Ending on an Up Note: Get Out of Your Way

road closedThere are plenty of obstacles that can stand in your way. Don’t be one of them.

—Ralph Marston, Author of The Daily Motivator, April 6, 2012.
Enjoy your weekend.

Classhacks: Syllabus Surprise

PapersIn the August 26 edition of the online magazine Slate, education columnist Rebecca Schuman decries the current bloating of syllabi in college courses. Her article, “Syllabus Tyrannus: The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi” details how these gargantuan documents came to be, and opines that the really important material can still be covered “in a page or two.” No wonder instructors have resorted to syllabus quizzes in an effort to coax students to read the darn things.

Schuman has come up with a nifty little trick to encourage her students to read the whole thing. Here’s how she describes it:

“My own method is to simply assign my syllabus as the course’s first reading, with the warning: “I will know if you haven’t read it.” Half of my students think I’m bluffing, so they don’t read all the way to the end, where I’ve put both sincere congratulations and a directive to email me with a question, for credit. Imagine their horror when their first grade in my course is an F for an assignment they didn’t even know existed. (Since my syllabus explains that I accept late assignments, though, the F is fleeting.)”sorpresa

What do you think? Is it worth a try? You can read the entire article, which may have you pounding your desk and shouting “Amen to that!” by clicking here.

Veach’s Toys and Biscuit Love

karenIn February of this year, NBC’s Today show aired an episode of its “Main Street Makeover” series featuring two small businesses in imminent danger of closure.

The first was a family-owned toy store, Veach’s Toy Station in Richmond, Indiana, and Biscuit Love, a food truck in Nashville. Both companies were evaluated and coached by marketing expert Martin Lindstrom, author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About What We Buy. Lindstrom made suggestions for major changes at both shops, and last weekend Today returned to see how things are going. Happily, things are going pretty well, although the owners acknowledge that some of the changes have been difficult.

At Veach’s, Lindstrom disliked the “don’t touch” displays of toys that didn’t invite interaction and didn’t help customers understand how to play with the toys. He advised the owners to use their space to feature inviting play stations that encouraged customers to interact with the merchandise. He stressed that each display should “tell a story.” He also offered strategies to encourage customers to linger, noting that longer stays result in more purchases. The owners admit that change has been stressful. They reluctantly discontinued their electric train merchandise, a long-standing family tradition, because it occupied a lot of space without generating much revenue.Veachs-2013-logo-color-no-background2

At the Biscuit Love truck, Lindstrom reminded the owners that they were selling a unique experience, not just biscuits. He urged them to transport “that experience that they were having in their minds into the product and into the service.” That strategy has paid off so well that the owners are planning to open a restaurant in Nashville later this year.

I know what you’re thinking. What does selling toys or biscuits have to do with teaching at a community college? More than you might think. We should understand that we teachers enter our “shops” every day and literally hawk knowledge. Our businesses, er, classrooms can either be inviting places where our student-customers linger and enjoy the experience of handling and buying knowledge, or they can decide to go elsewhere, either literally or by checking out mentally.

Buyology1Here are a few tips that Lindstrom offers. How many of these marketing ideas could be used in your classroom knowledge shop?

  • Create engaging surroundings where customers can touch, taste, see, and feel their surroundings.
  • “The best ideas are free…even crazy. Don’t be afraid to think big.”
  • “Would you want to shop in your store?…No one wants to come back if they wanted to leave in the first place.”
  • “Ask for help. Every community has untapped resources.”

Buyology is a great read. If you’re a bit tired of educational jargon, dip into this little gem of a book to learn how you can spiff up your knowledge shop. Maybe your student customers will want to buy more of what you’re selling.

Tech Tuesday: Windows 8.1, Part 4 – Frequently Used Applications

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


This is the fourth part of a series on Windows 8.1.  You’ve got to make the transition sometime!  Learning Windows 8.1 might as well be pleasurable.

