5 Tips for Healthy Living for Educators

img_9034.jpgWe often say, “Teaching is a lifestyle”. Most people who work in higher education know the toll that this type of lifestyle can take on your health. Schedules during the academic year can be extremely hectic. Teaching classes, planning for classes, grading, attending meetings, holding office hours, researching, publishing research, working with graduate assistants….and the list goes on and on. It often seems that there are not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Therefore, personal health often gets placed on the back burner, because there is not enough time to meal prep, eat well, exercise, or sleep. These are things that tend to be forgotten until the semester ends. By the end of the semester, many professionals in this field are exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The break that one has is often spent recovering from illness due to lack of self-care.

Self-care is essential to remain healthy in and out of the classroom. It allows us to perform at an optimal level and feel good. It also demonstrates that we respected our bodies, minds, and souls, which is not only important for self preservation, but also sets a positive example for the students who we influence through our words and actions daily.

Most people believe that if they are not sick, then they are healthy. But being healthy does not just mean the absence of illness. It also means that your body and mind are operating at their best.

So…why are academics unhealthy?

IMG_8549As academics, we often sit for long periods of time while grading, researching, returning emails, or driving to and from work or between campuses. In some cases, this can lead to mindless eating or unhealthy snacking. In fact, sometimes, we only have time to grab lunch out of a vending machine or from a fast food restaurant. Or maybe, we skip lunch altogether, because we are rushing between classes and campuses. In addition, each semester schedule changes make it difficult to establish long-term routines and healthy habits.

We feel a responsibility to our students, fellow colleagues, and administration; therefore, pushing through until the work is done, regardless of the cost. For this reason, we do whatever it takes to complete the tasks at hand. Spending time with family, spending time doing things for pleasure, or spending time focused on self-care often do not take precedence until the work is done. Many faculty will skip a meal or a workout, in order to meet with a struggling student or meet a research deadline. Some will forfeit a weekend, family getaway to grade student work. Being consumed with the work that we do does not always allow for time to rest, relax, and recharge.

So …the hard truth! If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot be of any help to anyone else. Eventually, your body will shut down. You will become sick, you will burn out, you will lose mental focus. You will not be able to do your job to the best of your ability or care for your students, family, and friends. This is why it is so very important to take time to take care of yourself.

5 Tips for Healthy Living

1. Meal Prep: Laura is the one who encouraged me to start meal prepping, and it really changed my life! On the weekend, we spend time grocery shopping and meal prepping for the upcoming week. Not only can you prep breakfast and lunch, but you can also store snacks like raw vegetables, almonds, and fruit in sandwich bags. Use containers and sandwich bags that make it easy to grab and go in the mornings as you head out the door to begin your day.IMG_5005

Through trial and error, we have found a system that works for both of us. We encourage you to do the same thing. Perhaps, you will meal prep on Sundays, like we do. Or maybe, you find it easier to make a little extra every night and pack the leftovers for your lunch the following day. Find a system that works for you.

2. Everything in Moderation! Look, I love Cheese-Its, beer, wine, and pasta! I still eat all of these things. But rather than have them as my meal after a long day, I eat them in moderation, as a treat. I have also found ways to enjoy these things in different forms. For example, instead of eating white flour pasta, I eat veggie, rice, or quinoa pasta. I have also tried spaghetti squash, which is a great pasta substitute. What we put in our bodies is important, so fuel your body with healthy foods. But also enjoy a beer and a good slice of pizza with friends now and then!

3. Exercise: IMG_9776
A body in motion remains in motion. I love to sweat! I love to push my body and feel like I’m getting stronger. Recently, I decided to start training for a triathlon. However, you don’t have to commit to training for a  triathlon, marathon or CrossFit contest to be healthy. In fact, you can commit to walking in the mornings or afternoons in your neighborhood, hiking on the weekends, riding bikes with your family, or signing up for a yoga or spin class. You can start by committing to three days a week; two week days and one day during the weekend. You can add a day or two as time permits. Try to select an activity that you enjoy. This will ensure that you stick to it. Many people quit workout programs, because they are not realistic in the amount of time that needs to be committed, they are not convenient, or the type of exercise is not enjoyable. Find something you enjoy doing and invite friends or family to join you. Accountability can also help to remain committed.

