If You’re Inside the Jar, You Can’t Read the Label

anneThis is the week for Thanksgiving, a time for reflecting on the things and people we are thankful for. Some will enjoy families and LOTS of food (sensual pleasure). UGH – I remember one Thanksgiving I had to literally lie down after the feeding frenzy in order to breathe (humor). I thought I was going to just die right there!

Now, getting back on track. Some will travel to the homes of people they love and who love them (belonging to a group) and some will attend to those who are not as fortunate as others. However you spend this day, you are in the process of giving thanks and receiving thanks for all the things you do.charliebrown

How many times have we ever pondered this question: “I wonder if my boss or teacher is thankful for the effort I put forth every day at my job or in school?”

Yeah, that has crossed my mind several times throughout my career, and I venture to say that it has crossed yours also. How good does it feel to have that bit of validation come from a co-worker or teacher? Great, doesn’t it?

wrong-way-go-backOur school has initiated a program called Starfish. In this program, we can raise “flags” for poor student performance in class, etc. but they can also receive “kudos” for all the progress they are making. One day I realized that I spend much more time recording “flags” than “kudos.” It also seemed that in my emails all I ever received from Starfish were messages identifying students who were on the brink of failing or those with laundry lists of performance issues. It seems as though calling attention to a student’s need to step up their game or quit playing (surprise) is more effective than praising a student for rising to the challenges of class and being successful. I have my doubts about that one!

Returning to the title of this post, we are inside that jar. We cannot read the label to know just exactly what is in that jar, can we? A simple kudo:

  • “Job well done.”
  • “This was a hard lesson to master. Wow, you did so well!”
  • “I knew you could do this.”
  • “You are a very dedicated student.”

These comments highlight the pleasures of achievable challenge and autonomy and could tend to counteract some of those “flags” our students get so often. If we don’t read that label to our students or co-workers, they may never know what’s inside the jar!Good-job
Give those thank yous, praise those good performances, and pass out those stickers! Remember how that smiley face on your kindergarten paper (owning something of value) made you feel… and how you felt when you didn’t get one? That feeling is still there even in our adulthood.
To all of you, have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. You are all amazing at what you do!!


Tech Tuesday: Reading in 2014

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


In between reading Hacking Point of Sale and Resolving Everyday Conflict, I’ve been reading Anne of Green Gables.  The crazy part about these three books (besides the fact that they are about wildly different subjects) is that I’m reading each of them in a different way.

How has changing technology changed your idea of reading?  As Anne might say, “Do you have any scope for imagination?”

(If you’re looking for information about checking out eBooks and audiobooks from your library, here is the information for TN and KY. Feel free to post a comment with information about your state or local library’s program. )

Peat and Repeat

Brian picA couple years ago, the question “How are you changing your pedagogy?” kept arising. It began to sound like too many ricochets in a gunfight scene. Yes, Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and they do change. However, there are things that students hope will remain the same.

Many of us teach sequel courses. Often, a student will take an introductory course and then consider taking the same instructor for the next course in that discipline. Though the material will vary, even upgrade in technical knowledge required, the format and service may not significantly vary.humans-love-repetition

Anticipating a sequel course, a student may like the same room, the same basic syllabus components, and the same learning approaches. A cliché says, “Familiarity breeds contempt” – but not yet! With so much flux in the lives of nontraditional college students, a little continuation of class comfort zones can be welcome.

The other day, as my English 101 class was winding down and students were collecting gear and standing up to file out, a student asked me, “Do you offer the same helps in English 102?” I quickly replied, “Why yes, I do. 102 is the same format, just more MLA and different units.”

guidanceShe then asked, “But do you offer the same helps?” I got her drift. She wanted to know if I toss 102 students out into the wilderness to find all their own nuts and berries. I assured her, “Yes, I offer the same helps.”

She looked comforted and more confident. Since walking away from the exchange, I’ve felt warmer inside. I bet this student will offer me the same helps next time as well.



