A wonderful tradition on my campus both on the first day before classes and again at graduation is to have a bagpiper majestically lead the students on to campus. Today we’ll slightly change the tradition by moving the Opening Convocation to the day that first-year students arrive so that parents can witness the opening welcoming of their children as they walk through the line of applauding faculty.
I am very impressed by our new President Cindy Gnadinger’s interest in preserving our traditions yet open to changes consistent with our values and ethos statement. I wonder what she would think of our bringing onboard a “brand” new piper I’ve discovered. I suspect at the minimum she would be thunder-struck. He would, though, provide a cross-cultural experience, be energizing and engaging, and quite memorable. Stay tuned.
On a more serious note, it was delightful to be visited by my Lead Student Research Assistant today, Kristen Reszka and to be in touch with several alumni via LinkedIn and Facebook. Please continue to stay in touch via Facebook, email, Skype, LinkedIn, snail mail, visits, and owl. I still have a good supply of Carroll COLLEGE decals for the asking:). And I even make house calls sometimes for a coffee date.
I love the sounds of a bustling campus – the chimes, physical plant staff changing shifts, the chattering of students as they discuss their athletic practices – though the predominant sounds this morning are those of the many construction workers trying to complete Rankin Hall’s renovation before classes begin. When completed, the renovated building will indeed be magnificent. Thanks to the many donors, some of whom have become my friends across the years.
Almost time to leave the new office and drive out to the Graduate Center for another morning of meetings dealing with implementation of Carroll’s new Strategic Plan and contributions the College of Arts and Sciences can make. It is interesting to reflect upon how much of my life has been spent in meetings. In retrospect, was that time well invested?
To prepare for my meeting I opened my newly purchased package of pencils.I try to find the right balance between high tech and low tech tools! Now if I can only remember how to sharpen them. I may have to consult the help desk.
As I transition this last year of teaching psychology courses at Carroll, I am reflecting on what lessons I have learned which will ease my transition out of academe. In particular, today I am reflecting on habits: how they are formed, maintained, strengthened, weakened, and suppressed. I am finding helpful several books recommended by some LinkedIn individuals I “follow:”
- Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
- Nir Eyal’s Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (I also find his podcast and newsletter of value) and
- Scott Sonenshein’s Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More than You Ever Imagined.
Among the habits I envision changing or developing are the following:
- Reading (Though I shall continue my reading of literature, I now am finding much pleasure in reading lengthy thought pieces in, for example, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker.)
- Time Management (I shall not miss the day long series of meetings I have today!)
- Health Maintenance
- Self-identity and Self-understanding
- Frameworks for understanding (e.g. how should one view the aging process)
- Writing. I am interested in writing longer pieces and publishing them in venues like The Conversation or Medium or self-publishing a number of books.
- Reflection Linked to Action
“There is something wrong with you! You have no sense of urgency about time!” I was recently admonished while sitting in my chair reflecting upon Patricia Hampfl’s delightful book of essays entitled The Art of the Wasted Day. Don’t retire, accelerate advises Bracken Darrell, Head of Logitech, in a recent LinkedIn blog piece.
Here are some of my previous thoughts about time:
A canceled meeting! How best to make use of that unexpected 50 minutes—that gift of time. Maybe catch up on Profhacker blog pieces sitting on my RSS feed? Here are five of them:
- When the technology changes on you? Seems germane.
- Slowing down and learning about “deep listening”? I should also turn off my twitter feed that tempts me with messages from some of my favorite thought leaders. I am so easily distracted.
- Hints for teaching a large online course. I may try this when I leave Carroll.
- Making a WordPress Site Multi-lingual: Lately I’ve been exploring translation and language software.
- Exploring “gamification“: I’m still somewhat chary of moving in this direction, but intrigued by the creative writing/ gaming applications of English Professor Colleague BJ Best.
TIME was the campus -wide theme for Carroll University (Waukesha, WI, USA) during the 2014-2015 academic year. Across my years of teaching, I have enjoyed creating special courses (‘Why War?” “Happiness” “Pioneering Web 2.0 Technology Tools”) when I have been allowed time and total control over the course. Had I offered a course on this theme of time, I would have include the following as required reading and videos:
Time to walk with the Dog!
Above: Computer Rendering of My New Office
Even after more than 40 years of teaching at Carroll, the first day of class is anxiety-arousing, pressured, critical, and rewarding. As a youth, I was so anxious about giving oral presentations that I fainted when I participated in my first school debate. I had a similar melt-down during the oral exam component of my graduate school general qualifying examinations in Social Psychology at The Ohio State University. With experience and a few set backs I’ve learned to over learn and to reframe (attribute) the performance anxiety I inevitably am experiencing as excitement for the task at hand. Sometimes, too, I whistle a happy tune!
These academic first days-of-the-semester pressures are primarily situational nuisances: making sure that my syllabi and handouts are up-to-date, proof-read, and sufficient in number; visiting the classrooms ahead of time to better guarantee that there are enough seats and that the computer equipment works; thinking through how to handle disruptive classroom situations in particular classroom environments; and of course trying to respond in timely fashion to the myriad course-related emails. An added challenge this year is having the contents of last year’s temporary office moved into a brand new office which I have never seen on August 20. The move will occur while I am vacationing in Canada. No doubt a good part of on campus non teaching time in September will be consumed by sorting through the several hundred boxes of my stored materials as I both unpack and pack up again in preparation for leaving Carroll at the end of the academic year. Looks like I might need another bookshelf:) though I have contacted some graduates about taking any books they might want.
For me the first class meetings are vital for relationship and credibility building — for getting to know my students, creating shared and appropriate expectations, and establishing standards for students and for me. This semester I am teaching two sections of PSY 205 “Statistics and Experimental Design” (and its two labs). Based on 1) student evaluations, 2) what my students demonstrate that they can do at semester’s end, 3) how I feel every time I teach it, and 4) feedback I get from alumni “Statistics and Experimental Design ” is without doubt my best taught course. Among the challenges in teaching such a class successfully are the attitudes that some students bring (“I hate math”; “I don’t do well in math”; “I’m afraid”), weaknesses in students’ fundamental computational skills, and their inexperience with my strongly believed outlook that statistics (and data analysis) is a tool, a language and a way of thinking. Here are some reflections I shared a few years ago about teaching the course.
With the able assistance of my student research assistants, I shall continue to focus research and writing time on the topics of aging, brain health, and brain fitness training. I applied to become an APS Wikipedia Fellow with an interest in brain fitness training. And I do plan to participate again in the SharpBrains 2018 Virtual Summit.
I have spent quite a bit of time the past few years thinking about aging and more specifically about brain health and brain fitness training. Two books written by geriatric psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin have very much shaped my recent thinking this summer about these topics. I shared some of my reactions to his latest book (The End of Old Age) in an earlier blog piece. NPR a few years ago provided a useful summary of Agronin’s earlier book How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey into the Hear of Growing Old.
In this earlier book Agronin acknowledges the known biology of the cellular aging process (e.g. the Hayflick Limit) and the successive shortening of telomeres with cellular divisions. However, heavily influenced by the thinking of the late geriatric psychiatrist Gene Cohen, Agronin persuasively and eloquently argues in this earlier book that aging is not and should not be thought of as a disease. Reading this earlier book which is enriched with detailed case studies of his patients was enlightening about my own myopic, age-centric views.