February 2015 archive

Zen Moments, Freedom, and Other Things We Could All Use More Of

IMG_9384I’ve mentioned before that I go through various phases from time to time, and honestly, I think we all should.

I tend to get into a hobby or new interest (very heavily) for a year or so, then move on and invest my time in something new, and eventually I’ll circle back to an old hobby, which feels brand-new and warmly familiar, all at the same time.

Right now I’m enjoying some zen moments in my life.

As in, more yoga, personal reflection, time with friends, career changes, new ideas, thoughts about freedom, and peace.

I noticed my desires were shifting a little bit when I started losing interest in my Dan Pink books, and even in my books about teaching face-to-face and online (which is annoying, because I really wanted to keep reading those).

I’m a believer in reaching for whatever feels right, and disregarding what doesn’t (although I almost always return when it feels fitting again).

So when I scoured my bookshelves for something I could commit to for the next few days, it surprised me that The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz was exactly what I wanted. It’d been sitting there for a few months, and I wondered if I’d ever feel the urge to read it, but I read it in one sitting. Perfection. Everything about it felt great.

Yes, this was exactly right, and it led me to do other things that fell in line with my own desires and with Ruiz’s thoughts about filling your life with things that create lasting happiness, freedom, peace, and love.

I started reading another book that was collecting dust on my bookshelf, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by the Dalai Lama. If I stay in this phase for much longer, I might even read Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (one of these days!).

I played my guitar, and not the alternative country indie music that I normally seek out, but good old-fashioned Taylor Swift. It just felt fun, and right, and free.

So here I am with candles lit throughout my apartment, with books in my lap, my guitar hanging on the wall next to me (resting up for the evening), and 1989 ready and waiting in iTunes.

I’m feeling very free, filled with exciting ideas and direction, and totally at peace with this particular ‘zen’ moment.

Teaching Online: Thoughts About Freedom and Working from Home

IMG_3424I wrote a book over the summer about how to enjoy life as a part-time college instructor, despite low pay, by being efficient and adopting a very simple lifestyle.

Those crucial elements still help me to be successful, happy, and free on a day to day basis. However, I didn’t realize that shortly after publishing my book, I would be working mostly from home for an online university making a better salary and spending less time on my feet (thanks to a great friend who put in a good word for me!).

I’m still not sure how I feel about the tradeoff. As someone more inclined to be a ‘homebody,’ it’s relaxing to work from home. However, as crazy as this sounds, I already miss the commute and chaotic days of driving to various campuses to interact with diverse student bodies.

For now, the virtual classroom is where I’ll be spending most of my time, and I do welcome the change. I’m also curious to see how I’ll feel after a year of this, once I’ve truly settled in.

I’ve already started reading books about the growing demand for online classes and teachers, how to get the most out of online teaching jobs, and how to maintain an effective learning environment with online students. I’m excited to be part of this new world, and to try my hand at becoming an expert in the online arena.

So far I’ve read the following to help me on my journey (I’m a supporter of self-published authors, so many of the following may not be traditionally published):

Teach Online: 10 Simple Steps to Get Your Resume Noticed and Land the Job by Dr. Carolyn Edwards
Building Your Adjunct Platform by Michelle Post, PhD
Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online by Aaron Johnson

I’m currently reading:

The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips by Judith V. Boettcher and Rita-Marie Conrad
Becoming an Academic Free Agent: Teach Online, Make Money, and Live Anywhere by Michael D. Finney

I’m learning a lot from various authors, about a topic I never really considered being a part of. Becoming an online presence for my students in Blackboard pushed me to (finally!) record my lectures via Camtasia and webcam, and put them on YouTube for my new distance students, after a year of having it on ‘my list.’

I’m in new territory, and I have no idea where it’s all headed, but I’ve thrown around the whole ‘travel the world’ idea, or ‘escape to a mountain retreat for months at a time’ idea, with this new found freedom.

