Summertime and the Reading is Easy…

ReadingthuRsday-R2I am gearing up for summertime. I found my flip flops. I bought some sunscreen. I decided on some projects I want to complete. More importantly, I started my reading list for summer. I started tracking down where I can borrow most of the books, and of course, my local public library was my first stop. Happily, I am able to obtain almost all of my books from the library.090528-vacation-reading.hmedium

Summer reading is different from winter reading. When I read in the winter, I almost always curl up in a warm spot in the house. A cat usually helps me read by either sitting on me or trying to sit on my book. However, when I read in the summer, I am all over the place. I read inside the house and outside, seeking either shade or sun depending on the temperature and mood. I usually hope to read on an airplane. I always wish to read on the beach. The feel of sand on my feet and a book in my hand is just too grand. I find I am a little more adventuresome in my reading choices in the summer because I have the illusion of more time to read. I seek the air-conditioned library a little more often. I dream of going to secondhand book stores and yard sales and finding some literary treasures.

hammockSummertime and reading are joined together in my mind. I think this relationship goes back to riding the bus during the summer as a child and traveling to the local public library. I can still remember the feel of going into the library to seek new books to read for a few weeks and then reading one all the way home. My mother wanted quiet, and I just wanted something to read. Sometimes my choices were books I had already read because I liked the way they sounded, or I liked the stories so much. More often, my choices were new books I had not encountered. Whatever my choices, I loaded up as many as I could legally check out. While I know we did not always ride the bus to the library, it is that image of me sitting on the bus reading all the way home that stays with me so many years later.Kid-Reading-in-the-Car

So, this summer I once again begin my journey with books. I have some favorites I wish to reread. I have some new authors I want to try out. I also have plans for some library browsing and book shopping to round out my selections. I hope each of you has some time to read in the sun, hopefully, at the beach.

We are taking a break from our blog over the summer. We begin posting our blog back in August. So, as you can see, I really will have some extra time to read. Enjoy!


Coach, Mentor, or Both?

karenA couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts inspired by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s new book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Stone and Heen, professors at Harvard Law School and partners in an international consulting firm, have identified three distinct elements in fully developed feedback. A post on April 15 considered how the first element, appreciation, might look in a community college classroom. The second element is actually a tandem: coaching and mentoring.

Stone and Heen don’t draw a sharp line between coaching and mentoring, but my relationships with my students suggest that there is a difference, albeit a blurry one. My discipline, anatomy & physiology, is challenging, so I typically assume a coaching role. MDHSPractice-Aug11-007-300x256Coaches are concerned with performance. To enhance performance, we set goals, employ training techniques and measure progress. In A&P, this looks like online assignments, in-class activities, and frequent assessments. I offer mnemonics, worksheets, class displays, and individual tutoring. Above all, I insist that each student can and should improve her performance. No apologies for asking students to work hard, since that is the only way to get better.

The mentoring role is different. Our college is considering a more deliberate approach to helping our students acquire “soft skills,” and mentoring can be the vehicle for teaching these. (By the way, will someone please come up with an alternative term? I’m already weary of hearing and using the “SS” phrase, and it reliably triggers a nearly anaphylactic reaction in some colleagues.) Mentoring isn’t about teaching body parts and functions. Mentoring is helping students learn how to learn. Mentoring is encouraging students to fall in love with a subject. Mentoring is helping students assume responsibility for their own learning and ultimately their own lives.

MentoringHow do we mentor effectively? There are shelves full of books on that topic, but it seems best to start with the materials at hand. First, I share my own vulnerability. I’m a lousy speller, so I work on my spelling. I don’t have all the answers, so most evenings find me researching a topic posed in class. I wasn’t born knowing anything about A&P, so I openly confess that I spent a lot of long hours at my own kitchen table with one finger in my textbook and one on my notes.

Second, I try to model the behaviors that I most want to see. I show up. I don’t make excuses. I respect my students and my colleagues. I try hard to tell the truth consistently and kindly. I share the best advice that I’ve been given. Sometimes this means steering a student toward a different goal than the one first chosen. Often it means encouraging a student to dream bigger than she’d previously dared.

Next week, I’ll complete this little series with the third element of feedback.

Classhack: Pass It On

paperworkIn his book Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College, Author Doug Lemov describes many simple techniques that are of value in college classrooms as well. He credits a time-saving strategy to Doug McCurry of Amistad Academy in New Haven, Connecticut. Noting that passing out or taking up papers is a recurrent event in his classroom, McCurry uses a stopwatch to coach his students toward completion of the task in the shortest possible time. By saving one minute per paper pass, he estimates that he saves the equivalent of eight instructional days per year.

You may not save that much time in a typical college class, but, as Lemov notes later in Teach Like a Champion

“Time is water in the desert, a teacher’s most precious resource: to be husbanded, guarded, and conserved. Every minute matters.”