4. Mental Breaks: We spend a lot of time every day presenting, analyzing, and assessing complex theories, models, and concepts. This requires careful consideration so that material can be adapted and presented for the intended audience. Taking some time recharge and ensuring proper amounts of sleep prepares you to think clearly and consider different ways to present information to your students.

Additionally, it is important to take mental breaks when you are grading, researching, or writing. Often, higher education professionals will spend hours grading assignments, sifting through research, or writing. It is important to take short breaks during these long periods. This helps to prevent mental fatigue.

5. Seek Peace, Offer Forgiveness, & Make Necessary Changes:  I am a firm believer that things happen to us for a reason – good and bad. Either way, they are all part of our journey and who we are becoming. With that said, we have to take care of our soul or inner being.  This may mean having a healthy conflict, limiting the access that someone toxic has to you, or making time good, positive people in your life.  Socrates said, “that the unexamined life is not worth living”. Take the time to examine your life. Are you growing personally and professionally? Are you where you want to be? Are you achieving goals? If you keep hitting a wall and you need help, talk with a family member, friend, or seek professional guidance. The insights that others provide may be the enlightenment you need to continue to grow and move forward.

IMG_4029When we are healthy, we feel strong and empowered, genuinely capable of taking on new challenges. Consider the many different aspects of health that were discussed above. Begin by making one small change at a time. Select one category above to focus on. Consider ways to maximize your time. Involve family and friends in healthy meal planning and physical activities. Not only are you positively influencing them to live a more healthy life, but you are also spending time with them. Strong relationships keep us healthy, so foster them.

Why wait? Get started today! Continue to consider ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily routines, because health does not mean the absence of illness.

Back to School Prep: Building Essentials Kits

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Teaching can lead to long days with little time in between classes for self-care. So, building a car kit or devoting an office drawer to essentials can make all the difference in how you feel (and look) by the end of the day! As faculty, we often dash from here to there; classes, meetings, office hours, working lunches not to mention doctors appointments, kids practices, happy hour with friends, or rushing home to our loved ones. Our “on the go” lifestyle leaves  little time to freshen up or sit down to eat a meal, which is why preparing and having essentials at your fingertips is…well….essential!

IMG_4952Creating kits that can easily be stored in your office or car and carried in a bag that you use to take supplies to classes can assist with preparation, professionally and personally. Teaching kits that include supplies needed to successfully teach your class can be packed and stored in a teaching bag. A personal kit can also help to ensure classes run smoothly providing comfort; when you feel and look your best teaching is a bit easier. Creating an “Essentials” kit is relatively cheap and easy. In fact, most of the items below can easily be picked up from the Dollar Store, the travel size section at Target, or a local drug store. Several items in the personal kit cost a dollar or less. The lists below will serve as a guide as you build your kit.

Teaching “Essentials Kit” Items:

  • Expo markers
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Notecards
  • Clicker
  • Stapler/Staples
  • Batteries
  • Flashdrive

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Personal “Essentials Kit” Items:

  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
  • Tampons
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Wet Wipes/Baby Wipes
  • Gum
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medicine (ibuprofen, anti-allergy)
  • Chapstick
  • Lotion
  • Hair brush/Hair Tie/Hair Spray
  • Contact Lens Kit
  • Nail clippers/file
  • Jacket/Sweater
  • Phone Charger
  • Snacks
    • Protein Bars (e.g. Larabars, Cliff bars)
    • Trail mix
    • Almonds or other nuts
    • Pretzels
    • Cup of Soup or Microwavable Soup
    • Bottled water or a reusable water bottle

IMG_4939It was not until after an emergency that we realized some of these items needed to be carried in our kits. For example, one day I had back-to-back classes and was having trouble with my one of my contacts. I was miserable! By the time I had a chance to go to the store and buy the items I needed, my eye was bright red, watering, and I had a terrible headache. Now, I keep a contact kit in my office that holds a case, bottles for contact solution, and a small mirror. A small bottle of ibuprofen and Tylenol is also in my  desk drawer for unexpected headaches.

