Reading Won’t Solve

ReadingthuRsday-R2In the recent week, more than a few folks who know me have sent me the graphic showing a very proper woman reading a book with a caption that reads “Reading won’t solve your problems. But then again neither will housework.”

Oh, how funny. Oh, how true. Oh, how perfect for me.Reading_Housework won't solve problems

I think about the many times I had a decision to make: clean the house, grade papers, write a paper, pay bills, go to the grocery store, do laundry, etc. or ……Just sit down and read. I admit the sitting down and reading won many times. When I was younger, I might have felt a little guilt, but to be honest, I don’t think I really did. Manic Mommy MondayI always knew my chores would get done eventually, but I also knew having quiet time to read is often fleeting. Obligations and chores are always with us, but the ability to look past all of those to a moment where one can sit and read is a gift. So in the battle between housework and reading, it is true to say, I am gifted.

In anticipation of reading, I keep a stack of books waiting. When my stack from the library gets a little low, I start to think about going to the library. When I travel, I load my kindle and/or pack my books before I think about my toothbrush or other necessities. As a matter of fact, I often have to buy a toothbrush, but I rarely have to get something to read when I am on a trip.suitcase_of_books Of course, that does not stop me from going to a bookstore on every vacation. So, while it is true reading may not solve problems, reading can give one a little breathing room in the bustle of everyday life.

To those of you who know me so well, I can assure you, I continue to make the reading choice in my day. I hope you have the opportunity to read as well.

Signs of Success

karenStudent Learning Outcomes are a big deal at our school. As part of the accreditation process for our college, we need to demonstrate that we think deliberately about what our students are learning and that we make decisions based on what we ascertain. The framing of our reflections and data collections is the topic of seemingly endless discussion and ongoing construction…all well and good, if sometimes just a bit tedious.

Happily, my students often provide some very different proof that the “learning outcomes” that I most deeply desire for them are indeed occurring before my very eyes. As I was queuing up my computer and its accompanying idiosyncratic array of devices before class, I overheard one student laughing about a text she’d received from a classmate over the weekend. The texter had visited a science museum in a distant city along with a group of children. She sent this picture:


Her text read: “I’m resisting the urge to start labeling this right now!”

Victory is mine.

When I laughed aloud at hearing the story, reminding my students yet again that gray hair does not equal hearing impairment, they began to offer examples of recent similar alterations in their perspectives:

“Now when I go the gym, I can’t stop thinking about what muscles I’m using.”

“When I eat I think about what molecules are in the food and how they turn into ATP.”

“When I had a fever, I kept thinking about white cells and pyrogens.”


These people are living illustrations of the ultimate student learning outcome. Because of our class and their diligence, their neuronal pathways have physically changed. We have forged new connections between the neurons in their brains. As a result, they see the world— and themselves within it— in a new way.

That is education.

And it’s a glorious thing to behold.



Classhack: Tagxedo

By now, most of us have made, or at least seen, an image created by using Wordle™. In fact, I made a Wordle™ banner for my A&P BlackBoard homepage. If you’re ready to move on with a similar but arguably more versatile and easy-to-use tool, take a look at Tagxedo. This page amps up the “artsy” factor by offering an array of shapes and fonts to make word clouds from any URL, news topic, twitter account, or plain ol’ search term.

Since my BIO139 class just studied the immune system, I gave Tagxedo a try by doing a Bing search for “immune system.” I chose “The Immune System–An Overview” from By typing in the URL and making a couple of random style selections, I generated this image:immunetagxedo

Curious about I could make by filling in only the “search” feature, I gave it another shot. Again, I made random selections from the style selections. This time the result was:Tagxedo2

Finally, I tried it using the “news” search and yet another random selection of styles:Tagxedo3

Each attempt offered the opportunity to “respin” changing the color, theme, font, orientation, and layout. I could even have one of my creations printed on a mug, tote, or tee. For now, I’m sticking to the images that I’ve saved on my desktop, but I can see how Tagxedo could become an obsession for any teacher who wants to liven up slides or handouts.


Hurry Without Worry

Brian picWhen someone tells you, “Hurry!” the word likely includes emotions of alarm, worry, or frustration. Otherwise, who would get moving? However, there is hurry that maintains composure, and there is hurry that loses composure. One leads to better results than the other, mainly because it’s difficult to concentrate and stay effective when negative emotions steal supremacy from a cool spirit.

