Ending on an Up Note:

creativity1In a TED talk given in February 2009, writer Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame), talked about the origins, burdens, and blessings of living a creative life. It’s no secret that the best teachers are often the most creative ones. Still, we sometimes shrink from the prospect of our most creative impulses. Near the end of her talk, Gilbert offered this admonition:

“Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then ‘Ole!’ And if not, do your dance anyhow. And ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless. I believe this and I feel that we must teach it. ‘Ole!’ to you, nonetheless, just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up.

You can see a video of the entire 20-minute talk here.

Ole!  And enjoy your weekend.


Nursing Students and Reading Skills

ReadingthuRsday-R2           Strategies to impact reading proficiency and comprehension are important for all students, particularly nursing students.  Some might suggest that good reading skills are critical to academic achievement and success.  Nursing students can benefit by reading for comprehension first; reading the small print associated with diagrams, graphs, charts, and tables; keeping the highlighting of text to a minimum; taking notes on the content; reading chapter summaries; and practicing National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) questions related to chapter content (Kurtz-Ogilvie, 2013; Purdue Owl, 2014).

By the time students officially begin their nursing classes, they have sufficiently demonstrated reading proficiency and comprehension through the completion of pre-requisite course work.  However, reading strategies to enhance this skill are still very important.  Nursing students are often tasked to read large volumes of highly technical material in a short period of time.  This can be overwhelming.  Having a few key strategies to improve reading skills can be extremely beneficial.nursebooks

The first strategy for improving reading skills is to read a chapter solely for comprehension without highlighting key points.  Highlighting after an initial read may be useful, but keeping the highlighting to a minimum is important (Purdue Owl, 2014).  Instead, students should focus on what the author is trying to convey and consider whether or not the information is valid and reliable.  Does the information make sense?  Is there a need to question or challenge the content being presented?  Playing devil’s advocate can actually be advantageous by keeping the reader engrossed in the topic (Kurtz-Ogilvie, 2013).

heartSecondly, it is important for nursing students to read and pay close attention to all the diagrams, graphs, charts, and tables within a chapter.  Not only is it important to be able to interpret the meaning of this data, it helps to reinforce the information presented in the text.  Students may be more likely to remember critical information at test time if they have thoroughly read the text and can visualize some aspect of the content.  The diagrams, graphs, charts, and tables can facilitate this.

Finally, taking notes, reading chapter summaries, and practicing NCLEX-style questions are all strategies that help master difficult content (Kurtz-Ogilvie, 2013).  The summary can help organize the information in a condensed and meaningful way.  This is especially helpful when the chapter is lengthy, covers numerous topics, or consists of highly complex content.  The NCLEX-style questions are also beneficial.  They require students to comprehend the content in such a way that can then be applied to patient care.  This application of knowledge demonstrates a higher level of understanding.notes2

Even the best readers can improve their reading skills.  Reading first for comprehension and not as much for detail is recommended (Kurtz-Ogilvie, 2013).  Paying close attention to all diagrams, graphs, charts, and tables can improve understanding.  Taking notes and reading chapter summaries can help students retain information.  Practicing NCLEX-style questions can help students take the learned content and apply it to specific patient situations or nursing practice issues.   Nursing students can enhance their reading proficiency and comprehension by adopting these strategies.


Kurtz-Ogilvie, W. (2013, March 7). More meaningful reading [Web log post]. Retrieved from       http://www.writingtipoftheweek.blogspot.com/

Purdue Owl. (2014). Close reading a text and avoiding pitfalls. Retrieved from


Have Some Tomato with Your Elephant

karenMy last couple of posts have been inspired by the late General Creighton Abrams oh-so-prudent admonition:

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”

Like most good advice, this tip is easy to agree with in principle but challenging to practice.  My students and I need some pointers on how to cut that elephant up into palatable chunks and get him on the fork.eating an elephant

An easy way to start is by “time boxing.” We educators miss a lot of good ideas that originate outside academia, and this one is a darling of the business world.  Reduced to its simplest terms, time boxing involves carving out a box of time–one that is doable for you–and lean into the task at hand for that interval. If the task is truly dreaded, make the box small.  If you have built up a little momentum, or the task is one you could almost enjoy, then make a bigger box. boxes

This tactic goes a long way toward making virtually any goal achievable, whether it’s completing a despised document or cleaning up a messy closet or studying for a big test.  When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just make boxes and line them up.  Magic.

Several of our pleasures in learning come into play here, helping to make the tool more effective.  I’m usually surprised by how much I accomplish. I definitely feel that I’ve met an achievable challenge. And I certainly feel a sense of autonomy: I’m managing my chores instead of my chores managing me. Remember, making progress is the number one motivator of successful workers.

So why the tomato in the title? Back in the 80’s, Francesco Cirillo, an Italian student,  developed a time boxing technique in which he divided work into twenty-five minute intervals.  After each 25 minutes of work, he took a short break. He measured these intervals on his kitchen timer, which was shaped like–you guessed it–a tomato. (In case you missed the last field trip to the Olive Garden, “pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato.) This has spawned a popular Pomodoro program, complete with retail opportunities. You can visit the site by clicking here. It’s a bit too structured for me, but you may be interested.pomodoro

I prefer to use the timer on my iPhone to keep myself honest. My dear husband often shouts, “Honey, your phone is making that weird noise again!” if my task has taken me to a distant part of the house. In fact, setting the timer away from my workspace helps me to adhere to the intervals.

When I share this technique with my students, several of them report that they have successfully put time boxing or “pomodoring” into action. They have busy, demanding lives, and anatomy & physiology is a big, demanding class. The elephant seems to taste better with a little tomato sauce.