It is also important to consider fueling your body with nutritious food and staying hydrated throughout the day. Carry a reusable water bottle that can be filled at water fountains between classes. Carry non-perishable snacks in your bag or store them in your desk drawer or car. There are days when we have taught six hours in a row, gone to a meeting, and met with students to finish the day realizing we have not eaten since breakfast. Sometimes, sitting down for a meal during a hectic day is impossible. But that does not mean you cannot or should not eat. Pack smalls meals or nutritious snacks that you can carry in your bag. Carry a piece of fresh fruit or a bag of raw vegetables that you can eat while walking between classes. If you have access to a refrigerator or you carry an insulated lunch box, you can pack a wrap, string cheese, or yogurt. These are all easy to eat while on the run.

If you are keeping the essentials in your car (back seat or trunk), we highly recommend a small plastic tub, egg crate, box, or bag designated for storage of the items. This will help with organization and access. Keeping the items together in one place also allows easy removal if you need space in your car on the weekends.IMG_4950Some of the items above you may use and need to replenish every week, while others you may not need all semester or year. We recommend being conscious of what you use and being sure to replenish as needed. Some of the items may be damaged by temperatures in the car; therefore, consider what can be stored there and what will be damaged. In addition, check items that are not used regularly from time to time to ensure they are still in good condition.

As we prepare for back to school, we will continue to post pictures of different kits that we create and use on social media. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter for more ideas. Share ideas for essential items. What is an essential item in your kit? Post your comments below.

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS; HOWEVER, THERE IS NO ADDITIONAL COST TO THE CONSUMER. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND. 

Do you use student feedback when you prepare for the semester?

michal-grosicki-226082As the fall semester draws near, many educators will begin to prepare and plan. Perhaps, lecture and powerpoint presentations need to be updated. Maybe, you are revising your syllabus or assignments. As you prepare, do you consider feedback you gained from students at the end of the semester?

Sometimes reading feedback that students give regarding your teaching performance or effectiveness in the classroom is painful. It’s personal; a negative evaluation! You think to yourself, “did a student really write that?”. You begin to consider who could have said such a hurtful thing. It feels like a punch in the gut.

When I started teaching, I was devastated by negative comments on my end of course evaluations. In fact, I would completely ignore all of the positive things that students  said and just focus on the on negative comments. There were even times when those comments would haunt me as I moved into the next semester. Now, I read my end of course surveys more critically! I focus in on the specific behaviors that students liked or disliked and consider the following:
Is this something I want to address or change?
Is this something I can address or change?
For example, some students don’t like that I spend the beginning of class on student announcements, but I also get overwhelming feedback that supports that students like building a classroom community, which is enhanced by this activity. Therefore, I choose to continue to begin class with announcements.

Student Feedback

zara-walker-76971There are many ways to collect feedback from students. Sometimes, I ask just by a show of hands. Sometimes, I create a quick survey (paper/pencil or electronic). Online tools can be very effective for collecting data. Survey monkey is an online tool you can use to create surveys to gather feedback from students. This tool allows you to collect data from students anonymously. Additionally, some universities survey students at the end of each class; however, some institutions only do this annually. This anonymous method for collecting feedback can also be very useful. If this data is collected, inquire about how you can gain access to it if it is not share with you. This will help as you prepare for future semesters.

Constructive Feedback

So, after the initial blow that comes from reading comments that you may consider hurtful, stop and reflect. Is there anything constructive in the feedback? Are there areas where improvement is necessary? Can I take something away, learn something, or change anything to make my next class better? Can I improve the learning environment and experiences offered to future students?

hanny-naibaho-308083I have learned to look for value in the feedback I receive. I work hard to remind myself that not every student in my class has to like me; however, they do need to learn from me. Do their comments provide feedback regarding my pedagogy? Should I consider adjusting strategies that I use to enhance their learning? I work hard to feel less offended and more empowered, because I have the power to make changes. I have the ability to select feedback that could make the course better. I have learned to read through the comments and identify nuggets of information that I can use to improve my teaching.

Helpful Feedback

Dr. XYZ was probably one of the best Professors I’ve had at UUU. I had her at 825am and it really was an engaging experience to have her lecture. She also let us print out/ use a note card on the tests/quizzes which was great since I would basically print out the whole study guide on both sides of it. Making those helped me memorize + understand.”

