May 2017 archive

The Importance of Engaging Students 10 Minutes Before Class Starts

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In my first book, Happy Professor, I included a short section about the importance of engaging with your students during the seemingly insignificant (but secretly crucial) 10-15 minutes before class starts. 

Honestly, I don’t always follow my own advice. Sometimes I have a crisis on my hands at a different school, so I’m dealing with emails and trying to tie up loose ends in those precious few moments before the students in front of me need my undivided attention for the next few hours. 

However, when I start feeling rather disconnected from my face-to-face students, I make the extra effort to engage in casual conversation with the early comers before we get started for the day. It makes me feel more invested in the experience, and I believe it does the same for them. 

I think this bit of low pressure engagement has a number of benefits: it helps students see you as human, they then tend to be more responsive during the class period, and it makes your time as the instructor in the classroom a whole lot more enjoyable (and as someone who teaches predominantly online, the physical classroom for me is all about having a positive experience and setting the right tone for the semester).

Having said that, I love finding articles that back up my own ideas and experiments in the classroom.

Instructor John Warner (author of Inside Higher Ed post titled “Moving Students Away From Their Phones“) backs up what I’ve previously believed about chatting with students before class, with the added bonus that these engaged students might actually stay off their cell phones during the class period (something that Warner and I both agree is a plus, but not a must- we’re all adults here, after all).

Enjoy the article! Happy reading, teaching, and learning :). 

5 Reasons to Volunteer When Given the Opportunity


Once in a while, when I feel like I could take on more and/or need something new and different in my life, I’ll see out volunteer opportunities.

Luckily, I’m occasionally approached by one of the local schools I work for, or a former student, who has me in mind for a small volunteer project and reaches out via email. Although I have to be picky about what I agree to (even though it pains me sometimes- like turning down an all-expenses-paid 5 week opportunity to teach in China- that one hurt), I’m fortunate that so many amazing projects come my way.

Recently, I’ve been coaching a high school student as she works on a speech about bullying, and it’s been a wonderful experience. Sure, there are times when I’m exhausted from work and would rather lay on the couch than go help, but I’m always incredibly happy and inspired when I come home from our meetings, and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity (thanks, Ally, for reaching out to me on a whim!).

Having said that, I thought it would be appropriate to post about some of the benefits of volunteering- for both the volunteer and the people that need help:

1.  It feels great for everyone involved (and as the volunteer, you get the added bonus of feel good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins that get released and mimic a runner’s high)
2.  Overall better physical health and mental health (it can even reduce symptoms of depression and cut down on your risk of heart disease)
3.  Your efforts can have a tremendous impact (you can ultimately change someone’s life, and someone can ultimately change your life)
4.  It’s a chance to get out of your comfort zone or just mix up your usual routine (trying something new and different can inspire you in other areas of your life that you may not have anticipated)
5.  It’s an opportunity to make new friends, social ties, become part of a new community, and even make career connections (whether building relationships is a goal of yours or not, volunteering for any organization just a few times can have these results)

So the next time you feel like you’re in a bit of a rut, find yourself with some extra time, or are looking for a more sustainable form of happiness, consider looking for ways that you can give back.

Happy living :).

(*Note: Some information found in the article “So What’s So Good About Giving” by Terri Cole on the Huffington Post at the following link