Ending on an Up Note: Feeling Lucky?

Luck_is..._(explored)I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often.   —Brian Tracy

(Tracy is the author of several motivational books including, Eat That Frog!, Goals!, Maximum Achievement, The Power of Charm, and Speak to Win.)


What Should Students Know?

ReadingthuRsday-R2A real little gem of a book for beginning and ongoing college students is 1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know: Like Buying Your Books before Exams Start by Harry H. Harrison, Jr. According to the author, many students who are excited about going to college quickly end up back home without the diploma but with some credit card bills and college loans. I encourage anyone who has a high school senior in their household to make sure their future college student reads this book.

However, as in all things with teenagers and young adults, many think they are totally ready for the demands of college. Trust me, they are not. No matter how smart a student is and how together a student is, college offers new avenues for either making mistakes or for doing a lot of things the hard way. I find the wisdom in this book serves as a little cheat sheet to help students avoid some of the small difficulties.1001thing

Being a reading type person, the section on “You Need to Know How to Read for Content When There are No Pictures” is one of my favorites. In this section, 11 tips are given, and I will share just a few. Many instructors discuss reading in connection with learning the content in their classes, but for those who do not, and for those instructors who need acknowledgement that what they tell students about reading is valid, here are just a few ideas to pass along to students.
Students need to at least read the introduction, the summary, and headings of reading assignments. I tell students if they only have 10 minutes to read (and I don’t encourage this behavior), to spend the time reading at least the introduction and summary and skimming the headings. A small amount of time with a small amount of reading can at least get the brain to thinking about the content.

Students need to attempt to recognize information that could be turned into multiple choice questions or essay questions. Students need to recognize charts, tables, and bulleted lists have important information. In other words, not everything in the chapter has equal weight, and many well-written textbooks help students notice important information.

YodaHere is a tough one for students. Students need to know that questions about definitions of key terms might not be explicit on tests, but students have to know the meaning of key terms in order to answer problem solving or critical thinking type questions. In other words, sometimes one has to apply information in order to be successful.

The next three seem like common sense, but in the world of college, sometimes these pieces of advice get lost because they are not flashy enough. Students need to read some of their assignments more than once. Students need to read before they come to class so they will not have that clueless look. Students need to stop now and then THINK about what they are reading.

As this new semester begins, let’s all take a few minutes to encourage our students as they read our assignments to gain the knowledge to help them be successful. I really don’t want our students to just have debt when they leave us.


The Winning Ticket

powerball-winnersThe recent frenzy generated by the enormous Powerball payout dominated the national news for days. I’m sure our statistics instructors were amused by some of the “facts” offered in the coverage. Many of us enjoyed fantasizing about how to spend our upcoming windfall. My own dear husband, generous to a fault, added so many potential recipients to his list of people who would share his dough that I wondered aloud if he’d have any money left to send me shopping. “Oh, don’t worry,” he replied. “You’ll get $200.00 to spend any way you want.”

Coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky, master motivator that he is, used the lottery mania to challenge his players. He offered each member of the team a ticket, and then asked if they knew the odds of winning.john-calipari

“It’s 292 million to 1.  Your ticket ain’t winning. That ticket is not winning.”

Calipari then went on to tell the players that their natural talents were worth far more than a winning lottery ticket.

“They all have a ticket. It’s them.Would you want to be in their shoes as an 18, 19, 20 year old? They all have a Powerball ticket! Play! Fight! Battle! Be worth $100 million! What would you be afraid of? Wouldn’t you just say, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose?'”

Our students don’t have futures in the NBA, but they do have a brighter future than most of the people on the planet. They have the good fortune to have made it this far on the educational ladder, and they have been able to find a way to be in their classes today. They have access to instructors, staff, and administrators who care about them and are invested in their success. The students’ work and our work can create a genuine windfall in their lives and the lives of their families, as well as others who will benefit from the skills and knowledge they are acquiring. Millions of people around the world would love to have those tickets.

throw-outPart of our job is to remind them not to throw those tickets in the trash.

(For those of you who bleed Kentucky blue, you can access Calipari’s post-game remarks here...his comments about the lottery begin around 14:21 into the show.)


The Bank of Good Will

Building SkillsYou know you’ve drifted way too far from the shores of reason and into the depths of obsession when you’re a devoted reader not only of advice columns, but also the comments following them, yet another dubious gift from the digital world. My favorite column is written by Carolyn Hax of The Washington Post. Although her commenters include a handful of the usual semi-literate know-it-alls, she seems to attract an unusually high percentage of thoughtful responders.

This comment was posted in response to a letter regarding emeritus professors who behave poorly:

“I am VERY nice to people at work. I compliment clothing, notice new hair cuts, ask about kids and aging parents. I mentor my employees and younger professionals, encourage peers, send thank you notes, praise effort, give credit. It’s nice to be nice, but it’s not just about altruism or caring whether I am well-liked. Behaving in this way gives me a tremendous amount of leeway when I need to be a hard-*ss about something, deliver bad news, or even just when I’m having a bad day. The Bank of Good Will is a beautiful thing, and deposits are painless. I highly recommend this strategy. Being cranky and demanding all the time is like driving with your foot on the brake; it just wears you out sooner and doesn’t get you where you want to be.”