Special sneak preview: Tomorrow Beth Meade shares some thoughts on the importance of reading in the nursing program.

Tech Tuesday: Think Like a Thief

Each Tuesday, pleasureinlearning brings you Tech Tuesday.  Come back each week for more ways to become efficient and effective in your use of technology. 


Last weekend my husband and I were looking at purchasing an Audi A4.  We saw this really great deal on craigslist (a classified ads website).  The pictures of this car were beautiful and the price was right.  We messaged the seller through the contact feature, but unfortunately didn’t hear back.  We’re driving home from an errand and my husband says to me, “I bet we can figure out where the seller lives from the pictures.”

Being the helpful wife that I am, I agreed to assist with his pursuit.  He drove and I looked at the pictures for clues.  We identified some high tension power lines from the pictures.  It was also clear that the street had no sidewalks and houses of varying ages. Lastly, we noticed an empty lot across the street.  Based on our intimate knowledge of the high tension power lines in our city, we narrowed our search down to a few neighborhoods.  On the second one we struck gold.  There was the house in the pictures!

My husband jumped out of the car and knocked on the door.  Unfortunately the A4 had been traded in the day before.  We were bummed.  Fortunately, the seller was able to tell us where he had sold it and how much he had received for it.  Armed with that knowledge, we got a great deal on the car from the dealer.  We only paid a few dollars more than the original craigslist ad price and got an oil change along with new brakes and tires.

What’s the moral of the story here?  Be careful what you post on the Internet!  Check out the first portion of this ad for another example of what NOT to do.

The “If I Were a Carpenter” Challenge

BrianA few nights ago, the song “If I Were a Carpenter” floated to mind, with memories of its hauntingly beautiful lyrics and melody. I looked up the lyrics, themselves a poem. Then I listened to lots of YouTube adaptations and marveled at the versatility and popularity of the song across so many pop genres. How so? The answer is simple. Every now and then a song comes out that is universal: it speaks across folk, country, rock, Motown, and I’m sure more. Adaptations flourish and keep coming out.

This is always a fasciation; it happens with great plays, great films, and great books and stories. Interpretations vary according to directors and performing artists. The point is that a work of art stands out as universal and craved by many—to see and hear in new forms.

“If I Were a Carpenter” touches so many sensitive spots in us, especially romance’s infinite need to be loved “anyway.” I’ve put the links to nine renderings of this song, one that is a single poem and melody but given to a variety of tempos, arrangements, and sensory appeals. You are invited to take the “If I Were a Carpenter” challenge.

Tim Hardin, the song’s author sings it at Woodstock in 1969.timhardin


Bobby Darin who popularized the song in 1968 sings it live in 1973.


Led Zeplin:


The Group Small Faces:


The Group The Four Tops:


Dwight Yoakum and Alison Krauss:


cashJohnny Cash and June Carter Cash:


Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow:


Bob Seger:


Ending on an Up Note: In Praise of Effort

climberI always enjoy reading anything written by the wonderful Anna Quindlen.  The latest issue of O magazine includes a short piece featuring “5 Things I Know For Sure,” in which she opines:

“With all our talk about God-given gifts, we’ve convinced a generation of kids that if you’re good at something, it must be effortless.  That’s so, so wrong. The best work is a slog. Then you reach the summit and say, Well, that wasn’t easy, but here I am.”

Amen to that.  Stay warm and enjoy your weekend.

Reading Is Not Just a Basic Skill

pleasureinlearning is delighted to welcome Justina Ashihi-Subia, an instructor specializing in reading at Hopkinsville Community College.  Tina shares her thoughts as part of our continuing weekly series focusing on college reading.

ReadingthuRsday-R2Reading is not just a basic skill; it is more than just looking at words and trying to connect them to make sense of them. Reading is a process and is a problem-solving effort.  Many teachers (in the higher educational setting) have succumbed to the idea that reading should have been taught in grade school; therefore, it is not their responsibility to help students with ‘reading.’ As students venture in to post-secondary education, students encounter new vocabulary and new concepts. The question we should ask ourselves as educators is: “Is it really our responsibility to help these students with their lack of comprehension?”  I believe it is.reading2

First, we have to acknowledge that reading is a multifaceted process; it requires a many skills and tools.  The process requires connecting what is being read to a related experience and knowledge of the information; and if the text was complex, it requires more in-depth concentration. Perhaps in some cases, it requires backtracking and restarting. At some point, the reader might need to begin a conversation with himself or herself, trying to talk through text. Reading is a process for everyone. coolgirlHowever, experienced readers have learned to do all these tasks quickly. Most HCC students have not achieved this ‘talent.’ But is it really a fault of anyone? Somewhere along the way this process was either lost or not achieved. As educators, it is our responsibility to meet the needs of our students. I understand it is not an overnight process, but it is attainable with the correct tools.

Equipped with specific strategies, our college has adopted a research-based framework to assist in our expedition of producing self-sufficient readers.  Reading Apprenticeship identifies four overlapping and interacting dimensions in a classroom: the social, personal, cognitive, and knowledge-building. They are linked by conversation – conversation that is metacognitive, and we educators have to stimulate this conversation. readingapprentice

As a collegiate community, I feel it is important that we not only acknowledge our student’s needs to become sufficient readers. For it is our responsibility as a community to meet their needs even in the busiest times. One source that I recommend and use frequently that is post secondary and cross-discipline focused is Reading Apprenticeship. Please click on the website below for more information or visit me at the Education Center room 229.