Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Girls Just Want to Have Fun!

Having come to the end of the book we were using, we decided to take a quotation and live it out for the week.      This week’s was from Hemingway:

 

When you stop doing things for fun, you might as well be dead. 

So our charge was to do one fun thing a day.  Here are the reports:

Colette: Tru dat, Hemingway. Doing things which are obviously fun – like vacationing, going to dinner parties and concerts, playing hooky from daily life – is easy. The real trick is finding the fun in the little and necessary tid bits. I enjoy cleaning my house, pulling weeds in the garden, grocery shopping. I’m not sure I’d classify vacuuming as “fun” but I do find it rewarding. And that’s enough for me. I’m not sure if that makes me a simpleton or a genius. Having fun is especially important at work, considering we spend a monstrous chunk of our time there. I’m a firm believer, especially for educators, that they should get out and move along when educating is no longer fun. The students deserve interactions with people who like what they do. I think Hemingway got the death part wrong, though. I fully intend to have fun in death too. I don’t have an implementation plan yet, so I’ll have to wing it when I get there, but surely death doesn’t have to be a drag. I like to think it will be like last call. “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Pam: This has been an easy week to be happy and to do something fun each day. With the crisp weather, my heart has felt lighter and my mind less worried. My joy came from sitting at night and picking the banjo. Original melodies are just pouring out of me for the first time in a long time for some reason, and I’m playing mandolin and guitar – practicing fiddle tunes, and it’s just been a ball. I do this at night by myself on my little sofa in the sunroom with the cats. Being with them makes me smile, each one with their unique personality. They make me laugh. My little adopted cat I took in last year has taken a liking to me and has slowly gotten less afraid and now jumps up in bed and cuddles next to me at night. This has brought me a sweet happiness, as my bed-buddy Ginny died a few months ago. I’ve felt happy playing banjo with the New Coon Creek Girls at 2 separate events this weekend, one in Cumberland Gap, Ky. and one at a church Sunday in Berea, Ky. Both towns were perfectly fall-like and quaint, and the food given to us was a treat. It’s been a happy week.

Emily: My idea of fun probably isn’t quite what Hemingway imagined  (drunken fist fights, running with the bulls, hunting large game, etc.). Despite this, and my disdain for traditionally fun activities (parties, spelunking, beer pong), I had plenty of fun this week (including filling this entry with parentheticals and bad punctuation).

Jolly Librarian: I’m actually pretty lucky that I consider many aspects of my job fun. And this week added some other activities as well: I went to the Beth Orton concert, had dinner with friends, and bought more watch bands for my collection. I also started Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, which reminded me of why classics are often considered classics. They’re good reads.

Our grades:

Colette:     A

Pam:           A

Emily:        A (due to the JL’s philosophy you can’t really grade someone else’s idea of fun!)

Jolly Librarian: A

 

 

 

Know Your Learning Style

In most study skills courses, students take a learning styles inventory to discover how they best learn. Some students find this knowledge tremendously helpful. Others do not: “What does it matter if I know how I learn when the professor is only going to teach one way, anyway?”

Well, to that second group of grumpy students, I answer, “It can matter quite a bit.” No matter what style of instruction your instructor has, you can tweak the information to fit with your own learning style in order to better remember and synthesize.

Yesterday afternoon, I took several online learning styles assessments: I wanted to see if they were consistent and if they presented helpful information after giving out the score.

Befitting someone who works with books, my scores on all the tests showed a strong preference for learning by verbal methods: reading and writing. I need my lectures to be organized. I also like to learn alone. (My favorite group project of all time was when the other members dropped the course, and my instructor didn’t notice. So I gave the entire presentation by myself!)

Now I suppose one way I could use this information would be to go to my professor’s office and say something like, “I need no charts. All your lectures must be outline perfect. And I don’t do groups.”

But a more effective thing would be to find ways to incorporate my learning style into my study habits. For example, if my professor gives terribly disorganized lectures, jumping from one train of thought to another, then I can start leaving lots of white space in my notes so that I can go back and add material when he returns to that first point. Or I can take my notes on my laptop where moving things around is easily accomplished.

On the other hand, a more visual learner may make diagrams out of the lecture. An aural learner may need to tape the it.

The key, though, is not to spend time looking for the chemistry instructor who teaches through dance, but to embed your learning styles into any course so that learning takes place.

Here are two I took yesterday. They all come with some helpful information for incorporating your style into any classroom situation:

VARK

North Carolina State

 

Monday Motivator: Be Conscious of Others’ Contributions

My page-a-day calendar based on the book The Happiness Project today focused on “Unconscious Overclaiming,” the tendency to overestimate our own skills, intelligence, or effort to those of other people.  According to author Gretchen Rubin, this happens “because we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do.”

While this may be an unconscious process, it’s worthwhile to try to be aware of when we do it, because the results can be catastrophic for work and personal relationships. We’re probably all guilty of saying (or thinking) things like:

  • I’m always cleaning the house, and all my spouse does is watch television.
  • I put in hours on this project, and no one even recognizes how much I’ve contributed.