Classhack: Two Words

keytermsToday’s classhack comes courtesy of Dr. YeVette Howard, director of our college’s QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan), which aims to improve our students’ reading and to foster a culture of reading on our campuses. At a recent professional development meeting, Dr. Howard served up a platter of practical ideas for discipline-specific reading. My favorite strategy can be summed up in two words. No, that’s it: two words. Really…”Two Words.”

Dr. Howard advised us to think of two words whose meaning our students should grasp at the end of the session “if they didn’t learn anything else that day.” We should write those two words on the board at the beginning of the day’s lesson. That sounds easy enough…until you try to do it. systems-thinking

Tomorrow, my students will charge headlong into the challenging topic of muscle physiology. The vocabulary is a thicket of unfamiliar terms, and the sequence of molecular events required to move a single muscle cell is difficult to track. So what words shall I write?

I’m flirting with “sarcomere” and “depolarization,” but I suspect I’ll still be debating on the morning drive to work.

We’d love to hear what words you choose for your classes, so comment or send us an email. Maybe we can start a collection.

How Do You Spell “Fallible”?

karenLately it seems that we might change the name of this blog from “pleasureinlearning” to “trueconfessionsinlearning.” Kristen opened the conversation with her interesting and admirable “How It Felt to Fail.” Brian picked up the thread with his remarkably honest tale, “Two Depressed People Ponder Education.”

Finally, Dr. YeVette Howard, director of our college’s quality enhancement plan on reading, offered an interesting and informative professional development session on reading in the college classroom. Dr. Howard is a well-credentialed and recognized expert on reading, but she revealed that she had great difficulty in learning to read. She also shared that when she reads for pleasure, she favors mysteries over the heavier works in the literary canon.

Reading or hearing these “confessions” from my colleagues made me like each of them even more than I already do…and these are people I like a lot. What is it about the sharing of less-than-flattering details about one another that fosters such warm feelings of comfort and goodwill? Maybe it’s that we take pleasure in knowing that we are not the only flawed  people on the planet. We do indeed belong to a group: the group of people who aren’t perfect. We belong to the group of people who struggle. Sometimes we earn admission to the group of people who have persevered in spite of our imperfections.bunny_facepalm_by_shlj23-d4s3yaj

My students in A&P seem to feel the same way. I continually nag them to improve their spelling of A&P’s daunting array of difficult words so that they “won’t look like ninnies” when they move forward in their careers. I confess that I am a poor speller who has the misfortune of being married to a bona fide spelling champion. They hear the story of my humiliation as a young student doctor on rounds, called out by the attending physician for misspelling “vesicular” as “vessicular” on a patient’s chart. I haven’t missed that one again, but I still wonder why “vesicle” has one “s” while “vessel” has two.

funny-quotes-spelling-is-hardThe advent of spell-checkers in word processing programs found me alternatively argumentative and horrified by years’ worth of clueless spelling errors. “Eliminate”? Seriously? Why not “eleminate,” like “elementary”?

So when I remind my charges yet again that “sagittal” has one “G” and two “Ts,” I also tell them that I have looked that word up at least a hundred times myself. I tell them that I almost despaired of learning to spell “hematopoiesis.” And I tell them that no one in the room, including the teacher, was born knowing any of this.

There is great pleasure in feeling that we belong to a group, especially when that group is the tribe of fallible fellow human beings. (And, yes, I had to double-check how to spell “fallible.”)

Tech Tuesday: Office Mix

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


Coming up to speed on new technology might not be your favorite thing, but I want to briefly introduce to you Office Mix.  It is an enhancement (Add-In) for PowerPoint.  Using Office Mix, you can enhance your PowerPoint in new ways!  You can easily add the following to your PowerPoint presentations before uploading them for students to view.

  • audio and video recordings of yourself
  • slide annotations
  • screen capture
  • quizzes

These, along with many other features can enhance your static PowerPoint presentations. I see the ideal use case being for online curriculum.

Click here for a 6 minute Office Mix presentation that introduces Office Mix.