August 28, 2011
So this semester is probably going to be one of the busiest semesters of my professional life. I have probably said this at the beginning of some past semester…but I’m quite sure that this one will beat out that earlier one. The biggest commitment that I have this semester is the completion of a major text book project (due date Nov 1). Though I have been working on this project through the majority of the summer, I am still working on completing two chapters of major writing revisions and then all 8 chapters of image replacements and other revision odds and ends. Add onto this my heavy teaching load (2 sections Gen Psych, one section Cog Psych = about 90 students), chairing an important faulty committee, leading our college’s curricular revision initiative, and all of the other typical stuff a college prof does (grade, student meetings, faculty meetings, department meetings, ultimate Frisbee competitions, etc, etc.) and I have a mighty full plate.
To address the most pressing issue for me (the text book due date in 2 months) I have done something that I never have before – intentionally hid from my students for blocks of hours at a time. I have scheduled at least 2 hours every day in my schedule (and yes my students know that I am doing this – I explain why) in the afternoons for writing. This accomplishes several things: 1) I actually get writing done and am not inturrupted in my work flow, 2) I am forced not to work on anything else because everything else is left in my office (though I do need to monitor my online distractions), 3) I get a sense of change in the day – staying in one place can be stifling creatively for me . A new location – and a cup of coffee – helps invigorate me. 4) I can model something that I recommend to my students when they do their writing. And finally 5) I get to walk somewhere on campus for some fresh air.
This past week was my first week back to classes (it was a short week) and I tried out my new writing schedule on Wed and Thursday. I have learned a few things 1) our library really has no legit quite area unless you go into a study room. 2) More students use the library in the middle of the afternoon than I thought (though it is just the first week of classes). 3) The library still has the same effect on my now as it did when I was in college – I have a tendency to doze off if I put my head down even for a minute. 4) In lieu of sometimes dozing off, I get A LOT done in these 2ish hours of time.
So I have a feeling that my scheduling will work well…now I just need to protect this precious time. Too often meetings and such can begin to creep in and take over my nice long blocks of uninterrupted work time. At least for this semester I am going to need to be selfish here. When you have a deadline for a major book publisher, you don’t turn in your homework late!
August 12, 2011
Ok, ok, ok, I already know the complaints what will come with this title if a student ever decides to read my blog. Yes, I was a student at one time, and yes I realize that time is extremely limited for ‘fun’ reading (i.e. reading not required for classes). But if you do have the time I highly encourage you to browse the stacks, roam the isles, surf the listings for book titles that catch your interest. Talk to your friends, family, and teachers about what books they are currently reading and then ask to borrow their copy. It might be a fictional novel, it could be a non-fiction biography. But READ! As a student you must remember that you are busy grooming yourself for the real world. The real world that does not necessarily need a list of specific skills, but also creativity and ingenuity. I my opinion, the most creative ideas are those that connect seemingly unconnected ideas, best way to do this is to be an active reader both in your profession and in your personal interest areas.
I find that I am at my most creative when I am reading the works of other people. They present me with ideas and facts that I was not aware of. I then have a tendency to bring in my own knowledge and experiences to make sense of these new ideas and facts, and then I make some connection. This connection may be new, or it might simply be a little acknowledged area of study that if ripe for investigation. This is where great ideas can come from and for me professionally, where new research ideas emerge. I find my best ideas not when sitting alone in my office contemplating the next research question to ask; I find my most interesting ideas when attending conferences, speaking to colleagues, and reading my ‘for fun’ books over the summer.
I think most people have a need to be inspired by another person to be really creative (there is probably some research out there that supports this claim – guess I should go and read it – look yet another idea!). I believe that few of us are truly creative on our own (in other words coming up with something completely new on our own with no help). So as a student beginning your new semester, perhaps you will be asked to write a few papers. My advice to you is to READ AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before you actually start writing (in my experience too many students do this backwards by first writing the paper and then finding the 2 sources to support their claims – you really need to do this the other way around)! Your prof might say you are required to have 2 sources (or 5 or 10)…you should actually be reading much more than that. You might not use them all in your paper, but those other resources will provide ideas, insights, and leads for you.
It is my firm belief that a well-read individual will profit from their leisure reading. So pick up or borrow a book or download something new to your Kindle and see just how creative you can be.
July 7, 2011
I just ran into this blog through WiredEducator on Twitter – http://tinyurl.com/5wqr9w3. As I’ve mentioned before I really do had all intentions of actually being consistent in my blogging, but I often find that I have a good 2-3 week run and then have no posts for 4-5 months. This blog gives 7 pretty good reasons why all educators should blog.
I especially like items 1 (Practice what you Teach) and 4 (Expand your Classroom). Practicing what you teach is the quality of a good instructor. I have the same philosophy about leadership as I do about teaching…I do not expect my students to do things that I myself will not do. If I believe that writing is an important skill for my students, then I should also write. Not just once in a while, but often and using different modalities. At Morningside we will begin having our freshman class create e-portfolios of their written work. I plan to integrate this into my General Psychology class. I have not yet thought what all I want my students to place in their writing portfolio – certainly the process of their major project in the class – but possibly other things like a personal blog that has them look for psychology concepts in their daily lives.
Item 4 – Expanding your Classroom – shows in reality a 2-way street. Not only can my students read my own blog and see what interests me and what I am up to outside of the confines of the classroom, but it also allows for others to read about and contact me in a form of professional development. This is a way to share what I am doing with anyone else that might actually read this.
So with that said, perhaps these 7 reasons to blog will remind me to use this forum in more different ways. Not only when I feel the urge to write, but also to give shorter posts about interesting articles, research, shows to share with others, to use as a way to catalog some accomplishments and small goals reached, and of course to learn more. Knowing that I have a blog to maintain should give me some more incentive to pay attention to the new things I am learning and run across.