You get the picture. Thinking such things is a sure way to bring on unhappiness. I’m not saying it’s not necessarily true. You may be the only worker in a pack of slouches, but it may also be possible

  • that your spouse spends a great deal of time keeping up the yard, or
  • that your colleague also spent hours working on the project, just not when you happened to see her.

Since we can’t climb inside another’s psyche, we’ll probably never be completely free from overclaiming. But, luckily, its symptoms are pretty easy to spot: Whenever we’re bemoaning the fact that we’re the only one who ever does any work, who knows anything,or who cares, then it’s time to make ourselves a little more aware of the contributions of the people around us.

The Jolly Librarian Once Again Considers the New Television Season

Unlike some of my more intensely intellectual friends, I am not ashamed to admit that I not only own a television, but I also WATCH it. However, I am often disappointed by what I see. A lot of television is mediocre, and it doesn’t have to be. The cure is simple: Put more librarians on the screen.

Here are some of my recommendations for new and improved television shows:

  • Survivor: The Library.  A reality shows in which librarians look up information on various arcane topics while participating in activities like    lifting weights, pushing giant tractor tires, and eating bugs. At the end of each episode, the loser would be told, “You are not the master of your information.” And just because it always make the women cry on America’s Next Top Model, there would be a makeover segment.
  • The Bachelor/Bachelorette (Library Edition). The premise would be the same except one of the group trying to win the librarian’s heart would have a secret that could only be discovered with advanced  research skills.
  • CSI: Library. This is not so much a new show, but a request to add a librarian to one of the CSI teams. This person would uncover clues among the victim’s books, magazines, and mobile devices. (If Ryan Gosling could play this character, so much the better.)
  • The Librarian in Apartment C. This would be a sitcom that goes against the librarian stereotype. Young librarians drink, eat, and love in the city. They make out with their love interests while answering “LiveChat” questions.
  • The Librarian Truth Hour. Various internet rumors are splashed up on a screen, and a sarcastic, sassy librarian (who wears those sexy geek glasses) shoots each one down.

See, television doesn’t have to be mediocre. Just throw in some librarians.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Points for Participating

This week our task was to “participate in your own life.”  This might be better entitled “when touchy-feely goals happen to cynical people.”

Still, the Jolly Librarian recognizes the importance of such a directive. After all, most of us spend way too much time worrying about the future, agonizing about the past, and simply plodding through the days like a zombie between feedings.

According to author Brett Blumenthal, we  need to concentrate on six areas to participate actively in our own lives:

  • Take time each day to notice what is actually happening.
  • Always be trying something new.
  • Focus on the present.
  • When about to react impulsively, stop and take breaths until you’re in control again.
  • Accept that new challenges will be accompanied by uncomfortable feelings and forge ahead.
  • Shut off the autopilot in your head and focus on consciously making decisions throughout the day.

Our reports:

Colette: I already know I’m getting an abysmal grade this week.  I’ve never been good at just being, unless I’ve gone hundreds of miles from home on a lengthy vacation.  I’ve smelled a lot more foreign roses, I’m afraid, than the ones in my own home town.  Vacations seem to be the only time I grant myself permission to let the “have to’s” of daily life slip away and allow myself the time to bask in the luxury of “get to’s.”  I know I need to focus more on the journeys in life and less on the destinations, but being a hyper-responsible person always seems to get in my way.  If I want to smell more roses, my natural tendency is to go to the local nursery, read up on the care and feeding of roses, and plant my own.  All I can say is that I’m working on it; I have been for years, with sloth like progress.  I’ll know I am a rose smelling, deeply breathing person who has given up thinking, when a task like this doesn’t make me fret over the bad grade I’m sure to get.

Pam: To live each day, each moment, in the present, in the now, being aware…This I feel I have done the past week, as often as I could catch myself. This, I believe has been the very most important challenge we have had thus far…I have been so sensitively aware, bringing myself back when I drifted—which was easy to do, too easy in fact with all of life’s distractions…most of them being inside my own head. For instance, Sunday as I drifted to some worried future place of needing preparation for a future task, I caught myself and brought myself back to the moment at hand– where my cat sat near me awaiting my attention of touch, and the rain drizzled outside my open windows waiting for me to hear. It was so amazingly soothing and peaceful. I was there then, and so okay in that present moment. In fact, I find that these are nearly (perhaps the only) times, when I whisk myself back to the present,  that I am truly okay…that I am not afraid or worried or fretting about some future fear or regretting some past failure (which then catapults me back into worrying about the ‘some future’ event. I am okay in these moments…one moment at a time, ticking through life…around the sun one day at a time, as they say. And I’d be bold enough to say that this is when I feel ‘God’, if there is a Presence that surrounds me, that – or who – lives within me. It is only at these times that I am assured I’m truly alright. It is so peaceful. These moments, sometimes seconds, are the reasons I hang onto hope that there truly is a God to tell you the truth. This week was an important reminder. Come back, come back. Everything’s okay just for this moment. I can survive. Thanks.

