Ending on an Up Note: Up We Go

3714701755_b8d9fceee1_zWe enjoyed this gem from FinestQuotes.com 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 shop.group-kids-with-books 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.

Classhack: Starfish Kudos

starfishOur college has implemented Starfish Retention Solutions, an online system designed to enhance advising and student success. Starfish offers the opportunity to create “Kudos” for individual students in each of my classes. Initially, I assigned a Kudo to each student who earned an “A” on a big exam. Student response was remarkably positive, with verbal and email thanks from recipients. More recently, I have used the “Showing improvement” Kudo for students who have made significant progress but may not yet have reached the upper tier of performance. These students seem to be even more pleased to receive the encouragement, perhaps because their efforts aren’t as frequently acknowledged.

Why do Kudos work? Students are surprised to find  little goodies in their inboxes. The messages allow them to own something of value. Above all, the praise offers convincing evidence that they are meeting an achievable challenge.

It takes only a few moments to enter the Kudos after each major assessment, as Starfish is easily accessible via BlackBoard. So far, I have only used the ready-made messages, but I plan to come up with some more  original and personal versions for next term. Have you tried assigning Kudos yet? How did your students respond?

Student Magicians

Brian picThe stage is set. The magician is going to make something or someone disappear and then reappear to an astonished audience. This is what the audience came to see. Seats are filled with those prepared to expect, wait for, and then applaud the famous disappearing act.

In school, an instructor hopes not to see magic from students. Unfortunately, a student’s work will disappear, and then the student will even disappear. The difference from a magic show is that neither the work nor the student was supposed to disappear.disappearing

Most classes have a student whose work stops coming in, and if that continues, there is a good chance that the student stops coming in. Sometimes, both the work and the student unexplainably disappear. Honestly, at a certain point, an instructor thinks, “I hope the student just withdraws or does not return because the chance of success is slim.” This is especially true in an eight week course, even more so in a shorter summer course.

quote-Bob-Dylan-some-people-seem-to-fade-away-but-144376_1A number of students who disappear do, however, reappear, and with explanations ranging from the unlikely to the heart rending. Probably the course syllabus outlines late penalties and attendance policies intended to indicate the point of no return. Maximum tension ensues when a student is just short of that point, and the tension is even greater when the situation happens in the closing weeks of a course.

Students have life, job, family, and school to balance. It is not my aim to tell students how to adjust their priorities. What I do often say is this: “Suppose I write the checks at Kroger, and a truck of lettuce has an accident, losing five cases of lettuce, but I ordered ten cases, so now only five can be delivered. Guess how many cases of lettuce the check will be for.”lettuce

The driver or his company can have the best reason in the world, but a five case delivery gets a five case check. There is no intent to be insensitive, or even tell the driver or the produce company what to do, but checks are written for products delivered.

This is one place where it is not over-commercialization to mix business and education. An assignment is a product.

What about forgiveness or leniency? These figure in, but at a certain point, the integrity of a course will break down if a student passes or achieves a certain grade without sufficient competency. Pulling-a-Rabbit-out-of-Your-Hat-292x300Let’s face it, even at a magic show, if a certain number of rabbits disappear, the audience expects the same number to reappear. And if the magician disappears, the audience expects the magician to reappear. That’s the magic.

Ending on an Up Note: Media Maps

Sharing an office with a film buff must have altered my perspective, because I seem to be finding a new video-related amuse-bouche every time I web surf. Here’s one from www.xkcd.com:

And another from Business Insider by way of Reddit by way of mental_floss:


Wherever your setting, be the star of your own show…and enjoy your weekend.

The Slow Book Revolution

ReadingthuRsday-R2The Slow Book Revolution: Creating a New Culture of Reading on College Campuses and Beyond (Meagan Lacy, Editor) is a collection of articles about encouraging college students to thoughtfully read complete works of literature and nonfiction. The book has three sections: Reasons to go Slow, Promoting the Slow Book Movement in the Academic Library, and Beyond the Academic Library: A Lifetime of Slow Books. Slow-Book-Meagan-Lacy-book-coverOf particular interest to me is the section on “Reasons to go Slow” because it fits in with our literacy initiative on our campus. I like the way the authors in this section take into account all the types of reading college students do every day such as emails, texts, tweets, etc. I also like the way the authors discuss the need for all of us to just slow down and read thoughtfully, to read and cherish words, and to take time to make images in our heads. In other words, I like the part about readers enjoying what they are reading.

Slowing down and reading is a luxury in a fast-paced world. Since reading a book slowly and for enjoyment might seem a little out of reach for some already overwhelmed students, many institutions are sponsoring Common Read programs. 3941204591_9aa61d0e56_zCommon Read programs provide a venue for students to talk about books in a non-threatening environment. In addition, many programs provide books to students free of charge. Book Clubs have a long history of providing a home for discussions in a social setting, so the Common Read programs make it just a little easier for students to engage with others about something they have read thoughtfully. In addition, reading something in common is also a way to give readers a feeling of “belonging.”

As a consequence of reading The Slow Book Revolution, I am looking for some books to delve into over the summer.summer reading at the beach preppy While I always have a book I am reading, I do not necessarily always read in the manner described in Slow Book. I encourage all of us to pick a book or two and take the advice from the contributors to The Slow Book Revolution. Happy Reading.