“Professor XYZ was great. She made the classroom environment extremely comfortable. She’s fun and encouraged everyone to join in, but still kept the course professional. What started out as being a required course I dreaded ended up being my favorite class of the semester.”

What makes this feedback helpful? It points to specific eliminates of lecture, the classroom experience or interaction between faculty and students that can be cultivated or eliminated.  Further, it explains what materials were helpful and what students expectations are of required courses.

Unhelpful Feedback 

“She is my fave prof. of all GCU. She is so nice and compassionate towards all of her students. Even if xxxxx isn’t your major, you will learn a lot from and enjoy her class. Its not an easy A or a hard A kind of class. You have to put in some work but overall not hard to pass at all. I’ve never met a UUU student who didn’t absolutely LOVE Prof. XYZ.”

“She was so fun! She is personable with the students and she keeps us all interested in the class. The class itself was super easy! I would definitely take a class by from her again!”

While this feedback is flattering and it makes you feel good to get it, everyone…including us…wants to hear they are loved! But this feedback won’t make you a better teacher. There are no behaviors to cultivate, there’s no mention of activities, lectures, assignment or study materials and let’s face it! There is always room for improvement.

 

Teach Students How to Provide Feedback

Ask students for feedback. And ask them frequently! I learned that rather than fearing what they may say, I could learn from them. What did they like about a lecture, activity, or assignment? What didn’t they like? I often ask my students “Should I do this activity again next semester?”.

We also discuss effective feedback. For examples, we discuss the difference between not liking the method of delivery and not learning. Just because they didn’t like the delivery method doesn’t mean that the teaching or experience was ineffective. Teach your students to recognize the difference. This helps them to self-reflect. It also helps them to provide more constructive feedback. nick-de-partee-97063
Learn from every class and every evaluation! You are a brilliant critical thinker, one bad lecture and one poor evaluation shouldn’t keep you down. Let it go! Channel your energy into making the next class even better.

A look inside my “Summer Off”

IMG_3469I love when people say to me “it must be nice to be a teacher and have your summers off”.  I don’t know about you, but time off is something that is scarce in my life. While my summer schedule definitely looks different than the schedule I follow during the academic calendar year, I would not classify it as time off. I have different tasks to complete in the summers that help to make my job a bit easier and smoother when school resumes in the fall. Preparation, during the summer, helps to make me feel relaxed at the beginning of the semester when I am not only preparing myself for the beginning of the semester but also getting my kids in ‘back to school’ mode and helping them get use to a new routine.

Write and Revise Curriculum

In the summer, there are a lot of things that I do to prepare for the upcoming school year. I update my lectures and powerpoints and find new resources such as articles, videos, and activities to incorporate into my classes. In the summer, I have more time to review resources such as textbook and research articles to incorporate into the classes I teach. I have reviewed several resources such as new textbooks and was even able to work with a publisher on a custom textbook for a course I teach.  I also explore the university library for recently published research articles that could be incorporated into classes. This allows me to stay abreast of the new developments in my field of study.

New Technologies

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I can also experiment and consider using different technologies in classes. This summer, I have been researching Loom. This is a free program that allows you to create short videos to provide feedback and comments (rather than typing them out). This seems to be a less time consuming and a bit more personal way to provide feedback. I am considering this for providing feedback to students on written assignments as well as for collaborating with colleagues on research projects.

If any readers have used this program, please feel free to share your experience below. Your feedback is appreciated!

Research and Presentations

The summer provides a great opportunity to work on research projects. I find it hard to write during the fall and spring semesters due to other responsibilities that often take precedence. Finding some time to research and write up findings is easier for me in the summer months. A colleague and I have been editing and revising an article we wrote, so that it can be submitted for publication.

I have also been working with two colleagues to prepare a study that can be conducted in the upcoming academic school year. We will be submitting our proposal through IRB and will collect data during the academic year in hopes of having the data available next summer so we can spend sometime analyzing it and writing up the findings.

I have also been preparing a conference presentation with a colleague. We will be presenting at a conference in October and have been taking advantage of the down time that we have in the summer to discuss and prepare our presentation.