Emotions are great! They just make unreliable compasses for choice. They are enjoyed, or at least endured, only when expressed safely by the supreme capacity of being human—choice.todo

Now that this philosophical hors d’oeuvre has inspired or irritated you, consider that for much of the working world, there is often more to do than time to do it, which means that certain tasks get set aside, or else they get done in less spectacular fashion than originally planned. Who can do a day’s doings all in spectacular fashion?

Is guilt creeping up behind anybody? Shun that. Save guilt for a real sin.

92-Be-Quick-but-Dont-Hurry-John-WoodenIt’s also true that a crisis or a major inconvenience can throw the sturdiest schedule into a dither at first. The only dither I like is Dagwood’s boss, Julius C. Dithers, in the comic strip Blondie, and only because I can laugh at him from a distance as a character of genius fiction.

We all have to move fast at times, no problem, and we have to redo schedules and priorities. When having to act with hurry, however, make sure that your shoelaces are tied.



Ending on an Up Note: Evaluations

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…evaluation time! If I didn’t know better, I’d think that cartoonist Doug Savage, who writes the wonderful daily web comic Savage Chickens: Cartoons on Sticky Notes , worked at our place. Does this sound familiar to anyone?


Enjoy your weekend…and doing those evals.


Connecting with Dear Committee Members

ReadingthuRsday-R2On a recent trip to The University of Georgia, sitting and waiting in the car for my daughter to finish a class, I read Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. Connections flooded my brain because my true start into Higher Education began with my doctoral work at The University of Georgia and my luck at obtaining a graduate teaching assistantship. Dear Committee Members is described on the book jacket in the following manner:

“Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished college in the Midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novel. His star (he thinks) student can’t catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville’s “Bartleby by Scrivener.”

“In short, Fitger’s life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a deries of hilarious letters of recommendation that he is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.”

Of course, I was tempted to read this little jewel. I felt an instant kinship with Jason Fitger who was required to write endless recommendation letters while maneuvering through all the baggage of higher education. I have written some letters gleefully, so happy to describe the stellar qualities of a student or colleague. Dear-committee-membersHowever, many times I have suggested to students and even colleagues, I might not be the best person to write a letter for them because I could not bring myself the say the things one normally says in a letter of recommendation. I do not have the bravado of Dr. Fitger who has no qualms about telling the truth in wonderful language I only wish I could use. The pithy letters Jason T. Fitger, Professor of Creative Writing/English writes for students and colleagues are just so on target. I laughed, but then the writing was a little close to the bone, so in some places, I felt sad. I have been in higher education more years than I want to admit. I have written many letters, faced various budget cuts, struggled with reduced resources, and watched faculty members lose some of their academic drive. I have wondered about my own role as an academic and mid-level academic manager. Many of my own struggles I found in the letters written by Dr. Fitger.

4.1.2A few years back, a fellow professor suggested I read Straight Man by Richard Russo. Straight Man tells the struggles of a professor who is weighed down with his dueling roles of being a Department Chair and a faculty member no longer in the bloom of his academic life. One of the parts of the books still in my mind and shows itself when I am in a faculty meeting is the passage where he laments what he could have accomplished with all the time he has spent in endless meetings. He wonders how many poems he could have written. At the time, I was serving as a Department chair, and I could relate to many of the laments of Dr. William Henry Devereaux, Jr. I even went through a period of time where I tried to write some verse while attending meetings. I was not very successful, but it gave me a secret giggle.Inservice

Readers who engage with fiction and non-fiction usually do so because they make connections. In literacy circles, we like to talk about Text-to-Self connections, Text-to-World Connections, and Text-to-Text connections. The similarity between the protagonists, settings, and tone of Dear Committee Members and Straight Man made it very easy for me to make all three types of connections. I found Dear Committee Members at our on-campus library at Hopkinsville Community College. When I read the book’s description inside the front cover, I immediately felt it was a book for me because I was instantly connected to the topic.

Connections to Dear Committee Members came full circle when Dr. Jodi Patrick Holschuh, a graduate student who attended The University of Georgia a few years after I did and who was lucky enough to have Dr. Sherrie Nist-Olejnik as a major professor, proclaimed on Facebook the need for all of us to read Dear Committee Members. Once again, I am reminded how a book can help us make a connection to our own lives and make a connection with others.