts in writing first.

Tonight @Jena_Sherry suggested that I use Voxer to record quick blogging topics before I forget them. That’s a great idea! I can’t tell you how many times a great topic popped in my head only to drift from my mind two minutes later.

I’m looking forward to a writing challenge. It’ll be good for me! It’s opportunities like this that lead to professional growth and networking. All thanks to Twitter!



After Reading “Gung Ho”

Gung Ho is a book published in 1998 by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. It is one of many books published by this duo on individual influence during organizational change. I stumbled upon this book while perusing my local Goodwill. I recognized the authors’ names and for a couple of bucks, took it home with me.

Even though the book is quite old now (for a book on organizational change), it really does speak common sense even yet today. It might actually be a good book to read before reading Daniel Pink’s Drive.

The main premise of Gung Ho is to point out what motivates people to care about their organization. It’s very easy to read and understand. I do wish more details were ironed out as parts of the story are left out, in my opinion. Even then, I still left with ways to apply this to my work.

According to Blanchard and Bowles, all organizations should help their employees or volunteers understand the following concepts:

  1. Make the world a better place. Know that what we do betters the lives for other people.
  2. Have shared goals. Those goals are part of a bigger picture, but help determine those benchmarks and feel good about reaching those benchmarks.
  3. Have values that anchor goals. These values provide a way to behave.
  4. Know objectives and have some control over decisions.
  5. Believe that thoughts are valued and that when feelings are expressed that those in power not only listen, but act upon those calls.
  6. Be capable of the task presented. Work needs to not feel trivial. On the other hand, the charge can’t be too challenging as to stimulate sure-failure.
  7. Enjoy moments of honest congratulations and praise for hard work.

Even though the was written over 14 years ago, the main message still rings true today. People want to feel valued and know that their contributions make a difference.

I’ve only had one job where I felt like my efforts were meaningless. I filed paperwork for an insurance company. That was the extent of my responsibilities. For four hours at a time I picked up stacks of papers and filed them into client files. I could barely stay awake some days, even when I had enough sleep. The work was just so meaningless to me. I did what was asked, but not a lick more and I left that job within a few months.

This text can also be read through an educator lens. A school administrator or teacher could use these maxims when leading his or her building or classroom. These maxims apply to human nature, regardless of the arena, and when carried out with fidelity, can be motivating for personal and organizational success.


The Connections Really Do Matter

As I proceed through the semester at whirlwind speed, I can honestly say that I’m enjoying the connections I’ve made with students. It’s probably one of my favorite parts of what I do. I’ve found that when students know that I care, I have fewer conflicts and they are willing to produce better quality. The follow is a short list of ideas I want to keep working on:

  1. Establishing a Connection: I want to be sure I know all their names, their hometowns, and their programs. I don’t care if I have 70 or 150 students. I can do that. I want them to know that they aren’t just a seat. They matter to me; They matter to our campus and all of Southwest Wisconsin. I want them to really know that.
  2. Understanding What is Important: Not all my students are driven by grades. I want to understand what drives them to be in school. Understanding their drive will help me tailor class to their motivations. It also helps me establish empathy.
  3. Seeking Additional Resources: When I can connect students to additional resources or alternative experiences, they see a greater relevance. Some times that means simply showing them typos they might see in the real world or it might be something more impacting like connecting them to service organizations the match their program.


International Festival 2012

This spring I landed the lucky opportunity to attend Madison’s International Festival at the Overture for the Arts as part of a field trip sponsored by SWTC’s C.L.A.S.S club. Being that I have not really been exposed to different cultures like I want, I knew that this opportunity would be a benefit to me. I decided to take my 6-year-old daughter, Jenna, with me as a way for her to experience other cultures too.

The only difficult part of the trip was the bus ride and that’s only because I get motion sickness easily. Other than that, the day was splendid.

You can see from the photos that Jenna and I had a great time. She was able to purchase a bracelet from Ecuador, a necklace from Ghana, and a bookmark with her name written in Chinese. We had a real Italian meatball sub that made Subway look pathetic. The dancers and musicians were amazing.

Here are some video clips I took of the various musicians we were able to enjoy:


Brazilian Percussion

Mexican Root Music

This festival changed several perceptions I had about various cultures. It’s not that I viewed these cultures in a bad light. I just didn’t have a view of them at all. For example, last week if someone had asked me to verbalize what I knew about Old World Lithuanian dancing, I would have envisioned people in tattered clothing clogging in a bar. How lame is that?! When I taught The Jungle ages ago, I remember seeing a short video clip of Jurgis and Ona dancing at their wedding. For some reason that image is all I ever gathered. On Saturday I was able to watch real dancers on stage and my perception was able to take actual shape.

The trip was worth three times what I paid, so I know that I’m fortunate to go for almost nothing (by the time I factored in all the free snacks I ate). I hear Platteville takes a trip to Chinatown, which I’ll have to pursue. It’s nice to know that even though I live in a rural area and lack cultural experience, I can travel to other parts of the mid-west to learn about culture unlike my own.

Less me, More Student

I’ve always been a big believer in promoting a student-centered classroom. I’ve slipped a few times this semester with today being one of them. I have yet another fabulous Oral Interpersonal class, but this time the class is almost twice as large. That makes it challenging to have the intimate discussions that I’m looking for in an Oral Interpersonal class, but this group of students has just enough leaders to produce a really interesting environment.

Today we were talking about the perception process. I was going through my usual rattle, explaining the steps in my goofy way. Students chimed in with stories. In the end, I felt okay about it, but as I started reflecting, I quickly became angry with myself. I started thinking about who did most of the talking. Me. Sure, in the beginning of a course that’s understandable, but we are in week three and these students have wonderful stories to share. Tonight I’m counting the number of student experiences I heard today and I am not counting enough.

I have great students that will talk. Some even have side conversations about our discussion topics. I need to work harder to listen to them and stay out of the center. I’m not that type of teacher.

I’m going to hang a little sign in the back of the room that says, “Less me, More Student.”

Self-Disclosure & Students

This week my Oral Interpersonal students finished up the section in the textbook on Self-Disclosure. We concluded the week with a short series of self-disclosure activities. I was expecting emotion, but I was blown away by the experience and perspective each of them gave me. Both days I was left drained and yet closer to each of them willing to disclose.

It seems that in education teachers are expected to put up a wall between the student and teacher, never letting them see a vulnerable side. The veils stay on. The serious professional is always present. That just isn’t me. I wear my heart on my sleeve. When students act out or become disruptive, it hurts. It takes me a day or two to depersonalize it or process other factors.

So a week of Self-Disclosure is more “me” yet it was exhausting. First, it’s challenging to encourage them to do it in the first place, and secondly after they do I’m drained. Not everyone drops bombshells — it’s their choice. I’m not the judge. No one is. But once I hear all their stories, I just feel like I know them so much better, almost as if it take us from week for to week 16 in two days.

This week I was so proud of my students. They disclosed what was important to them. So did I and it felt really good.

I wish I could tear down that wall in all my classes.