Teaching Online

In addition, I have been teaching online classes this summer. I do this for several reasons. It also allows me the opportunity to teach graduate level classes. It provides the opportunity to teach classes that I would normally not teach during the regular semester and give some additional time to prep material for these classes. I enjoy teaching graduate level students. It is a nice and sometimes needed change. IMG_5519

It is also a nice way to supplement my income. This allows me to pay for vacations for my family. It also allows for some extra income to pay bills, student loans, and to make needed home improvements.

Online teaching can be time consuming; however, I can arrange my days and weeks to fit my summer schedule completing work early in the mornings or in different settings (like in my car while driving to CA for my family vacation – thank goodness for Hot Spot!).

Flexible Office Space and Hours

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 10.08.16 AMMy office space looks a little bit different in the summer. It is mobile. I may take my laptop to the pool and work while my kids participate in swim practice. I may wake up early and work at the kitchen table for a few hours before my little humans begin to stir. Sometimes, I head to the local library with my kids in tow and while they check out books and read or participate in one of the library activities, I get a little bit of work done. I am a mother as well as an instructor, and teaching is not my only responsibility. This also makes the term “time off” extremely humorous. Moms….do we ever really get ‘time off’?

So, while I definitely appreciate the change in pace that the summer months offer, I do not consider my summers “time off”. I never completely disconnect from my identity as an educator. I am constantly considering ways to improve my teaching practice, serve my students, and grow as a professional. I am sure some of you can relate. So…what have you been doing this summer to prepare?

Back to School Sales!

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IMG_3629This is my favorite time of year! Back to school supplies hit store shelves and there are some great deals. I spend the month of July checking weekly ads so that I can take advantage of smoking deals. School supplies can be rather expensive, so I stock up now in order to save money later.

Back to School Sales:

Staples
Office Max
Walmart
Target

Check the ads/flyers for stores in your area to determine what is on sale each week. New sales will usually begin Sundays. Keep in mind that sales will differ every week. In addition, really good deals will go quickly, so plan to shop early in the week (preferably on Sundays or Mondays). Some deals will also be available online, so check websites weekly too.

Personal Supplies

IMG_3623There are materials that I use personally that I purchase during the summer sales. I stock up on items such as white board markers, post-it notes, and notecards. This is also a great time to purchase an academic calendar/planner and a clicker if you don’t already own one. Personal flash drives are also very helpful for storing electronic materials that you need to conduct class.

Supplies for the Classroom

IMG_3061There are also materials that I provide to my students when I ask that they complete activities in class. There are a lot of activities that you can do with Crayola markers, 3×5 cards, and paper in your classroom. Keep it simple at first and build your arsenal of materials/supplies over time. You can add a few more things each semester or at the beginning of each new school year.

Stock Up

IMG_6731I also purchase supplies to keep at home for personal use. I buy pens and pencils. I also buy crafting supplies like glue, crayons, and markers for my house (for my kids and for me). I love different color sharpies. Last year, I found a pack of 15-20 sharpies for under $10 at Walmart. I am still using them. You can get personal supplies as well as materials to use in the classroom for activities.

Educate Students

You can also ask students to bring their own materials keeping in mind that they are college students and may be living on a tight budget. College students usually return to class after K-12 schools get started. By the time they are returning to school, most of the school sales are over. However, talk to them about “Back to School” sales and encourage them to take advantage of them next year. I educate them about the types of materials they will need so that they can plan ahead and buy during the summer sales.

As you are checking ads, making lists of needed supplies, and doing your shopping, also remember, you can ask for donations. This helps to save money. Some of my colleagues ask for old magazines, scrapbooking materials, etc. to use to complete projects and activities that they use in their classes.

Have fun! Back to school shopping is an exciting time of year. You are preparing for a new semester, a new school year, a new batch of eager students who are ready to learn from you. The new school year signals a new beginning and a fresh start. Having some new and improved supplies can make it even better!