For now, I’ll enjoy my city, my cozy apartment, the amazing students I see 3 days a week, and the continuous evolution of college teaching. And I’ll keep reaching for whatever feels right, and seeing where I end up. It’s worked out surprisingly well so far.

Happy teaching.

(P.S. If you have comments, questions, or advice about online teaching, please share! Contact me at erin@happyprofessor.com)


Lasting Impact

IMG_0167Every person has had something happen in their life that changed them forever.

I’ve had a few life changing moments at this point, but the very first one, the one that I believe set all the others into motion, was going to college.

A degree isn’t for everyone, but for someone like me, the classes, experiences, and personal growth that took place during those 4 years turned me into the person I needed to become, and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about it.

I went to Stetson University, a small private college in Florida, that took me just far enough away from home (3 hours) and just enough outside of my comfort zone, that I not only survived, but I thrived.

The girl who wouldn’t play her guitar in front of anyone or raise her hand in class, made it a point to sing in a few school talent contests (even if she secretly considered running away before they called her name up to the stage), and perhaps more importantly, decided to get to know her professors.

My professors were the people I looked up to, who suggested I get my Masters degree (which allows me to do the job I love today), who showed me what great teaching and learning looks like, and what loving your job looks like.

The thing that may have mattered most was that I had left home with a goal in mind. I went to college with one idea that I focused on every day for the next 4 years:

“If anyone asks you to do something, and you’re scared of it, but know it will ultimately be good for you- do it.”

It led to first loves, great friends, putting myself in the spotlight, and realizing there was really nothing to have ever been afraid of in the first place.

I still live by that every day.

When Stetson University invited me to be part of the Leadership Stetson program for alumni this month, I squirmed, I put off my response, I hoped I would have a work conflict of some sort, but I was 100% available, uncertain, and I said “Yes.”

As I’ve learned time and time again, it was the right decision and a fantastic experience.


I was interviewed today by a friend (who also went to Stetson) who will soon be releasing her second book. It focuses on people who have pursued and reached their dreams: mine being teaching and writing a book about it. She’s interviewed people who have produced classic television shows, as well as successful actors and performers, and I’m honored to be included amongst these remarkable people.

None of these things would have happened if I hadn’t start saying “Yes” to the scary things, if I hadn’t had the courage to get to know my role models and professors, and if I hadn’t gone to Stetson.

It’s a place that will always feel like home, that will remind me of the chances I took, of the ways I grew, and of the learning and living environment that sheltered me just enough to let me start playing with my dreams.

Let things happen, go on adventures, and let yourself grow in ways you didn’t think possible.

Happy learning, and happy teaching.


Best Kept Adjunct Secret: LinkedIn

cropped-IMG_01691.jpgOver winter break, I finished reading Michelle Post’s book, Building Your Adjunct Platform.

It was insightful, helpful, positive, and filled with extremely valuable links and resources (if you’re a struggling or aspiring part-time professor, you need to get this book).

Many of her tips included things that I felt I’d taken care of, like establishing meaningful connections with students and working for various schools to ensure your financial security.

However, Post also included a number of adjunct websites that list current positions available, and she suggests joining some adjunct groups on LinkedIn (which I’d kind of thought about, but never looked into- for some reason, I assumed they didn’t existed).

Sure enough, I found around 10 adjunct groups on LinkedIn (I’m sure there are more), and I joined a few.

To make my new find even better, the feel of these groups was exactly what I was looking for!

They’re positive, supportive, helpful, and useful. I’ve contributed my two-cents to quite a few discussions, and other people have also been eager to respond and help direct their fellow instructors to open teaching positions or toward a new teaching style (ie. laptops in the classroom, or no?).

Needless to say, these are the people I’ve been looking for. I’ve met such amazing colleagues face-to-face, and I wondered where I could find other positive-minded colleagues online.

If you have an interest in teaching college, asking questions about the current classes you’re teaching, or are looking for a supportive group of fellow instructors..

The secret is LinkedIn.

Happy connecting, and happy teaching!