The Best Part of Waking Up…

Coffee is a language in itself.
Jackie Chan

This is not a blog about coffee.

I’m a big believer in thorough planning. I spend hours each day imagining various scenarios in my mind, researching various topics, or running simulations on past data.

All the same, I still spill my coffee.

Coffee is the fuel that keeps me going. I’ve swilled insta-powder scarce worthy of the name, and I’ve sipped glorious cups of perfectly foamed espresso. It’s a vital part of my morning, I treat the entire experience with respect.

And yet, all the same, I still spill my coffee.

However, this is not a blog about coffee!

What happens after coffee is spilled? Being far too dab a hand to get unwound over such an occurrence, I make whatever mitigating efforts are required. Beyond a transient thought of “Oh, that’s unfortunate. Let’s not set the coffee there ever again,” I move on.

Just because coffee sometimes gets spilled doesn’t mean I give up on coffee. Or me.

I recently realized, however, that it is not always so easy to be sanguine. Facing a seemingly innocuous coffee spillage can, at times, lead closer to emotional devastation.

I was re-reading an article on achievement gaps by Richard Rothstein1. I found it particularly insightful because it highlighted something I’ve sort of known (and yet all the same had uncharacteristically not applied it to coffee).

He attempts to suss through the question: “Can student success (or lack thereof) be mitigated solely in the classroom?”

Rothstein says “No” and advocates a greater reliance on partnerships and seeing the whole picture. His logic seems to warrant at the very least a good try.

His claim is that some of the game changers to enhance education must happen outside the classroom. Many of these may well (for now) be as beyond our control or reach as inopportune coffee spills.

However, plenty of them are quite as possible as brewing your own perfect cup. It all starts with partnerships – and even ones that seem like not enough can make a difference. Victoria College does this with the local YMCA (our students have discounted child care). Our library’s recent encouragement to our faculty to adopt open source (ergo free) textbooks helps. In fact, the VC/UHV Library has a whole host of programs that can support our students outside (and inside) the classroom.

This week, to start off term, my challenge to you, my gentle reader, is this: Find a partnership on campus – it can be an old friendship renewed or something totally different. Maybe even mix equal parts students, faculty, and staff. Perhaps bring in someone from our local community. See what happens.

Don’t be distraught if you spill a cup of your newly brewed coffee. That’s okay. But when you’ve found a new mix that works, don’t be shy about sharing! We should talk about it over coffee.



1 Rothstein, R. (2004). The Achievement Gap: A Broader Picture. (cover story). Educational Leadership, 62(3), 40.



Matt Wiley is a tenured, associate professor of mathematics with awards in both mathematics education and honour student engagement. He earned an assortment of degrees in computer science, business, and pure mathematics from the University of California and Texas A&M systems. He is the director of quality enhancement at Victoria College, assisting in the development and implementation of a comprehensive assessment program to enhance institutional performance outcomes. A programmer, a published author, a mathematician, and a transformational leader, Matt has always melded his passion for writing with his joy of logical problem solving and data science. From the boardroom to the classroom, he enjoys finding dynamic ways to partner with interdisciplinary and diverse teams to make complex ideas and projects understandable and solvable.


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