Here is a list of supplies to use as you shop for the beginning of the school year:

List of Supplies:

Planner
Clicker
flashdrive(s)
Whiteboard markers
Crayola Markers
Sharpie Markers
Crayons
Post-It notes
3×5 notecards
printer paper
card stock
Construction paper
pencils
pens
highlighters
glue
tape
white-out
paper clips
stapler/staples
notebooks
folders
binders
scissors
clipboards
pencil boxes/bags
storage containers
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
Zuca Backpack
Vera Bradley Get Carried Away Tote

THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATED LINKS. THE LINKS PROVIDED ALLOW READERS TO ACCESS RESOURCES WE UTILIZE IN OUR CLASSES OR FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE AND RESEARCH BEFORE PURCHASING PRODUCTS RECOMMENDED. WE ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH MERCHANTS MENTIONED IN VARIOUS CONTENT POSTS AND MAY BE COMPENSATED IF CONSUMERS UTILIZE THE LINKS IN POSTS. YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO USE THE LINKS PROVIDED, AND THERE IS NO OBLIGATION TO BUY ANY PRODUCTS THAT WE RECOMMEND.

Mentoring

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As the fall semester draws near, we encourage you to take some time to consider those around you who will need mentoring. We encourage you to consider who you can turn to for advice if you need support – who will be your mentor? If you are full time faculty, we encourage you to take this topic to your colleagues as the semester begins. Build a strong and well structured mentoring program within the department in which you work. There are several different ways to build a mentoring program. Begin by having a discussion about who needs mentoring – new faculty, adjunct faculty, research assistants, graduate assistants, and students.

New Faculty 

A mentoring program can be created within departments or colleges to ensure that new faculty are supported. This role should be assigned to someone in the department who is willing to share resources with new faculty and offer support to them as they embark on the journey of teaching. Teaching can be challenging, time consuming and confusing when you are new in the field. Preparing, planning, researching and reading to prepare lessons to teach can be overwhelming. In addition, there are a lot of responsibilities that are involved in the profession of teaching that many new instructors are not aware of. A mentor can help to navigate through the all of the teaching responsibilities.

Adjunct Faculty

Adjunct faculty come with diverse experience and background. Some graduate with teaching degrees, and they may have some training, preparation, and experience as a teacher. Others graduate with degrees in fields that are not specific to teaching. They may choose to enter this profession by default, because they’re exploring possible career options or perhaps jobs are not available in their particular field of study. They may also choose to teach adjunct classes to share their knowledge with future professionals. For these reasons, it is important to provide training, resources, and support to them. They need to know who they can ask for advice or consult with if problems arise. The mentor should be someone who is willing to provide assistance and share resources. It is important that this person wants to do so and is not being forced to do this. This individual needs to be dynamic, open, warm, caring, and compassionate. This individual needs to have a desire to help others. New faculty will feel this desire and will be automatically drawn to them. This will make their teaching practice better and will help them develop into valuable individuals who work on your campus with your students.

Mentoring Research Assistants

Research assistants also need guidance. They will be helping with the research process, but are probably still new to the process themselves. Therefore, it is important to teach them the necessary skills to complete the tasks you are requesting. Check in with them regularly. Ask about the progress they are making. By checking in regularly, you will be able to see progress being made and determine if there are areas in which you need to provide more support and assistance. You can share resources or hold short meetings to teach them new skills necessary to continue to move forward. This is a learning process for them, so be prepare to mentor them as they grow as researchers.

Mentoring Graduate Assistants

Taking time mentoring and training graduate students can make your job a lot easier. By spending some time sharing your expectations with graduate assistants, you will have support in and out of the classroom. The more support that is provided to your students, the more successful they will be. What expectations do you have for your graduate assistants? Are they responsible for teaching classes? Preparing lessons? Locating resources to support topics you are covering? Classroom management? Grading? Offering study sessions? Holding office hours? Determine ways in which they can provide support and then share your expectations with them as well as the resources they need to do the job you are requesting.

Mentoring Students

IMG_1568When you are considering mentoring, also consider how and when you will mentor students. This does not mean offering office hours to assist students with assignments in your class. This refers to mentoring students in regards to their personal and professional goals after college. Discuss career goals with students. Discuss the steps they need to take to reach those goals. Meet with them regularly to discuss the progress they are making.
We have been blessed to have wonderful mentors come into our lives and guide us. They have helped us to make professional decisions. They have supported us in our personal lives. They are not only our mentors, but also our friends. For this reason, we have made it our mission to help people that are coming into the field by providing resources that we use to be successful. We share things that worked really well for us as well as things that did not work – our epic fails. We find that through mentoring others, we become better teachers. Remember that pouring into another person leaves a lasting impression. Whether it is a quick thirty minute discussion over a cup of coffee, a brief discussion at the copy machine, or a monthly lunch meeting, you are providing guidance and wisdom that will leave a lasting mark.