What is the best way to pass papers? Lemov suggests across rows, rather than requiring students to perform a 180° turn to pass papers back or receive them from behind. He also advocates having packets on a table for students to pick up rather than passing documents out at the door or during the class. Since our copy paper tends to be diabolically sticky, I find it helpful to divide the papers into counted stacks before class. Being efficiently well-prepared sends a message to students that you are serious about their learning and that you value your time with them.

Do you have a favorite way to distribute papers or another time-saving technique to share?

Don’t Scratch That Itch

Brian picOk, you get an itch. You scratch it a time or two and then think, “I won’t scratch it any more.” But you do. That’s the way use of fragments can get when writing. A fragment now and then sounds catchy, even literary. But once restraint is relaxed, look out, because the fragments can pile up fast.scratch

When drafting, fragments are nothing to worry about. Normal revision will attach a fragment to a neighbor sentence or turn the fragment into a complete thought. For those who fall in love with fragments, or just plain don’t recognize them, however, those dependent word groups can chop up the style in a piece of writing and make it bumpy prose.

speedBump-717474This semester, a very expressive student wrote a terrific paper on the 2004 film version of Phantom of the Opera. The paper made a B though because of five fragments. Really, the deduction could have been more, but the paper was so good that I wanted to use it in upcoming courses on Blackboard where I post, with permission, samples from previous students.

I told this student that if she corrected the fragments and stopped using them the rest of the course, I would give her back the lost points (tks to Pat Riley for the idea). She was excited to correct the paper and resubmit it. When the next theme came due, I walked over to her and asked, “Have you checked that for fragments?” She vehemently said yes. Sure enough, I didn’t find a single fragment in that theme when I graded it.




Ending on an Up Note: Up We Go

3714701755_b8d9fceee1_zWe enjoyed this gem from earlier this week. We think it’s whiteboard-worthy.

(If you’re a quote junkie, too, you can sign up for a Quote of the Day in your inbox.)

“A lot of us would like to move mountains, but few of us are willing to practice on small hills.” —Anonymous

So tackle a small hill…and enjoy your weekend.

Deep and Continuing Need

ReadingthuRsday-R2“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” —Maya Angelou

This quote makes me think of all the ways we have tried to get books into children’s hands. I think about the classroom, the library, the church, the book fairs, the small free lending libraries in neighborhoods, and most recently, the barber Yesterday, I read an article about a young man who felt a stack of books in his local barber shop might be a good place to put a book into a child’s hand. I think about parents and relatives who give books as gifts. I think of organizations that provide books to young children free of charge.children-reading I am reminded of families who pass books from one generation to another. I think of children who share books with their friends.

So many people spend a lot of time trying to get a book into a child’s hand that will help form a habit of reading. I think the quest of placing a book in a child’s hand is such a hopeful endeavor; one never knows the ripple effect of one book on a child’s reading future.downsbook So, I honor all those who take the time to recommend a book to a child or who just take the time to listen to a child talk about a book. I am inspired by the many organizations who raise money for books for children. I continue to be excited by the Summer Reading programs public libraries offer as they do their part to help children make reading one of their deep and continuing needs. children-reading

The summer months are fast approaching, and I am asking each of us to consider helping a child from a habit of reading during those long, hot summer days.

Bragging Time!

sunglasssmileyStudents work hard. When they work hard and get the results they are looking for (or better), they usually find their own way to celebrate. I’ve had student let out a big “whoop” in class when they see that they have earned a really good grade. I’ve heard stories about students taking their papers or tests home and putting them on the refrigerator right next to their kids.

In our Statistics classes, Sherry McCormack and I have our students do projects throughout the course. Near the end of each semester, we designate a week for our students to present their work. We reserve a place on campus and invite the campus (employees and students) to come and look at the work they have done.PART_1429644288005_IMG_20150421_121537007

I’ve seen great pride in the work that they do in order to make their display look nice. I’ve noticed how excited and proud they seem when people come up and take an interest in what they have done. Statistics is such a broad field of study that students can quite often use a favorite movie, book, hobby, skill, etc to create their project. They are happy to be able to show off what they can do. We have had students bring their job into their project. We have had students use current events or a cause they believe in to share information. We have students who highlight their friends and family members.

This semester was the first time I allowed my students to choose which project they wanted to display (in the past they all had to use a particular one). As I was preparing them for this, I talked to each one and made suggestions on which one I thought would be the best to display. Quite often, the student smiled and said “Good…that’s the one that I wanted to share.” Other students have disagreed with me as to which one they wanted to present……I deferred to their enthusiasm J

PART_1429644308182_IMG_20150421_121503512In addition to our regular statistics display, we have several bulletin board and other places on campus where we can display good work and projects. We both think it is important for our students to be able to share their hard work. Quite often the work they do in their classes is only for a grade for that class. It is important for students to know that the skills and information that they are learning in their classes is material that should be shared. When students can see that their hard work is valued and appreciated, I believe it does make them work harder.

It’s great to see the pride in their work. I would encourage all teachers to find a forum for their own students to be able to share their creativity and efforts. It pays off in so many ways.