Emily: Unless binging on tv on dvd counts as living life, I failed this week. I, however, do take issue with the “stop thinking” portion of this week’s task. And doesn’t going from autopilot to manual actually require *more* thinking? I just don’t know about this lady. But I’m not supposed to think about it, right? Just embrace the experiment!

Jolly Librarian: While I do try to embrace living in the present and not spending an inordinate amount of time in the past or future, I am just a little too cynical for this assignment. I would consider it a great advancement in actively participating in my own life if I could just get out of bed when the alarm goes off!

Grades for this week:

Colette:  A (She is too hard on herself.)

Pam:       A (She is too earnest to receive any other grade.)

Emily:   A (She is a cynical little being,  but you’ve got to love her!)

Jolly Librarian: A  (Okay, it’s probably obvious that I don’t think you can count points off for life participation.)

Start an Academic Savings Account

At 4:3o, last Friday, I answered the phone. A student wanted to know when we closed and was clearly upset that we were closing that moment. She had a paper due at 11 p.m. that night, and her computer just crashed. She was looking for another place to type and submit her paper. But Friday afternoons are simply not good for such a need. Not only was our campus closing, but so was the public library. She had called the English department, but her professor had already left for the day. And she couldn’t email him because, well, her computer had crashed.

Now, I happened to know this instructor. Of course, I had his work email address, but we are also Facebook friends and play online Scrabble. So I offered to get in touch with him, with the usual warning I give all students: I will deliver the message, but it’s totally up to the instructor whether or not he’ll make an exception.

Now I have no idea what my friend and the student worked out, but my friend later thanked me for sending on the message. He said the student had been attentive, punctual, and dedicated in the course so far. He added, “There might be a good column in there for you about how an online student can create a presence through timely communication and attention to all assignments.”

Woody Allen once said that eighty percent of being successful consists in showing up. The same is true for being successful in college. Obviously, showing up and participating in class can lead to more learning and better grades.

But it also creates a type of savings account with your professor. Take the following example: Imagine that you’re a professor. You have a student in your class who has missed several days and has been tardy for several more. This student rarely has his books in class, and when he does have his books, he busily packing them up fifteen minutes before the class ends.

This instructor also has another student in class who has missed no days and is always on time. He comes with books and takes notes in class. He asks questions and turns in all assignments.

If each student reported his computer stolen the day a paper was due, and assuming the instructor is only human, which person do you think he’d be more likely to believe?

The outcome probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. But what might surprise students is that they make the same sort of impressions in their web courses as well. Students who log in immediately, make comments on the discussion pages, and turn in their assignments on time build up a reserve of academic good feeling with their instructor. And if the worst happens, instructors know that it is a true emergency and not just another excuse.

Basically, as Dr. Phil likes to say, we teach people how to treat us. So it’s just smart to show instructors that you are reliable, hardworking, and earnest.

Monday Motivator: Leave a Margin

One of my most common memories of childhood is waiting in doctor’s offices. I was not a sickly child, but my mother insisted on being early for every appointment. And in her mind, early meant at least 30 minutes before the appointment time. When I pointed out to my mom that there was no need to be there so early, she simply shook her head in disbelief.  “You need to give yourself time for unexpected delays.”

I later tried to make the same point to students when I assigned research papers. Give yourself a margin of time for those things that can go wrong. And I’m pretty sure they looked at me the way I looked at my mother all those years ago; the only difference being that their eye-rolling was more metaphorical.

I was reminded of my Mom’s wisdom last Saturday as I read this month’s O magazine focusing on good advice. One reader shared her tai chi master’s: to always leave a margin.

We don’t much like empty space in our 24/7 culture. We fill our days up with noise, Angry Birds, and television. We schedule meetings back to back, and rush from one place to the other.

But there is great wisdom in leaving a margin in life. Sometimes, it can even save a life. Imagine how many wrecks would be avoided if people just left space between cars.

But margins are important for us on other levels as well. As anyone who has attended three meetings or classes in a row can attest, fatigue sets in and effectiveness diminishes as such things drag on. A space between allows us to breathe and refresh. And gear up again.

So this week, look for opportunities to leave spaces between activities, to let one thing end before taking on something else. The days just might not seem so stressful.

 

 

 

Faculty/Staff Recommendation: Andrew Mason

 

Andrew Mason, Library

recommends

The Mummy at the Dining Table: Eminent Therapists Reveal Their Most Unusual Cases

by Jeffrey A. Kottler and Jon Carlson

“In each chapter of this book, a famous psychologist reports on his or her most bizarre case. From the grieving family that preserved their loved one as a “mummy at the dining room table” to the man who wants his nose cut off to escape a bad smell, this book reveals psychologists’ inner thoughts as they face their greatest challenges.”