Last week you got a jump start on finding the applications you want to use.  When you find an application you want to use, you should definitely put it where you can find it again easily.  I like to pin my applications to the taskbar (the bar at the bottom of the desktop) or the start screen (that new funky replacement for the start menu).

Follow the directions from last week to search for your application. Then, before you click on it, RIGHT click and choose Pin to Taskbar or Pin to Start.

By the way, have you tried rearranging your start screen yet?  Just pick things up and drag them around.  Right click on them for other options such as removal.

Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something

BrianNow there’s an old cliché. You get the idea – being frozen with indecision. Often the need is to get going and get a move on: get off the sofa, get that job started, or open that book. Writing is like that as long as it’s not something confidential that gets published to all like one of those “Helen, will you marry me” contrails in the sky.

Yes—harm can be done with ill-advised actions, such as the novice going into the guts of a machine without proper knowledge. And since I had my last biology course in the tenth grade, nothing with scalpels is indicated for helping those with internal problems. Once an avenue of pursuit is declared safe, however, go at it without fear.what_I_be_project_rosenfield_i_am_not_my_indecision

The fear of being wrong holds people back. As a student, who wants to call out answers to a question if it might be wrong or be swished aside as not quite on target or not even pertinent? After a while, no one will volunteer to risk answering the instructor’s question.

The awkwardness is there for the teacher as well. It’s not easy to ask questions that don’t have an obvious or clear cut answer. How do you connect in an affirming way with students whose replies don’t match up with hoped for insights?

I remind myself, “This student gave something and risked something – sought to connect.” That is very valuable, often as valuable, or more so, than the instructor’s intended answer to the question. Therapists will tell you that it’s scary when a client doesn’t talk at all. Everything is shut up in the client’s mind, and nothing is coming out on a safe landscape for discussion. Talking may not be the answer, but without it, no one will get to the answer.

studenthandClass isn’t therapy proper, and there’s no intent here to imply that students need to vent their personal lives or that teachers and other students need to hear them. Every class, though, does have its need for interaction – where even the teacher is seen as a risk taker and one willing to think out loud with others. Conclusions are great, and how we arrive at them is equally great.

Ending on an Up Note: Celebrities Thank Teachers

The Upworthy introduced us to this clip last week, and we could hardly wait to share it with you. It’s short, charming, and certain to make you smile. Who knows what celebrities-to-be may be lurking in your classroom?

Enjoy your weekend.

Classhacks: Thanks…I Needed That!

anneAfter reading Karen’s post yesterday about providing real-world connections, I started to think, “What in the heck do my students get out of my class? What part of these ‘pearls of wisdom’ can they actually use (assuming they have grasped any to begin with)? Can they use any of it?”

Of course, we teachers pride ourselves in providing the most up-to-date, interesting and, in some cases, life-changing information and anecdotes our students will ever come across. Everything they ever wanted to know or ask about the subject, they will find out – from us. Hmm… how do we know that for sure?

Why not ask them? When you want to know something, don’t you usually just ask? Well, why is this situation any different?

At the end of most classes, I ask students to write down something they learned that day. Then I ask them to think about how they see themselves using it. Has it contributed to their life in any way? Remember the old adage “Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it!” I have been shocked, pleased and have even sometimes patted myself on the back after reading the things students list as being helpful or valuable (pleasureinlearning high point).thinkingwoman1

Today after class one student approached me and reflected on what she had written. She mentioned that several years ago she had taken a psychology class similar to this one (Human Development).

Mother and Daughter Baking TogetherOur topic today was parenting, including different parenting styles. When taking her previous class, she had not yet become a parent. Now she has a small child, and her life is much different. You parents know how painfully true this is. With a smile on her face, she expressed that she was glad to know she was a good parent. This made today’s lecture worth every bit of class time spent. When she took the class before, she had no idea of what it meant to be a parent and, quite frankly, didn’t think that she should take the time commit the information to memory.

Today, she felt her parenting skills had just been validated. She couldn’t thank me enough. You know, that’s a good feeling.

Thanks, I needed that!