5 Practical Tips for College Students

jeremy-bishop-131058Attention Students! This blog is for you. As you prepare for college, whether you are going for the first time or you are returning after your summer vacation, here are some practical tips to make your college experience more meaningful.

1. Attend class

Attend class daily. You are at college to earn a degree. This is the ultimate goal and therefore, your number one priority must be attending class, completing course work, and successfully passing each class that you take. In order to get the most out of the classes you take, sit in the front row. Take notes. Participate. Be present. Research suggests that students who take notes by hand, retain more information from the lesson and actually process the information at a deeper level, because they are forced to put the information into their own words. So….get off your devices (computers, tablets, phones). Take notes by hand.

2. Utilize University Resources

josh-felise-79991On every college campus, the number of resource available for students vary. Locate and utilize the resources that are available on your campus. Start with the library and the librarians. You will need to write papers that are supported by research; therefore, learning to use the library as well as discovering how to contact a librarian will be important to your success.

Go to Study Sessions that your instructors or teaching assistants offer. They will assist in preparing for assessments. Being prepared can help to reduce anxiety and can help you to earn a better grade.

Attend office hours. Your instructors will have scheduled office hours. It is highly encouraged to attend office hours. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Make personal connections with your professors.

3. Talk to Your Professors

I mean really have a conversation with your professor. Introduce yourself! Share some personal information, like where you are from, your major, a future career goal, or a personal hobby. Making connections with your professors is important. They can assist you when you are having difficulty with the course material. They can also help you as you progress through your degree program. You may find that you need or want to participate in research opportunities and your professors may be able to provide those opportunities. They can also write you a letter of recommendation for graduate school or a potential job. If your professors do not know you, they may be more reluctant to help. So make connections and form relationships with your professors.

You may chat for a minute before or after class or you can attend office hours. Perhaps your professor offers additional study sessions. Find out how and when you can connect in a more personal way.

4. Get Involved

There are numerous ways to get involved on campus.

If you live on campus, check out social activities that are sponsored or arranged within your dorm. Dorms create a sense of community and belonging on large campus, making the very big campus feel a bit smaller and more intimate. So get to know those who you reside with by getting involved in activities organized by your peers and residential leaders.

Additionally, clubs play an important role on campuses. Determine if there are clubs that are associated with your major or that support your interests that you can join.

Research opportunities and internships can not only provide the opportunity to get involved but can also help to prepare you for life after college providing experience to assist with acceptance to graduate school or when applying for future jobs.

Attend sporting events. This is a great way to stir a sense of school spirit. Or if you enjoy playing, you could participate in intramural sports. Research options for joining an intramural club team.

5. Get Out of Your Dorm Room

alexis-brown-85793Find alternative locations to study. Study in the library. This provides the opportunity to utilize campus resources, and you may find that you are able to focus with a bit more ease if you are not in your dorm room where there may be distractions that prevent you from completing your work. Get out of your dorm room and visit with friends. While your number one goal is earning a degree, you should also enjoy the time you spend on a college campus, establishing relationships. Therefore, visit with friends. Attend social events. Have fun!

Academic Freedom

Screen Shot 2017-07-04 at 6.42.15 PMWhat are your Fourth of July traditions? Do you have a picnic with family and friends? Do you have a special place where you go to watch fireworks? Growing up, my family went to the local fair ground. My grandmother LOVED to sit in the bandstand and listen to the live band until it was time for the fireworks to begin. This was our family tradition. Sometimes, my brother and I would complain about having to go to the fairground so early and sit for so long waiting for the fireworks. Today, I wish my grandmother was still here, and I could go and sit at the fairground for hours with her listening to the music in the bandstand waiting for the fireworks to begin. You see these were things I took for granted…..the time I could spend with her….my family’s tradition. We all take things for granted both in our personal and professional lives.