I shared the quote with a young manager who faithfully practices these strategies. I mentioned it to our HR director when we met in the hall. A few days later, office mate Anne handed me a list of “Top 10 Communication Skills” that will help you stand out in today’s job market. Number Four was “Friendliness.”thanks

Sometimes colleagues who make frequent deposits in the Bank of Good Will are regarded as Pollyannas, or worse, superficial or needy. But for educators, a default posture of support and caring for our students allows us to offer valid criticism when warranted without having them tune us out…probably works for colleagues, too.


Maybe we should start printing deposit slips.



Enjoying the Campus


Brian picIt is 26 degrees outside, the wind is howling, and frozen rain has coated everything, with snow blowing in on top of that. From the random connections of the brain, up came images of how the college experience includes scenic moments of campus beauty. The following shots from the HCC Facebook represent a sliver of what I mean.


balloonThe balloon launch brought earth and sky together. This is one of the benefits of a campus blessed with grassy acreage.





Ice Bucket ChallengeThe ice bucket challenge shows a still shot of water in motion. Moving water is intriguing, and our minds enjoy someone making it appear to stand still.





piece of artThe piece of art out front and near the parking lot is a masterpiece of circles and orbits, in contrast to the impressive arrow running through it pointing up and out at a slight angle. This invites interpretation.






tower and snow


The majestic shot of the clock tower after a snow is serene and grand with the shoveled walkway leading up toward it.







Round Table Park in Snow

The view across Round Table Park in the snow combines the feel of the park’s sense of antiquity with contemporary housing as its backdrop.





tower view with treesThe tower is a tall, central image in this refreshing campus view with lots of trees and greenery.






Round Table spring

Round Table Park hosts the annual, spring poetry awards ceremony. I also remember taking a walk one summer day when only two other people were there. It turns out that they were tourists from Texas visiting the area to take in its sights, and they were snapping pictures lots of pictures in the park.



(Editor’s note: Thanks to Brian for reminding us that one of our chief pleasures is sensual pleasure, and to Rena Young and her staff for taking and collecting the pictures for HCC’s Facebook page.  We are indeed fortunate to enjoy a beautiful campus that enhances our students’ learning experience.  And many thanks to all the fine folks who work so hard to maintain it for all of us to enjoy!)

Ending on an Up Note: Snow Day!


View from my kitchen window as I type this morning.

I had forgotten how thrilling a snow day is until my son started school, and as much as he loves it, he swoons at the idea of a free day arriving unexpectedly, laid out like a gift.   —Susan Orlean
Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.   —Andy Goldsworthy
How are you spending your snow day?
Enjoy your winter wonderland weekend.
(See more snow quotes at BrainyQuote.com)

It’s Never Too Soon

ReadingthuRsday-R2“Reading to children even before they can understand, teaches them to associate books with love and affection.”

This quote was recently posted on Facebook by the Children’s Movement, and it made me think of the days when I read to my daughter, Ali. I have to admit some of my early selections for her were a little strange. Of course, I read a lot of Winnie the Pooh, Clifford, and she loved the Nick Butterworth books. I especially remember When we Play Together.onthe farmI was surrounded with very generous professors at my university, so Ali always had the newest and best written books for children. One of her favorites was On the Farm by David Elliot. On the Farm had a rooster crowing, rams clashing, bees buzzing, and nice pink plump pigs lounging. On the Farm was so popular as my daughter grew older, I sometimes had to “lose” the book for a day or two.

I never missed reading to her at night time, but sometimes I needed to calm her during the day while I was working. I had a unique balancing act right after she was born. I was an Assistant Professor, and one of my tasks was to help students who were working on a Master’s degree in Education write their final papers. Each student wrote a thesis, and each student needed me to read the thesis and make suggestions. I found if I read sections of the papers all the way through before I began to give feedback, the process worked better for me, and the feedback was more meaningful. However, I felt really crunched for time because I had a new baby, and I was new at helping students on the graduate level. reading-to-child-425ch032310So during the day I would hold my daughter, and I would read aloud students’ papers about phonemic awareness, reading strategies, teaching vocabulary, improving students’ comprehension, and a myriad of other reading related topics. I found if I used the tone I used when I read the bedtime books, I could captivate my young listener while taking care of one of my work obligations. I felt a little silly sometimes reading the subject matter aloud to an infant, but I also loved the way she looked at me as though she understood every word.

My “baby” is 21 now. She grew up to be a reader and to have an inquisitive nature. Her dad and I read to her a lot, and every word and every minute was worth the effort. I have read all the research, and I know the quote about reading aloud helps children have positive feelings about reading and books.

[ File # csp8959512, License # 2311374 ] Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php) (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / jannoon028

However, what the quote does not go on to describe is the feeling a harried parent can have when he or she takes a few moments in a busy day to read with a child. I still remember those special days of sitting on the couch, student’s paper in one hand and Ali in the other arm. While a stressful time, it was also a joyous time. I encourage each of us to take the opportunity to share a book with a child whenever you are lucky enough to have the chance.