Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Be a Good Neighbo(u)r.

The other night before the Predators used the Leafs as playthings, the Toronto fans showed some big time class when the anthem signer's microphone went out.  It was great to see the Canadian crowd finishing up the Star-Spangled Banner...



This is just a month after the Pittsburgh crowd sang O Canada after the Ottawa shootings...



As a Canadian who lives in the USA, I am always happy to see when we act like the great nighbo(u)rs that we are.  Congrats on both sides of the both sides of the border for recognizing our great partnership!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Being Significant in Insignificance...

Every time I think I am a big deal, I leave it to physics to remind me otherwise...



Though I can make the argument that I am the center of the universe



Though, no matter our insignificant place in this universe, it is still important that we maintain a sense of fun (even if it is really just a little bit of fun in the grand scheme of things).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Death By Meetings?

I love my colleagues.  They are great human beings and do not really waste time (if anything, I am the social being of the group who they hate to see coming down the hall at times).  Being in the world of academia however, death by a 1000 meetings is common and quite often painful.  As I have moved into more leadership roles, I have really taken a lot of time to think about how to make meeting times more productive.  So when I watch this TED talk by David Grady it really made me think of how I am doing business so to speak.



With this in mind, I give you my rules going forward for meetings that I am a part of.

Agendas go out at least 48 hours before the meeting.
Every meeting must have at least three actionable items.
Meetings will take no longer than 45 minutes (to which I will add an optional 15 minutes for networking/socialization).
Try to avoid meeting time sucks (like getting off on tangents, exploring outside topics and gossip).
Make sure the technology works before entering the room.
Keep the mood of one of trying to move forward with positive goals in mind.

These are my rules.  What are your meeting rules?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why I Sometimes Hate This Time of Year

This morning I was coming into work and on the radio there were two DJs discussing Christmas gifts.  The one DJ was complaining that her husband was buying her a $1000 dining room table stating that 'it was a gift for the household, not for her,' especially since he was getting $500 University of Tennessee boots.  So many things bothered me about this whole conversation that I needed to rant.

If you are going to discuss buying each other $1500 worth of gifts in public at least have the decency to at least acknowledge that you are really dealing with some serious first world problems.  The ladies on the radio really did come off as being superficial.

Heather and I stopped score keeping on gifts along time ago.  I believe it to be a sign of immaturity and a lack of respect for your partner.  We have also for the most part given up giving each other gifts on major occasions.  It is much nicer to receive a gift on January 14th just because you were thinking about the person than having to be artificially pressured into buying stuff on February 14th because Hallmark says it is the way to show your love.  I prefer the spontaneous and heart felt gift rather than the custom/convention one anytime.

The moral of the story for me.  If someone gives me a gift, any gift, I am thankful to have someone in my life that is willing to use their time and resources to purchase/make me something. There are many people in the world that do not have that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rules of Teaching

Today, I start my ninth year of being a professor.  It is hard to believe that it has really been that long.  It feels like it was just yesterday when I got my PhD and thought I knew something.  Trust me that today I am no longer under such delusions.

In looking back and now moving forward, my classes look nothing like that did nine years ago. Today, they are much less, "me talk - you listen" and much more "lets explore and see what we all learn as a result."  My whole teaching philosophy has evolved over time and continues to do so.  In that vein, I thought that today, I would share my rules of teaching today with you...

  1. Start lessons with a relevant question/problem.  Set up the 'so what' so that students can understand why you are delivering the lesson.  It is about creating context in their minds.
  2. Set up the class in an explore, demonstrate and apply model.  
  3. Conversations work better than telling.  When I am told something I am more likely to forget, ignore or half understand the message.  When I gain knowledge in a conversation I tend to retain it because I had to connect the dots myself and understand the logic behind the thoughts.  Remember the key to a conversation is that it is a two way street.  You have to listen as much as you talk.
  4. Smile.  Life is so much better for yourself and your students when you engage with the materials.
  5. Be constructive.  No one likes to be told their wrong but sometimes we all need to be guided towards a better understanding of an issue.  I go in with the approach of helping students to understand where the error was made and providing tools to help them improve their performance
  6. Always treat students with the utmost respect and dignity.  It is amazing how treating people well usually turns into them treating you well.  
  7. Be open to learning and new ideas yourself.  Students have often taught me a lot to which I am eternally thankful.
  8. Always end a lesson by going back to the original question/problem which began it.  Let students see how their ability to address the question has improved.  It also allows you to guide a sense of how well you did your job.

Once again, these rules like everything else are subject to evolution and change with the times.  Good luck to all with the new school year!  May we all learn and flourish during it.