If you work in higher education, you have most likely heard the term academic freedom. When this term is referred to, what exactly do academics mean? Freedom, or the right to act, speak, or think as one wants without being hindered, is applied in an academic setting. This implies that academics have the right to specific freedoms as they pertain to their role as educators and in relation to the discipline in which they are experts. At a very basic level, academic freedom affords faculty the right to decide how to teach the courses they are assigned.

Academic freedom is viewed as essential to the mission of the academy – the college or university – as well as the principles of academia. It is important that faculty and students do not fear retribution for presenting information or for engaging in discussion on topics that may be viewed as controversial that pertains to their discipline. They are provided the opportunity to freely debate these topics openly sharing thoughts and opinions in a respectful and professional manner. Faculty recognize that this type of discussion is essential to promote growth – intellectual, personal, and professional. In addition, this principle also extends to research providing faculty and students the ability to select topics of interest and conduct research related to these topics. They are also permitted to share the results from research conducted freely.

On this day, as we celebrate our freedoms as Americans, please do not forget that those include the freedom to teach our classes within our disciplines, sharing ideas and engaging in debates openly. I am proud to be an American. I am equally as proud to be university professor. I don’t take these things for granted and neither should you. Happy Fourth of July!john-silliman-140814

Practical Planning Tips: Creating a Semester Schedule

holly-mindrup-73446Your syllabus has been created, proofread, and is ready to be posted or passed out. Your book has been selected. Now, you can begin lesson planning. What will you be teaching every day?

Remember…students are paying to take this course. The knowledge they gain from you by taking this course will impact them as they progress though the program. They will need this information to be successful in future courses and as a professional. Therefore, it is your job to prepare and teach. It is unprofessional let student’s go early, because you are unprepared.

Dividing Up the Material

This may take a bit of practice. First look at the topics and objectives. Are there some topics that are heavier (include more content) than others? Are there more objectives associated with some topics than others? How much time will be needed to present all of the information in each chapter – half a class period? several classes? What activities will you include? How much time will be necessary to complete each activity?

I like to make a document that includes every day the class will meet during the semester. I begin by inserting any holidays. Then I determine how much information I need to cover – usually by looking at the number of topics that are included (in the course or by checking the chapters of the textbook you are using). You may find that there is a chapter or two in the textbook that you will not be covering – again, you must consider the objectives you have developed to determine what chapters in the textbook complement them. As you review the course topics and the textbook chapters as well as the number of classes you have to cover the information, you can begin to divide up the material. Below is a sample of my course schedule from several semesters ago.

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Revise Lessons

As I move through the semester, if I am teaching a class for the first time, I tweak things as I go. I also make notes of adjustments that I need to make before teaching the class again. This may include small changes to presentations or activities. I write them down or make them right away. If I rely on remembering that those changes need to be made, and I don’t write down the changes or make them right away, then I forget.

Self-Reflection

I like to reflect on lessons after I present them. Self-reflection is a great way to improve your practice, whether you are new to the profession or have been teaching for years. Use a journal or notebook to jot down notes after each class. I consider time management; how much time it took to complete the activity. Will more time be needed in a future semester? Did it take less time than I expected? Perhaps, more examples need to be provided. How did the the lesson flow? Did you cover everything that need to be covered? Was there enough time to complete activities? How did students respond to the lesson or activity? Are there things that need to be reinforced in the next class? Are more examples necessary? Do you need to make any changes to this lesson in future semesters? If things did not go as smoothly as I expected, I begin to do some research and planning to determine how I can make the presentation or activity better in the future.

Student Feedback

I also rely on student feedback. I often ask my students for feedback on lessons or activities. I ask them if I should use the same material in a future class. I ask them how I can improve the lesson or activity. They are often more than willing to provide useful feedback on how I could make improvements.

Final Thoughts

Adjust as you go – make notes or make corrections right away; don’t rely on your memory and plan to make the changes after the semester ends or while prepping for the next semester. You will forget! Remember teaching is an art. It requires preparation and practice.

IMG_1369For more practical tips, follow our blog and follow us on social media. You are also welcome to contact us at practicalprofessors@gmail.com. We welcome the opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with you!